By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — Tiny fingers fly across the keyboard at lightning speed.
A pilot program is now underway in all three district elementary schools, bringing the iPads into primary classrooms. Moose Hill kindergarten also is in the program.
One class at each elementary school is using iPads. A total of 15 devices make up the pilot program at a cost of about $400 each.
One recent morning, students in Kathy Gifford’s class at North Elementary were playing games teaching letter recognition and simple math problems.
“I like that we can do these games,” Hailey Bride said as she worked on her iPad.
Putting iPads into young hands is part of the school district’s efforts to bring technology to the youngest students. Many children are quite familiar with electronic devices before they ever enter school.
“Knowing the environment they are growing up in, we felt it would be a good next step,” superintendent Nathan Greenberg said.
He said the iPads will assist students with reading and math instruction, and will increase their ability to stay on task to do their classroom work.
South School Elementary reading and first-grade teachers all use iPads. One first-grade teacher has a set of five to use with small groups.
“They are used for drill on skills that have already been taught, such as phonics, spelling, math facts and counting,” principal Linda Boyd said. “The reading team has inputted all the spelling units for first grade for the year and the program generated such games as Hangman, word sorts and memory games.”
Boyd said her team will order iBooks to teach the young students how to page through a book on an iPad.
The devices also offer a tool for assessing how well students read, Boyd said.
“This is definitely an important tool for this age group,” she said.
For Gifford, being able to bring technology like this to the youngest students can only help them achieve success in the years ahead. She said even the youngest ones are getting very smart with their technology.
“Technology is their world,” she said. “And they help me.”
Gifford said the nice thing about the iPad is that children can work as individuals or in groups, and can move at their own pace.
“They are just good for everybody,” she said.
High school students had a chance to pilot their own iPads last year. Juniors and seniors in Advanced Placement environmental science used the devices as part of a pilot program to bring new teaching styles and new technology into the classroom.
That program is still successful, assistant superintendent Andrew Corey said.
In the past, smart boards and digital cameras have been introduced to students; the iPad is the newest addition to the family.
“We are so appreciative of the School Board’s approval of added technology,” Boyd said.
Moose Hill School kindergarten coordinator Bonnie Breithaupt said many of her students have iPads at home and come to school very prepared. Others don’t have access outside school, but are doing well.
“It’s amazing how fast they pick it up,” Breithaupt said. “Many are also very used to the technology and how it works.”
She said Moose Hill spends special time on Fridays teaching children the different “apps” available like simple math and how to form letters.
“It’s just one more tool we are using to teach our standards,” she said.
Greenberg said teachers and administration will use what the students are learning on the iPads as they plan for their classrooms and what technology might be useful for certain age groups.
Corey said he meets regularly with teachers to go over the iPad success in the lower grades. It’s a way to gauge how the children are learning.
“We have a series of questions we look at,” he said. “We look at a variety of things.”
Boyd said technology staff member Jo Oswald is supporting the South School efforts and is designing an assessment tool to gauge the effectiveness of the device in the classroom.
“We certainly need more time before we can make any judgments,” she said.