AUBURN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Three years ago, the Auburn School District became the first in the nation to provide iPads in the classroom for each and every kindergarten student.
The move was controversial, with many people concerned about the cost and durability of the devices and how kids would adapt to learning how to use them.
"What we really see is students get very invested in their iPad," stated Peter Robinson, the district's technology director. "They take very good care of that device and they take very good care of them."
Robinson says they've also seen the students make great gains in learning.
"What we see is that there are greater changes over the course of the year, positive changes in terms of achieving literacy goals, than we have seen in previous years at those grade levels," he said.
Second grade teacher Mauri Dufour, says the iPads' use is woven into their day seamlessly when the need to use it is there. She says they have allowed teachers to customize their lesson plans for individual students.
"If you walked in, you would not see everyone doing the same thing. You would see twenty-four kids doing all different things that are meaningful to them and helping them in their learning journey," Dufour explained. "There is no more wait time. There is no more clicking your pencil or clicking your pen waiting for the teacher to move you along if you are ready to go or to catch you up if you are not understanding it."
The lessons the teachers and staff have learned in the past few years is being shared with their peers from throughout Maine and across the country. One hundred thirty people are taking part in the 3rd annual Leveraging Learning Institute the district has organized.
"We thought this might be an opportunity to bring people in to learn what we are learning, with the ulterior motive of then building friendships and networks so that we can learn from others that are doing this work elsewhere," said Mike Muir, the district's multiple pathways director.
He says 97% of parents surveyed now support having iPads available for kids to use in the classroom, but advises other districts looking to follow their lead that they should set their educational goals before buying a device to help meet it.
"It is all about choosing the right educational resource at the right time," said Muir.
The Leveraging Learning Institute is being held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn now through Friday.