Providing students with high-tech tools doesn't mean schools are creating a generation of screen-entranced zombies. “The technology has allowed for differentiation of instruction, so you can meet the needs of each student at their level,” says Steven Geis, President of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and Principal of North Trail Elementary School in Farmington, Minn. “It is a tool, but it doesn't replace the teacher. The technology is not going away, and we need to work with it to create globally prepared students.”

Dispelling concern

While many parents are eager to invite technology into the classroom, they're not always happy when kids bring it home. “Parents should know that the devices that are sent home are not iPads right from the box,” says Theresa Stager, co-host of the PrincipalPLN podcast and principal of St. Mary Catholic School in Rockwood, Mich. “There is always a firewall, and content can be blocked at the device level.” Parents who still have concerns about screen time shouldn't stay silent, she says. “Parents should talk to their administrator with any concerns.”

Children are able to ask teachers questions after the school day has ended, and parents are even able to find out what plans teachers have for the school year.

Protecteting devices

For parents who may fear a fragile electronic instrument will be easily broken, Geis says many schools have those concerns covered. “We encourage them to get an insurance plan, which at our school offers full replacement coverage for $28 a year. If the iPad is broken once, it's replaced for free, and after that there's a deductible.” Most schools also have a program to make the technology available to underprivileged families as well.

Stager says getting a sturdy protective cover should also put parents at ease. “As an administrator or parent, keep on the lookout for sales,” she says. “Also, I guarantee that if you were to call Otterbox or another brand and say, we need 150 cases, they would likely be willing to add a couple for free to pass along to those who can't afford them.”

Continuing education

Even the most nervous parents are likely to find that tablets are useful for more than just learning. Children are able to ask teachers questions after the school day has ended, and parents are even able to find out what plans teachers have for the school year. “This gives teachers such a huge tool kit to meet the needs of their students,” says Geis. Viewing tech as a tool may help put parents at ease and re-emphasize the importance of good teaching.