The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Keys to success are now at students’ fingertips
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
THE FREE LANCE STAR
Fourth-graders at Lafayette Upper Elementary School
in Fredericksburg have more resources at their fingertips this year that will help them prepare for the Standards of Learning exam they’ll take next year.
Each student gets an Acer tablet that has Windows 2010 on it to use during class.
Next year, when the students are in fifth grade, they will take the writing portion of the SOL test on the computer.
Using the tablets—which have separate keyboards—helps the students prepare for that, said Principal Matthew Terry.
Maureen Ballard’s class used them recently for a writing assignment, and most students had no trouble using the new devices.
Ballard said it’s improved her teaching and motivates the students—they look at it as something fun.
In her lesson, Ballard told them that the “squigglies” under words mean that they should check their grammar or spelling.
She reminded them to indent, and they knew that it meant to start a new paragraph.
In Emily Corley’s class, she taught a writing lesson using a “four square” and spent the first part of the lesson helping the students actually make the square—used to organize topics and ideas—on the tablets.
Instead of her helping every student, some were able to help one another.
She echoed Ballard’s comments on having more resources.
“It makes it fun because I’m not limited to a sheet-of-paper printout,” she said. “I can open up the doors and have fun going on.”
The teachers were able to play with and learn how to use the tablets in the summer so they were ready to teach with them when the school year began, said Robert Young, the director of technology for the city’s school system.
Corley said she tells her students they’re going to be using this kind of technology for the rest of their lives.
Young said they selected the Acer tablets because they work well with the school system’s network.
He said he and Superintendent David Melton have been talking about getting tablets for a year and a half and have been researching the best options. The school system paid $180,000 for 250 tablets for students and another 14 for teachers, Young said.
He said they selected the fourth-graders to give the tablets to because studies showed that elementary students would have success with them.
Stafford and Spotsylvania students are using tablets in the classroom as well.
In Stafford, students in several schools are using iPads for literacy and math skills. Students with special needs, such as those with autism and others who are learning English as a second language, are using them, also. Some have been purchased by the parent–teacher association and some by the school system.
Spotsylvania incorporates mobile, portable devices, such as iPads and Kindles, into its instruction program, said Jan Streich, director of instructional technology and professional learning.
She said there is a focus on personalized learning.
In King George, administrators and ESL students are using 20 Motorola Xoom and two Kindle Fire tablets. But there are no current plans to get more, Dan Hopper, supervisor of instructional technology, said in an email.
“We have to make some major upgrades to our wireless networks before we could do this,” he said.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413