Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 20, 2012

An iPad for every student

Eastern Elementary School to issue tablets to kindergartners next year.

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

Greentown — GREENTOWN — Every kindergartner at Eastern Elementary School soon will be able to choose a bedtime story from a library at their fingertips or pop balloons with mom and dad to learn about math.

In August, the school will issue an iPad to every kindergarten student in an effort to increase literacy and facilitate learning at home, said Eastern Superintendent Tracy Caddell.

He said the corporation will purchase about 100 tablets, with the money coming from its Rainy Day Fund and a technology fee parents will pay.

The fee will not cover the entire cost of the iPads but should pay for the applications that are downloaded, Caddell said.

“The iPad will bring the school to the home,” he said.

The tablets will be loaded with children’s books and apps that test the skills the children already are learning in the classroom, said kindergarten teacher Tami Maurer.

Kids will be able to play games that require them to match sounds together to form simple words. They’ll learn simple subtraction by popping balloons on the iPad’s touch screen.

It’s nothing new for the students. Maurer already uses iPads in her classroom.

She said her students videotape themselves telling stories. They recently recorded a science experiment that involved melting chocolate.

“There’s so many uses for them,” Maurer said. “It’s amazing.”

The problem is, there aren’t enough to go around, Maurer said. Three kindergarten teachers share about 20 tablets, so Maurer is limited in how she can use them.

The new initiative will allow her to better assist her students. Maurer said she will be able to tailor each iPad to the student it’s going to. She will download apps that focus on areas that a student needs to improve in.

Then when the students go home at night, parents will have an easy way to help their kids, Maurer said. And students won’t even realize they’re learning, she said.

“The apps are set up like games,” Maurer said. “The kids just think it’s fun.”

Maurer said she hopes the iPads encourage kids to read more, too.

The tablets will have some books loaded onto them already. She said she wants to get parents to check out more books through the digital libraries at the school and at the local library.

“We want to push their literacy skills, so they’re reading to learn by third and fourth grade,” Maurer said.

Caddell said the iPads also will teach students how to communicate using 21st century technology — a big focus for Eastern.

In recent years, the corporation has purchased about 300 iPads and just as many netbooks for use in its schools, Caddell said.

Classrooms use smartboards. Students learn how to blog and can even use cellphones for certain assignments, the superintendent said.

“If we really want kids to engage in the 21st century, we have to give them the tools to do it,” he said. “We want to get as many of these devices in kids’ hands as possible.”

• Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, may be reached at 765-454-8585 or lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com