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Should Kindergarteners use iPads in the Classroom?

That's a question raised by School Committee Member Deidre Gifford at Tuesday night's School Committee meeting.

Should iPads be used in the classroom? What if the students are five-years-old and they're in kindergarten for just two-and-a-half hours a day?

That's a question posed by East Greenwich School Committee Vice Chairwoman Dr. Deidre Gifford at Tuesday night's School Committee meeting moments before they adopted a $35.6 million budget

Gifford, who didn't propose any changes to the budget that would affect the district's use of iPads in kindergarten, said she has reservations about the $15,000 line item to stock a cart of iPads that will be used at Frenchtown.

"I don't have an appreciation for the education value of iPads for kindergarteners who are in school for two-and-a-half hours a day," Gifford said. "For a lot of these kids, their time in schools is the only time they're not front of of a screen."

Superintendent Victor Mercurio said the iPads are used for skill building in language and math and kindergarteners typically use applications that help them learn colors, letter recognition, math and problem solving. 

He said it's not a matter of children zoning out in front of a screen. Instead, he described the children using them at "various learning stations they use for a certain time to engage" and their use is just one small component of the day.

In fact, the iPads have shown substantial benefits, Mercurio said, and students using them "gravitate more towards them than hard copies of texts."

"They're more interactive," he said. "We're starting to see increases and gains in students that are using them. They're going deeper into the vocabulary and tend to listen to words they'd otherwise have to sound out."

Gifford said she understands there's "limited data" about the benefits of using iPads with early learners when their brains are still developing. 

Her understanding is that kindergarten is a place where children learn to socialize, cooperate, share, develop motor skills and more. 

"The idea of parking them in front of a screen for yet more time without any evidence it is valuable seems like it's not a good investment," she said.

Mercurio said he would agree that having students use the iPads for the entire two-and-a-half hours would be "inconsistent with what we want them to do in K."

That's why they use them in a rotation, with only so many minutes. They still have the motor skills piece, the kinesthetic pieces, "whatever they'd normally be doing."

And studies continue to be conducted and the data is coming together rapidly, especially in the past two years, Mercurio said. And there's no question that students who have been using tablets tend to increase their comprehension and the "whole metacognition associated with reading."

Gifford said she understands that "kids like bright colors" but she is concerned this will become a predominant activity in kindergarten.

"Two-and-a-half hours in kindergarten is barely any time to do anything once you've had a snack and gone to the bathroom," she said.

Joan Robley March 08, 2014 at 02:41 PM
Not so sure it is a Dem. vs. Rep. Problem. More like a societal problem. Education is not valued in this country, as it is in other countries. Education should be looked upon as a privilege, not a right! A privilege with expectations of the student, as opposed to a right which allows the student to set his or her own standards without any recourse.
EG March 09, 2014 at 01:51 PM
I would challenge SC to post video recordings of the SC meetings. I can't vote for any of them if they are not willing to record their meetings.
Kim Edge March 10, 2014 at 11:08 AM
One more item to fight over, I'm betting.
EG March 10, 2014 at 10:08 PM
According to Independent, "However, East Greenwich Superintendent Victor Mercurio said only one layoff notice – for a third-grade teaching position – was issued for educational program reasons. The district expects a decrease in its third-grade population next year, he noted." http://www.independentri.com/independents/north_east/article_04fc5eb4-cb0e-5d3a-a6bd-44ecb232bbbf.html It is interesting to find out if we have an increase or decrease in total student enrollment.
Wendy Fachon March 11, 2014 at 07:59 PM
Kindergarten is a place where children learn social skills, creative and emotional expression, develop body awareness, develop oral skills through conversations, and learn how to sit still quietly for a moment to reflect. Young children learn best through play and through observing and interacting with the real world that surrounds them. At the age of 5 or 6, computers are hardly more than a screen and a virtual reality. Children need real experiences!

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