Merced students get taste of tech over break

Tablets, laptops used in summer program

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 1, 2013 

Not only did last summer's English Learners Summer Academy help students become more language proficient, it also blazed the trail for the growing use of tablet technology in Merced schools.

Richard Alvarado taught second-graders at the summer program offered at Burbank and Sheehy elementary schools. He is now an associate principal at Leontine Gracey School and continues to see the value of the iPads and ChromeBooks introduced to the summer students.

"We called ourselves the pioneers," Alvarado said. "We were the first cohort to integrate technology into the classroom. At the end of summer, many of the kids didn't feel it was like summer school; they actually had fun while learning."

The nearly 300 ChromeBooks and iPads purchased with federal money are finding their way into regular classrooms, said Annie Dossetti, the Merced City School District's assistant superintendent for educational services.

Tablet technology is motivating, Dossetti said, and is engaging students in learning as the district prepares to transition into Common Core instruction practices. It started with the 263 students enrolled in the five-week summer school and their 18 teachers.

Jerod Garst, Burbank School principal and co-principal of the summer academy, said the introduction of computers was successful. One class of second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Burbank use the computers now.

Students are just getting started with learning what the computerized devices will do, Garst said, and he hopes they will plunge into other academic subjects as the year advances.

"It was exciting to be part of it," Garst said, "seeing the possibilities of technology in the district. I think it is the wave of the future."

Summer students surveyed about their English and math classes said the electronic devices helped them. As they worked and wrote, the devices showed them their mistakes and how to correct them in real time.

Aaron Alexander, the other summer co-principal and learning director at Burbank School, said teachers and students were able to do dynamic things in the classroom.

He was amazed to see second-graders emailing their classmates and catching on to the technology in just five weeks. The students were able to take videos of their speeches and critique themselves afterward, noting where they had made mistakes, Alvarado said.

Alvarado believes students will score higher this fall on English-language testing thanks to the summer program.

He is looking forward to that technological momentum carrying forward as more teachers and students get excited about using the new technology.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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