Should Kindergarteners Use iPads?

Much fuss has been made on Twitter recently about schools, such as one  in Auburn, Maine,  giving iPads to all students in kindergarten with former Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch (@dianeravitch) exclaiming on Twitter that she hoped the kindergarteners would break the iPads and that the students should be out playing instead of using technology.

Truth be told, if I were in charge of a school’s technology budget and could buy iPads for only one grade level, kindergarten would not be it.  I think you get more bang for your buck by placing the iPads in a slightly higher grade, for example. However, the idea that putting iPads in kindergarten is evil and that introducing them into the curriculum means students will stop playing, pretending, and learning to socialize is ridiculous.  I believe in play, pretend, and learning to socialize and all of those things can integrate technology.  Witness Wesley Fryer’s classroom using iPad 2s for finger puppet videography.  Dan Callahan describes a two week iPad trial as the “single best two weeks of [his] teaching career.”

When I taught kindergarten there was plenty of play-acting, block-building, dress-up, and running around at the same time that we learned the letters of the alphabet, how to create patterns, and developed a love of reading with books, songs, and poems.

In the middle of all that, students went to the computer for twenty-minutes a day to use the Waterford Reading Program.  My kindergarten students were engaged in way that no other grade level I’ve taught has been.  The computers were a part of the fun and added to my instruction by reinforcing and reteaching the same letters I was teaching to the class myself.  It was great fun to see students in the back of the room with headphones on singing songs and forming letters with their fingers on the screen.

Not wanting to put computers in kindergarten classrooms is like not wanting to put books, blocks, or paint in classrooms.  Students should be playing, reading, writing, and counting but not doing any of those things for the entire day.  Technology too can be used in moderation.  It’s hard to argue with anyone who thinks the choices are either playing out on the yard or using a computer.  There’s a time and a place for both.

One of the big concerns I hear about using computers in all classrooms is that students will miss out on valuable socialization.  In one-to-one laptop environments I’ve visited I’ve consistently seen students sitting with each other, talking, sharing, and assisting each other more than I usually see when visiting typical classrooms that feature a sage on the stage by the name of Mr. or Ms.  The socialization that occurs around technology makes up for any opportunities missed.

I’m working on my own list of great educational apps and educational app review sites but you can’t go wrong by starting with iEducation Apps Review Site (IEAR) because the reviews there are written by really great teachers and used in actual practice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Is kindergarten too young?  And how would you use the iPads in your primary classroom?

19 Responses to “Should Kindergarteners Use iPads?”

  1. Jason Seliskar Says:

    I was part of this conversation and was shocked on the “throw the baby out with the bath water” approach to iPads and technology in general in the classroom. Even as young as Kindergarten. (@dianeravitch) doesn’t seem to get that technology can co-exist with the traditional learning needed in Kindergarten. Is this the thinking that holds education back and fuels the argument that education is failing?

  2. Mathew Says:

    I think the forces set out to paint public education as failing have an economic interest that will persist irregardless of the tech vs. no-tech debate. However, those forces notwithstanding, I do think education needs some reform and integrating technology instead of rating and firing teachers seems to be an obvious way to start the revolution.

  3. Bill Says:

    I was shocked as I heard this conversation on Twitter unfold. I agree that iPads can be more valuable in higher grades, but I see real value for kindergartners using iPads. I teach an undergrad math class for primary teachers, and incorporate iPad apps into the curriculum. My students love seeing how the iPad can increase math proficiency in young students (preschool-2nd). Yes, blocks and paint are important in kindergarten, but so is technology. And the iPad allows teachers to differentiate instruction in amazing ways.

  4. Barbara Long Says:

    I believe that technology supports and encourages socialization. As a first grade teacher I love the collaboration, problem-solving and socialization that occurs around technology. Many of my reading groups love to complete research and then create power point presentations. Guiding them through the creation of a power point presentation has been very rewarding. I love to hear them as they discuss what information is important, which pictures work best to get their ideas across or even which colors to use. One of my groups finished reading a book today about Giant Pandas. They asked if they could create a power point to present the class after doing more research. I said that would be fine. These first graders began discussing how they could go over to each others house to work on the presentation. ( I told them they could do it during their reading workshop time.) I love their enthusiasm as they collaborate and plan together. I love the joy they feel in their “creation”. As far as iPads in the classroom, right now I am the only one with an iPad. However many of my students have them at home and tell me how they create stories or read books on their parents iPads. Or they go on different interactive sites that we use on our netbooks. As a teacher I am thrilled about this!

  5. teachermum Says:

    Call me old fashioned but,
    I do see the value of using technology in the classroom and I think ipads are incredible…however, we are not spending enough time in the foundation years teaching the basics. Our Kindergarten kids need to pick up pencils and get attached to paper.
    Ipads and games on ipads can be saved for outside the classroom.
    Teachers can send home links to great games to help consolidate skills taught in class.
    So I have to disagree with some of you – as a special education teacher, I say – Keep ipads out of the Kindergarten classroom.

  6. Abbey Says:

    I plan to purchase an iPad after I graduate from my teacher education program. Since I plan on teaching in Title I schools, my students will probably not have iPads of their own to work with, but I will definitely use it with a document camera for modeling.
    I think that as long as we don’t use technology for the sake of using technology, but instead use it to enhance student learning, then it is a wonderful educational tool.

  7. Mathew Says:

    It will be awhile before most schools have iPads. However, the fact that it’s a title one school does not necessarily mean it won’t have technology. Title I money can be used to purchase technology.

  8. Abby Jordan Says:

    Hello Mathew! I am an elementary education major at the University of South Alabama. I am currently in Dr. Strange EDM310 class and have been assigned to your blog. I am currently learning how to incorporate technology inside my future classroom. I love the idea of blogging and think that it can be used with any grade level, but an Ipad? Seriously, I think that if there is money to be spent on such a fabulous tool then it should get the most bang for buck! Sure, kindergarteners, with proper instruction, could also make good use of an Ipad but I believe that it would be better used inside the classroom of a moderately older child. My thoughts on this I guess comes from the fact that this is one of the latest tools in the technology trend. If we are starting to use this on children as young as kindergarten age, then what will the child have to look forward to? I see having Ipads in a classroom and being able to use them as a privilege, beings I grew up in the land of the chalk board. (HaHa)

  9. Julia Skinner Says:

    Really interesting post. I wouldn’t start with the nursery having technology because as you say you get more for your money with older children. However, they do need to be given the chance to use it because it will be an even bigger part of their lives than it is now. Also, many will see such things at home so why not use that link?

  10. Nancy Says:

    I think it is a wonderful educational tool.But nothing can replace “TEACHER”.Thanks for such a nice post.

  11. Mathew Says:

    Of course, nothing can replace the teacher. However, when you put an overhead projector or a scripted textbook in a classroom, no one makes that argument. When you bring in a computer or an iPad people worry that the teacher is going to be replaced. What’s that about? People may have taken a few episodes of the Twilight Zone too much to heart. Teachers need to teach and guide technology use. It’s not like you hand a kid an iPad and you’re suddenly obsolete.

  12. Jon Says:

    Kindergarten is too young in my opinion. I could see taking your students to a media lab during the day to explore some fun interactive technology games to learn age-appropriate content and skills. However, placing young kids in front of technology for too much time is wrong. They need to be learning actively and collaboratively with their peers and teacher. I also am afraid of the corporate interests and influences we may be experiencing to get kids using their technology products at younger ages. I’m sure Apple would favor having these little tikes using iPads.

    That said, I love my iPad!

  13. Mathew Says:

    I think everyone’s agreed on the point that neither kindergarteners or anyone should be using technology for “too much time.” All of education and all of life is about balance.

    If kindergarteners are going to use technology, it seems that the iPad comes closer to a more tactile experience than a traditional computer because of its touchscreen.

    I share your concern about corporate interests in schools. However, are we concerned that by using McGraw-Hill textbooks our students will be predisposed to purchase McGraw-Hill books or that they’ll trust Standard & Poor’s stock ratings because they’re a McGraw-Hill company?

    As of now, I see no viable alternative to the iPad as a tablet computer. When another product comes out we can broaden the conversation to talk about whether students should be using tablets in general.

  14. Jon Says:

    @mathew – good points but I also hope, really hope, that like when I was in Kindergarten these kids are neither using textbooks. When my next son enters Kindergarten next year I don’t think his love for learning is going to grow by putting him in front of an iPad or a textbook. Hopefully they will have stories read to them, play together, make art, listen and make music, and learn how to write. I do agree that an iPad could have better applications to some of these learning experiences than a traditional computer. My son, 4 now, does love playing Angry Birds on my iPad. 🙂

  15. Mathew Says:

    Re: textbooks. I work for one of the largest school districts in the country. Every kindergartener has a math workbook and a language arts workbook. I am sure we are not the only ones.

  16. Josh Chandler Says:


    Kindergarten is far too young!

    I think the view on iPads has been muddled by the Apple fans declaring how easy it is that anyone, any age can use the device.

    To be honest I believe we need to focus on the greater challenge of keeping children engaged with learning.

    I don’t know that iPads introduced to a younger age group is going to help resolve this issue.

  17. Mathew Says:

    1. I’m not sure that we are introducing technology to a younger age group when all the kindergarten classrooms I’ve visited have computers already.
    2. I’m not sure how keeping students engaged with learning and using technology are mutually exclusive.

  18. Heather Says:

    I agree that giving iPads to kindergartners may be not be as beneficial as it would be to give them to older students who could use them to explore a variety of web tools through the internet; however, the ability to give technology to any student to be used in a classroom is a benefit. While older students could benefit from this technology in the classroom in different ways than a kindergartner, these students are growing up in a world where computers, video games, and Smart phones are easily accessible. It is amazing to me to see my nephew who is still learning to talk, pick up my step-sister’s phone and correctly manipulate it in order to get to the game he wants to play and then can play it successfully. Every year, students are growing up in a world in which they are becoming more and more technological. If allowing kindergartners to have iPads help them to excel in this pivotal year, which then influences higher success rates in each following school year, it is incredibly beneficial to put iPads into kindergartners’ hands.

  19. MVR Says:

    Ipads used in the kindergarten classroom should be used as a supplemental learning tool to reinforce and reteach concepts learned in the traditional classroom. Ipads usage should be for an allotted time period of the day such as a time period to use other technology in the classroom such as view a film script or watch a segment of an educational CD/movie. An iPad can reinforce and reteach concepts for young learners because there are so many APPs available to target skill development such as reading (letter/word recognition, sequencing, etc.). It also is a format to reach all different types of learners such as tactile (touching the screen — intuitive for young learners to touch), visual (seeing concepts on the screen) and auditory (hearing word association to remember). Overall, I believe this technology is a benefit for young learners when used as a supplemental teaching tool.
    MVR, Newark, DE

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