ROSEBORO — With excitement, kindergartners Jose Bonilla and Jaden Hall had their eyes glued to an iPad screen with colorful bubbles filled with numbers.
Having fun with the Osmo educational game, the Roseboro Elementary students used tiles with dots or digits to add numbers. Those same numbers were on the screen after the students slid the tiles under a reflector over the iPad’s camera. When they were right, bubbles erupted and the children celebrated with soft claps and raising up their arms.
The students are just a couple of kindergartners enjoying iPads at Sampson County Schools, through a new initiative whose purpose is to prepare students for digital education at a very young age.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” said Gina Cain, their teacher. “It covers so many areas where they can progress and be successful.”
District officials are calling it the “kPad initiative” and it allows the kindergarten teachers at Roseboro to use the devices for instruction.
The devices help students with language arts, spelling, letter sounds and reading comprehension. There’s also programs that allow students to work in groups or with just teachers. The Osmo program is a big hit with kindergartners. Some of the others allow students to use letters and sounds to build words.
Dr. Wesley Johnson, director of digital literacy and accountability, said there are several options for Microsoft and Apple computers. The district is a Windows-based environment, but Johnson wanted to try Apple products as well. Another project is taking place with Union Intermediate School’s fourth-graders. The students are using HP Streams, small laptops similar to a Chromebook.
“We wanted to put these initiatives out there to see what will work best in our environment here for Sampson County Schools,” Johnson said.
When the students advance to other grade levels, district leaders believe using computers in schools will become more common.
“They amaze me and they pick up things really quickly,” Cain said about the ease of students using the devices. “We didn’t have anything like this when I was younger.”
One of the goals is for students to take ownership of the devices. The students took a picture of themselves and used it as the desktop.
New devices will be purchased for the next group of kindergartners in Roseboro and fourth-graders at Union Intermediate.
“Next year, they’ll have the same device,” Johnson said. “It’ll travel with them.”
He said it was remarkable that not one device has been broken or damaged yet by the youngsters.
“We’ve just been elated that we lost zero iPads,” Johnson said.
Johnson hopes to add more grade levels to the kPad initiative in the future, so using computers for education will become a natural progression. Mary Lynn Warren, instructional technology coordinator, said it shows the young students that the devices could be used as learning tools, not just for playing games.
“It’s good starting them young towards that direction,” Johnson said.
Warren said excitement is already beginning for the next phase which will include first grade at Roseboro Elementary and fifth grade at Union Intermediate.
“The first grade teachers are getting excited about having the opportunity in their classroom,” Warren said.
To better control the system of all the devices at once, a FileWave program is being used for the computers. If the teachers find an app that will be useful, they can notify school officials and it can be placed on every iPad in about 30 seconds.
“In the past, we would have to go in and literally touch each device if we wanted to upgrade to the newest software,” Johnson said.
He said they would expand the project to all schools if they could. The two schools were selected because Johnson and other district officials felt there was a higher need for the products at the locations.
“Resources are tight and we are doing what we can to get the devices into as many hands as possible,” he said.
The kPad program is one of several technology advances in Sampson County Schools. Thanks to federal and state funding, every school will have the wireless capability to have a full one-to-one environment in every school by the end of next school year.
Although the computers aid in the education process, Cain, Johnson and Warren shared the same feelings about how it will not replace actual instruction in the classroom.
“They’re being taught that it’s not their sole instructional tool,” Warren said. “The don’t use it for everything. It’s a really good mindset to learn from beginning that it’s a tool.”
Tonya Colwell, principal of Roseboro Elementary, said the school was fortunate to have the program and the opportunity. She added that the school receives great support from the district’s technology department.
“I think our teachers have jumped on board,” Colwell said. “They understand that it’s a digital world. Being able to start in kindergarten and moving up, there’s no telling how much we’ll help them grow academically.”
(Chase Jordan | Sampson Independent)
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