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Not everyone is sold. Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University and the author of “Oversold and Underused: Computers in Schools,” said there’s no proof that computers bring learning benefits to pupils that young.

“There’s no evidence in research literature that giving iPads to 5-year-olds will improve their reading scores,” he said.

Peter Pizzolongo of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, based in Washington, said iPads can be an effective supplement to three-dimensional objects, whether they be books or building blocks.

“We can’t say whether what the school district in Maine or anywhere else is doing is good or not good, but what we can say is when the iPad or any other technological tool is used appropriately, then it’s a good thing for children’s learning,” he said.

The best use of iPads is probably in elementary and special education classes because the devices are so easy to use, said Nick Sauers of Iowa State University’s Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education. There are hundreds of education apps to choose from with a touch to the screen.

Sauers expects a boom soon, with most current iPad initiatives being billed as pilot or experimental programs.

“I think next year is when we’ll see our first big bubble,” Sauers said. “There will be districts next year that implement it school-wide, whether it be at the high school level or elementary level.”

Morrill said most of the criticism has been about the costs during tough economic times _ not about whether tablet computers are age-appropriate.

He said he plans to raise the money needed for about 325 iPads and teacher training from foundations, the federal government, the local school department and other sources.

As bullish as he is on the kindergarten iPad, he cautions that it needs to be properly supervised and isn’t a panacea.

“I’m not saying they should be on this 24-7,” he said. “The students still need to move, get up, dance, socialize.”