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Early Elementary iPad Use Sign of Things to Come?

Most of the media hype surrounding the back-to-school appeal of Apple's iPad centers on first- and second-year college students, not 1st- and 2nd-graders.

But Burley Elementary School in Chicago, one of more than 20 in the city's public schools to test the new tablet computing devices this year, will be using them to run applications that help early elementary students answer abstract questions, refine their handwriting, take audio notes, and produce their own multimedia projects, Converge magazine reported last week.

Burley and the other winners were among 200 applicants for the Chicago Public Schools grant, valued at $20,000 per school. The winners each receive 32 iPads, a MacBook Pro and $200 in credit to buy applications for classroom use. As the year goes on, the district's technology services department will use several different evaluation methods to determine the success of each school's plan to implement the devices into their curriculum.

In the past, proponents of one-to-one K-12 education have focused on the middle and upper grades, in part because of a general sentiment that younger students are more likely to feel alienated or uncomfortable in a one-to-one, keyboard-based environment. But I've had many technology specialists and teachers tell me the next big breakthroughs in ed-tech will come at the elementary level, noting as a harbinger the success of iPhone applications geared toward preschool and elementary aged children. Still, technology use in elementary school homerooms (as compared to computer labs) is widely scattered, and in most cases, teacher-driven.

Could the iPad, with its touch screen capabilities that could be viewed as friendlier toward younger children, be the device that sparks institutional investment into technology in early elementary classrooms?

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