Kindergarteners entering Utica Community Schools this fall will be the first UCS class to incorporate this type of technology into their daily learning. The school district purchased about 500 iPads for distribution throughout the district; there will be six iPads in each kindergarten classroom.
Educators say iPads engage the child’s visual, auditory and tactile senses and also motivate students of all abilities. This will be the first UCS school year in which all kindergarten students attend full-day sessions.
Each child will have a personal learning plan on the iPad through an application called eSpark. The app tailors instructional activities in the language arts and math to each student’s individualized level. Teachers and parents will be able to login to check the child’s progress.
eSpark also allows children to express how they are feeling and request a private chat with their teacher, a tool that’s especially useful for students who may shy away from raising their hands in class, said Catherine Einhaus, Director of Elementary Programs. The technology will allow for immediate feedback to the student.
Dr. Mary Johnston, Executive Director of Innovation, Federal and State Programs and Curriculum, as well as other educators, believe these young 5- and 6-year-old students will easily be able to manipulate the device. She noted the number of posted Youtube videos showcasing 18-month-old toddlers actively engaging with an iPad. “Children have become so acclimated at home to digital devices, it’s part of our culture now,” she said.
Incorporating digital devices and the instructional style listed above will help this group of students take a new online state assessment - similar to the MEAP test - when they reach the third grade in the 2015- 2016 school year.
Along with iPads, the students will work actively with laptops throughout the day, utilizing a program called DreamBox Learning. This application focuses on the grades K-5 math curriculum, provides online access, and rewards students when they master a skill.