Shoppers looking to snag a new iPad 2 are still facing shortages in stores, but for some families in Maine, getting a hold of the hot Apple device is now child's play. Last week, the school district in Auburn, Maine, approved a $200,000 pilot program to buy 285 iPad 2 tablets for its kindergartners. "What we're seeing is that this is an essential tool — even more important than a book," says school superintendent Tom Morrill, as quoted at The Huffington Post. It's a learning tool they need to have." Morrill says he will try to get grants and donations to fund the program, and only use public money if necessary. Some kids will start getting their iPads in May, with a complete rollout expected this fall. But is the iPad 2 really a smart buy for 5-year-olds?

Yes, this can really help the kids: The kindergarten classes in Auburn just became "the coolest in the country," says Michael Grothaus at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, but the school board approved this program for legitimate educational reasons. Teachers noticed that children who used iPad apps more successfully learned the alphabet. This technology could significantly boost literacy rates.
"The coolest kindergarten ever: iPad 2s for everyone"

No, this is a big waste: Sure, the iPad can be "a great teaching tool," says Nicole Martinelli at Cult of Mac, but kids this young should probably be "pelting soft blocks at each other" and finger-painting, not "staring at individual computer screens." Plus, they "probably already spend enough time playing with their parents' computers."
"Should kindergartners have iPads?"

And the math here is fuzzy: The cost concerns are real, says Devin Coldewey at CrunchGear. Why is the school district paying full price for iPad 2s instead of buying used versions of the original iPad? And 285 iPad 2 devices at $499 each only comes to $142,215. So what happens to the rest of the money being allocated for iPads? "I guess the other $50,000 will go towards 'administrative fees.'"
"Maine school district okays $200k budget for kindergarten iPads"