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iPad 2 in kindergarten classrooms: A good idea?

Schools are excited about putting the Apple iPad into classrooms. But how young is too young?

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The device also allows kids to practice certain skills, such as identifying certain letters and colors.

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However, superintendent Morrill said that the devices will not be used in place of other hands-on skills that are critical in the development process.

"Kids still need to jump in and get dirty," Morrill said. "They need to paint and do fine-motor activities, as well as sing, dance and share stories. We're not going to be replacing these acitivities. We're only talking about integration."

Allison Druin, author of "Mobile Technology for Children: Designing for Interaction and Learning" (Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2009) agrees that the tablet is well-suited for this age range.

"Kids are used to growing up in a technology age, so they will know how to handle it," Druin said. "The iPod Touch is similar in that it can be used with kids at a young age, but when creating something rather than just consuming information, it’s harder to do so on smaller screens."

Challenges ahead

"Like any other tool, if used effectively and appropriately, there are endless opportunities," Edwards said. "It's not going to solve every educational dilemma and will definitely create a new set of challenges — such as trying to keep kids focused on what you want them to do — but overall, this is a very good thing."

Calvert also noted that the quality of the apps the children use will also help determine the success of the pilot of program in Maine.

"If the right software is selected, young children will be entering the educational sphere with such enthusiasm and excitement," Calvert said. "However, if the software is boring and dry, a child will lose interest."

Druin, an associate dean for research at University of Maryland's information school, said she thinks the outcome of the Maine initiative could have implications for whether or not similar programs crop up around the country.

"Mobile technology is the wave of the future, so you can either try to fight it or figure out ways to use it to the best advantage," Druin said.