|Students admit that class has become "way more interesting."
Aliso Elementary School in Lake Forest has just implemented a new, cutting-edge technology program called iEngage.
The iEngage program gives each child in the pilot 5th grade class an Apple iPod Touch, which essentially means each child holds the power of a mini computer in their hand.
The instructional focus this year at Aliso has been to increase student engagement, which the principal, Crystal Turner, believes will lead to another bump in test scores.
“From our first observations, iEngage certainly increases student engagement!” Turner says. “We are also hoping to improve reading fluency, which of course, leads to improved reading comprehension. All of these factors should prove to make it an exciting year at Aliso Elementary.”
It is believed that Aliso is the first elementary school in Orange County to pilot this approach to increased student engagement and learning via an iPod for each student. It could be a prototype for future instruction delivery models.
The kids love it so far, too, according to the teacher who is running the program, Kristin Thomsen.
“My students have embraced this new technology wholeheartedly, and in fact are completely thrilled,” she says. “Technology like the iTouch is second nature to young students and completely engaging. It is not uncommon for one of my students to discover something new about an app. We have a rule in our class that when one of us discovers something new and useful that the iTouch can do to help us learn better or more effectively, we will share with others. We use the dictionary app. quite a bit when working in our ‘word work’ block.”
She adds that the amount of accurate, useful information gathered within minutes is impressive.
“Often times, students are begging me to stay in at recess and lunch to challenge a fellow student in a math fact race, or to improve their fluency recording,” she says.
“I think that the app. that helps me the most is the iTalk for our fluency. It’s interesting because I can hear how I read. Also, I improve every time we record ourselves. The more and more I use the iTalk app., the better I am in reading and I can see how much I have improved,” says student, Josue Cabrera.
“I love that our class was chosen to use the iPod. Our class is way more interesting. In fact, that’s why I get up in the morning! It is so interesting to wake up every day, come to school, and learn while having fun,” adds student, Annie Palos.
“I love the new iTouch program because it makes subjects fun when we are learning. For example, I like to do word problems and math races, because it makes them easier,” says student, Thibault Rasborn.
Thomsen says the benefits seem to be endless.
“The student engagement, enthusiasm, and motivation, and self-directed learning are just a few of this program’s amazing attributes. Students are practicing required skills in a very enjoyable and motivating way. I am able to reach every level of student because I can accommodate each of their learning needs,” she says. “There is never a minute in class that a student isn’t reinforcing basic skills or extending their learning. I strongly believe that this technology will become a big component in the future of education.”
She says this type of technology opens the door to student-directed learning for so many students. It is fun, interesting and a natural part of their generation.
“In addition, when you think about how much money it would cost to supply each student with the materials provided on the iTouch – most apps are $.99 – this technology is really cost- effective. Reteaching, enrichment, and practice is literally limited only by an educator’s creativity.”