iPad 2 side-by-sideKindergartners in Auburn, Maine are about to enter the 21st century in a big way as all 285 of them receive an iPad 2 in the hopes of boosting literacy rates.

This past Wednesday night the school committee voted unanimously to spend $200,000 on iPad 2 tablets, educational software and insurance for all of its incoming kindergartners this fall, although some students will receive them next month.  Apple isn’t offering much of a discount as the school district will pay $479 per tablet as opposed to the $499 that they retail for a 16GB Wi-Fi version.  “When you look at what the iPad 2 apps that are out there, from learning your letters from books, that can be read, finger painting your name, it’s absolutely something we must do,” superintendent Tom Morrill told WCSH, the local NBC affiliate.

The hope is that the devices will boost literacy rates from 62 to 90 percent within two years.  Although the proposed gains in literacy would be a boon to the district, not all parents are happy about the expenditure.  “It’s crazy,” parent Nicole Fortin told the Bangor Daily News. “I look at all of the budgetary restraints we have. Our school system loses money every year to certain things. This is a lot to put in the hands of a five-year-old.”

Apparently the idea came to the school district after teachers began using their person iPads in the classrooms with students that seemed to be struggling to learn.  Using apps that helped to teach them the alphabet, those same students saw their grades rise, and thus the idea was born of fitting every new young student in the town of 25,000 with one.

It’s an interesting idea to say the least, but I have to echo Ms. Fortin’s statement about that being a lot to put into the hands of someone so young.  While the school district did purchase insurance, it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be at least a few of these that end up getting broken.  Perhaps it would be a better idea for even a year or two later, but having seen the way five-year-olds  fling around backpacks, my stomach sinks just at the thought of the cracking sound as they hit a wall.

What do you think?  Is it a good idea to give kids that young an iPad 2?