Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
By Michael Brindley
If your child has been begging you for an iPad, it may help you to know there’s more to the popular tablet than just Angry Birds and amusing apps. Patrick Kaplo has seen what they can do to enhance learning for children, both as a teacher and as a parent.
Kaplo is a science teacher at Windham High School and is in his second year integrating iPads into the curriculum. And at home, Kaplo will let his children, ages 4 and 7, use his iPad. There are a plethora of apps that they are using to become proficient in the critical thinking skills that will help them succeed in school, he said.
“There are a lot of problem-solving educational games out there. It’s just a matter of spending the time and finding the apps,” he said.
Parents looking to invest in their child’s future by equipping them with a mobile device such as a tablet or electronic reader may find it cumbersome to sift through the options. The iPad is the most well-known and popular tablet, but companies such as Samsung and Hewlett-Packard have entered the game with their own products.
While Kaplo’s experience is primarily with the iPad, he said parents looking to give their children a leg up academically can’t go wrong by investing in a tablet. As schools continue to evolve their classrooms into a 21st-century model, children who own a tablet and are familiar with them will be ahead of the game, he said.
“I can’t imagine it will be much longer before the tablet owns the classroom. It’s just a matter of time,” Kaplo said. “It’s a cheaper and obvious solution. There’s really not much left that you can’t do on a tablet that you can do on a laptop.”
Sarah Marandos is a technology integration specialist for the Nashua School District. She works with teachers on integrating technology such as iPads and iPod Touches into their curriculum. Like Kaplo, while she has seen the benefits of iPads in the classroom, she has also seen it at home as a parent.
“My daughter just did a book report totally on her own. She used the Story Kid app to create and draw her own pictures and record her own voice,” Marandos said. “As both a parent and an educator, these devices are opening so many doors.”
There are apps for enhancing math skills, reading and handwriting, to name just a few examples. Many are free, but some have a minimal cost. For parents of children with iPads or iPod Touches, Marandos recommended the website MomsWithApps.com, which promotes quality apps for kids and families. The site’s app catalog is available on iTunes.
How young is too young, though? The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended children younger than 2 should not be exposed to screens, and exposure should be limited for children between 2 and adolescence. The recommendation doesn’t directly address iPads or iPhones, but some may argue that infants and toddlers shouldn’t be using the devices. Some educators, particularly those who subscribe to the Waldorf educational philosophy, do not incorporate technology in the early childhood or elementary grades. According to a New York Times article published Oct. 22, those who endorse the Waldorf approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.
A study released earlier this year by Common Sense Media found half that half of all infants to 8-year-old children had access to a new mobile device, such as an iPod, an iPad or a smartphone. The study found that on an average day, 10 percent of infants to 8-year-olds will use one of those devices to play games, watch videos or use apps. The average time of use per day was 43 minutes.
Another option for parents is the Kindle or the Nook. The Kindle is an electronic reader developed by Amazon, and the Nook is a product of Barnes & Noble. Both allow users to store hundreds of books and purchase them at a cheaper rate online. More recent versions of both also have WiFi access and touch screens.
“Anything that encourages students to read is good. I have a Kindle and I feel like I read more now than I ever did,” she said. “Any technology you can get in the hands of your kids to get them comfortable is good.”
There have been studies which have shown iPads have been able to enhance learning and communication with students with autism and other learning disabilities. In Nashua, Marandos said, speech therapists at Birch Hill Elementary School and Sunset Heights Elementary School are using iPads to improve vocabulary and comprehension.
Something parents must keep in mind when investing in tablets or other electronic devices for their children is what your school district’s policy is with regard to whether students can bring them to school. One of the debates school districts across the country are having are how and when to implement so-called Bring Your Own Device policies.
In New Hampshire, the Hooksett School District is leading the charge into the BYOD discussion. This fall, the district approved a pilot program allowing students in grades 2, 5 and 6 to use their privately-owned wireless or portable devices. This includes laptops, netbooks, tablets, iPod touches and smartphones. The program launched in October.
“We found it to be an intriguing concept,” Hooksett Superintendent Dr. Charles Littlefield said. “It’s a new concept. It’s something that’s happening nationally.”
During forums and meetings held to discuss the program in September, some parents raised concerns about how this will add to the amount of time children are spending using electronic devices. Littlefield said that while the concerns are valid, the district has a responsibility to embrace technology.
Milford Superintendent Bob Suprenant said while the district doesn’t have a formal policy for BYOD, the district only allows students to use their own devices in school after having approval from the information technology director. Students are only allowed to access the school’s wireless network, he said.
It’s not a matter of if but when the district will have a formal conversation and policy implemented guiding how students can bring their own devices to school, Suprenant said. He predicted that within a decade, all districts will have some type of policy regarding BYOD.
“The future of technology in education is allowing students and staff to bring their own devices. It’s just a matter of how do we get there. We’re not prepared to take that leap quite just yet, but that’s where the future will be,” he said.
There are obvious advantages to allowing students to bring their own devices, Suprenant said. The more students are bringing their own technology to school, the more the district can focus on putting the technology it has purchased into the hands of students who don’t have their own, he said. But it also raises questions about equity.
“There are going to be students who don’t have or can’t afford to purchase these devices. We may be able to compensate through district devices, but we’re not a district that has the ability to provide a mobile electronic device for every student,” he said.
For parents looking to buy devices with the intent of having their children bring them to school, Marandos said it’s important to know how Internet access works in the building. Many educational apps require Internet access. In Nashua, students can bring their devices, but it’s up to teachers to decide whether students can use them in class.
In Windham, Kaplo said the school has a more restrictive policy toward students bringing in their own devices. Students are only allowed to connect to the school network with a school-issued device. Students are not allowed to collect with their own laptops or mobile devices, he said.
Michael Brindley is an award-winning journalist and education columnist at The Telegraph.
Last updated by Morgen Thiboult Nov 30, 2011.