Students at two Cheatham County elementary schools and one middle school are taking part in a pilot program designed to not only help improve their reading skills, but also radically change textbook distribution.
The myON reader from Capstone Digital engages students at all reading levels by providing a personalized reader-friendly environment that includes a list of over 2,000 enhanced digital books.
“It is wonderful to see these children so excited over learning,” said Dianne Williams, the district’s chief academic officer.
The program was initiated on March 19 for sixth-graders in Kristen Hagan’s language arts class at Sycamore Middle School and third-graders in Kelly Phillips’ class at East Cheatham Elementary School and Jonet Williams’ class at Ashland City Elementary School.
One of the features that drew interest was the online delivery and exchange of resources.
“In the near future all of our testing will be online, so we had to think of how we’re going to do that,” said Dianne Williams, noting the possibility of textbook delivery online in the near future.
Using funds from “First To The Top,” it took several months to get the program under way.
After learning about the myON reader, Williams said the county’s plan was revised to focus on language arts and to raise reading scores. There was a waiting period because state and federal approval on revisions to the plan was required before funds could be used for the investment.
One of the initial challenges was to find the right device for delivering the program to the students. The Kindle Fire was selected, and 80 were ordered.
The three classes were selected based on data that reflected needs for proficiency in language arts.
“The Kindles have really motivated my students to read,” said East Cheatham’s Phillips. “The students come in excited every day asking if we are working with the Kindles.”
At ACES, Jonet Williams has been thrilled with the response of her students, who look forward to activating their Kindles each day.
Williams likes being able to manage her class work through the Internet.
“I can find out what they’ve read, how much time they’ve spent reading, and see their assessment scores,” she said.
The teachers are also able to see their students’ successes and challenges, using the myON reader as a tool for flagging needs and reflecting ability levels.
“We can choose libraries for them that correlate with what we’re studying,” said Williams, citing a recent reading assignment on Benjamin Franklin and American symbols to reinforce what her students are learning in social studies.
Dianne Williams said Hagan is using the Kindles with three classes of sixth-grade language arts students at SMS, making sure that as many students as possible get a chance to experience the technology.
One of the side benefits is that the Kindles teach responsibility in taking proper care of the devices and in seeing that they’re properly recharged.
The myON reader offers comprehension testing after each book a student has finished, and after five books, the reader administers a test to measure the student’s learning.
The myON reader also helps administrators with identifying gaps in reading by grade levels as well as identifying at-risk groups.
Jonet Williams said her students have helped her with her technical proficiency as she’s gained more experience with her Kindle Fire.
“The kids are on their Kindle Fires, while I’m on the promethean board, and that gives us the chance to do research as we work together,” she said. “The questions that are given for testing are like those the students face with TCAP.”
She also likes having textbooks available online, including her teacher’s edition for each subject.
Looking to the future
Dianne Williams said the technology is the perfect opportunity for learning how to use textbooks online.
“At the end of the year we’ll take a look at what progress has been made, and we’ll get feedback from the teachers,” she said. “We’ll discuss any issues or concerns with using technology for delivery of textbooks.”
She said textbook delivery online might be introduced in phases.
“Our ultimate goal is for all grades through twelve to have this,” she said. “Preliminary planning says that it seems feasible within two years.”
Williams hopes to work out ways to open schools on some nights and at times during the summer to allow students to work with the program.
She has plans in the works to create a “Literature Circle” with eight fifth-graders that will function as a book club while encouraging reading proficiency.
What she finds most promising is that the myON program maximizes opportunity for continued learning and reading every day of the year, for those with Internet access.
“My hope is that teachers that have already started can continue with the Kindles and move kids using them up to next grade,” said Williams, hoping that more can be introduced to the program in the process.
By Randy Moomaw
Source: The Tennessean - http://goo.gl/tWzVS