TERRE HAUTE —
Reading comprehension has improved in grades 3-9, and instruction can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each student.
Those are some of the benefits Southwest Parke Community School Corp. has seen in the first year of its transition to a digital curriculum. In August, the district distributed netbook computers to all students in grades 2-12.
Increasingly, students are learning through digital tools, rather than through traditional textbooks.
The transition “is about where I would expect it to be for the point we are at,” said Rachel Porter, the district’s digital curriculum integration specialist. The changes involve a 21⁄2 year transition.
The goal is to be non-reliant on printed textbooks by the start of the 2014-15 school year.
Every teacher incorporates use of the netbooks to some extent, she said. Some are “fully transitioned,” although they still might use books, pencils and paper when that’s the best thing to do, Porter said.
Other teachers might use the netbooks for one small portion of a class period.
“We’re not trying to create online classes here. For any given activity, we want to use the best tool,” she said.
Even when the transition is complete, teachers will still use books, paper and pencils when appropriate, Porter said.
Among the benefits of using netbooks has been a significant improvement in reading comprehension scores among students in third through ninth grades. The district uses a reading program, Achieve 3000, that continuously monitors students’ reading comprehension with something called a Lexile measure, a scale for measuring text difficulty and student reading ability.
On average, students gain 54 Lexile points in a typical school year through traditional methods. “Our students have gained an average of 113 points already this year through using the digital tools we’re providing,” Porter said.
The reason, she said, is because each student is getting exactly what he or she needs in terms of instruction. Rather than “teaching to the middle,” each student does learning activities on the netbook based on where that student is in the learning process.
Learning as they go
Kyle Kersey, assistant principal at Riverton-Parke Junior-Senior High School, said that at this point, use of netbooks and digital curriculum “is still a transition … It’s an ongoing process.”
But he’s impressed with the number of teachers “who have jumped into it” without it being mandated. “We weren’t 100 percent prepared for as many teachers to jump on board as fast as they did and be able to manage it or deal with some of the issues that popped up. That’s a great thing,” he said.
As he visits teacher classrooms during evaluations, “I see some outstanding things taking place that have never taken place before because we didn’t have devices available,” he said.
In fact, students have been using their netbooks so much, the devices may run out of battery power by midday and have to be recharged. “We put in additional charging stations,” Kersey said.
Sometimes, students forget to bring their netbooks to school with them, or they forget to charge them at home.
The technology department “has had to change priorities to always put students first and what is best for students,” he said.
According to Porter, all English-language arts teachers in grades 3-12 use Achieve 3000, while math teachers use a similar program “that gives kids what they need at their level.”
High school students learning a foreign language use a program called Duolingo, in which they can both write the language and — using some other tools — record themselves speaking the language.
A chemistry teacher is having students do lab reports using Google Docs, which allows multiple students to work on the same document at the same time, from their different computers.
It tracks who typed what “so the teacher will know everyone contributed to the lab report and not just one person did all the work, which is typical in group work,” Porter said. A business teacher also uses Google Docs.
“Student accountability, in general, is way up because of the technology we’re using,” Porter said.
At Rosedale Elementary one day last week, students used their netbooks for various learning activities.
In Rachel Loomis’ fifth-grade class, Jaycee McClain had finished her reading assignment and was using a game to learn about the 50 United States. “You have to drag the states to the right part on the map,” she explained.
McClain believes that by using netbooks, “It won’t be as hard to teach kids and it might help them understand more on these websites.”
Fifth-grader Andrew Kneeland described the netbooks as “cool” although “sometimes they are a little slow,” he said. “There’s a lot of good learning sites,” and he likes the educational games.
Students use the netbooks for part of each day, but not all the time, Loomis said. Each day, they’ll spend about 30 minutes working on reading comprehension using the netbooks. About once a week, they might use Aleks, a Web-based program, for math.
Students use the computers to do research and write a report, or they can play educational games if they’ve completed an assignment.
Among the benefits of the netbook, Loomis said, are that certain students “are very much interested in using the technology … and do things for us that maybe they wouldn’t have done on pencil and paper.”
Overall, “It’s been a learning year,” she said. “We’ve come across some bumps,” but nothing insurmountable.
Asked if it’s a good change, Loomis said, “I think for the future that these kids are moving into with all this technology … yes, I think it is, if it’s used the way it’s supposed to be.”
In Anna Virostko’s classroom, second-graders used their netbooks in the morning to work on sentences (punctuation and capitalization) and math facts.
They also read a story each week and take a spelling quiz on Thursday; there are different activities to learn spelling, including electronic “flashcards.”
Students also like to write stories on their netbooks, Virostko said.
She spent the summer working with Porter to develop curriculum for her class and “she’s been continuously working on it,” Porter said.
“They love the math programs,” Virostko said. When they master so many problems, they earn an online “badge” and progress to the next lesson.
Second-grader Derron Hazzard used a timed program to work on his subtraction math facts. The first time, it took him 1 minute and 34 seconds, and the second time, 1 minute and 4 seconds.
“He just kept plugging away,” Virostko said. “They love the competition part of it. That is their favorite part.”
One of the challenges, she said, is learning all the teaching materials that are available.
Sometimes, they face minor technology “glitches” they have to figure out.
“Kids need to have troubleshooting skills with technology,” Porter said. “It’s frustrating sometimes, but it’s also part of the learning process.”
More serious problems go to tech support staff, including Porter, Jill Wiram (director of instructional technology) or Ben Porter (network and systems manager) and the Student Support Center Staff at the high school.
Other growing pains included some initial bandwidth issues, as well as insufficient netbooks for a higher-than-expected enrollment. Both problems have been addressed, Porter said.
Paige Yando, Riverton-Parke senior, believes it’s easier to get school work done on the netbooks.
While the devices tend to lose battery power quickly, they also charge up quickly, she said.
Marissa Bovair, a ninth-grade student, said the netbooks are used a lot in her English class. For gym class, students might use the device to take a test.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
Reading comprehension has improved in grades 3-9, and instruction can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each student.
Demonstrations at NASA exhibit show how physics rules the world around us
Jamie Poorman on Thursday held a small hand generator. With her right hand, she cranked the handle at a fast-enough pace for the attached light bulb to light up.
State to consider ISU housing deal
A multi-million dollar project to provide downtown housing for Indiana State University students, part of a public/private partnership, is on the agenda for the Dec. 20 meeting of the State Budget Committee.
Council OKs Bennett’s 3-year loan
The Terre Haute City Council handed Mayor Duke Bennett a minor victory Thursday night by approving a three-year, $5 million, short-term loan to help float the city’s general fund between bi-annual property tax payments from the state.
Potatoes, coffee at the Grounds
Carbohydrates and caffeine may soon find a delicious mix in an new downtown Terre Haute business.
ISU gets approval for unique program
Indiana State University has received approval to offer a first-of-its-kind program in the state: a bachelor’s degree in applied science.
Power outage overnight disrupts West Vigo students
A power outage at West Vigo High School and middle school overnight Wednesday caused some disruption for students Thursday morning.
County releases unpaid excise disbursements
Vigo County officials are dispersing more than $800,000 in undistributed excise tax funds from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles that had accumulated on monthly bank reconcilements for years.
Tip leads to arrest of three on drug charges
Three Terre Haute residents were arrested Thursday after Indiana State Police received a tip about methamphetaine activity a a house in the 1400 block of South Ninth Street.
Gather ’round the tree
As snow fell Wednesday night, chestnuts roasted on a open fire and holiday music filled the air outside one Terre Haute school.
Oil drilling at ISU to start next week
Oil drilling is about to begin on Indiana State University property.
MARK BENNETT: Inspiration will continue to flow through Valley
The Wabash River deserves a spot on lists of New Year’s resolutions.
ISU again looking at reduced state funding
Indiana State University is preparing for nearly $1.4 million in funding cuts, as the state responds to an unexpected drop in tax collections for the first five months of the fiscal year.
Driver survives wild crash
A Terre Haute man is facing drunk driving allegations after a dramatic crash about 4 a.m. Wednesday in southern Vigo County.
Honoring his word
John Etling of Catholic Charities Terre Haute agreed to have his hair dyed orange if the Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice of the Wabash Valley raised $5,000 on Orange Friday.
Hearing postponed for ex-doctor in Omaha killings
A preliminary hearing on an attempted burglary charge has been pushed back for a former doctor accused of killing four people with ties to an Omaha medical school that fired him in 2001.
Pre-sentence report ordered for Archer
A pre-sentence report has been ordered for a man accused of killing his wife and dumping her body in an Ohio ditch.
Ross found guilty of battery
A Terre Haute man was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter but convicted of battering a man who later died at the Vigo County Jail.
South dance clinic set for Saturday
“Dancing Around the Christmas Tree” is the theme of Terre Haute South Vigo High School’s Dance Team Clinic set for Saturday in the school’s auxiliary gym.
Plea submitted for man accused of killing brother
A plea agreement has been submitted for a Terre Haute man accused of killing his brother in 2012.
Thieves stealing copper wire from Interstate light posts
Two state agencies have combined efforts to combat highway lighting wire theft.
Year nearing its end: 12-month celebration of Wabash spanned Valley
Throughout this year, events and activities have focused attention on the Wabash River through Terre Haute, Vigo County and surrounding counties. It’s been called 2013 Year of the River. On Tuesday, Art Spaces Inc. and Arts Illiana presented a wrapup of the observance’s events.
Cultural planning: Consultant to help city reach arts district designation
Terre Haute officials want a portion of the downtown to be designated by the Indiana Arts Commission as one of the state’s cultural arts districts.
Sheriff: School officers have been a win-win
Placing armed officers in all Vigo County schools not only protects children and staff from violent acts, it also has helped prevent negative behaviors in the schools — both on the part of students and adults.
Gov. Pence details 2014 education agenda
Now that reform has been implemented, Gov. Mike Pence said Tuesday it’s time for Indiana’s legislature to focus on education innovation
Terre Haute man sentenced to Federal Prison
A Terre Haute man has been sentenced to 11 years, three months in federal prison on charges of possession of child pornography.
Closing arguments today in Ross assault trial
Testimony began and concluded Tuesday in the trial of a Terre Haute man accused of battering a person who later died at the Vigo County Jail.
Victim of Monday Parke crash ID’d
Police have identified the victim in a fatal car accident in Parke County on Monday. Linda Chaney, 75, of Reelsville was driving south on Indiana 59 south of Mansfield when her vehicle left the road and struck a tree. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
State Police arrest impaired truck driver
An Illinois semi-trailer driver has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after registering more than three times the legal limit on a blood-alcohol test.
Christmas in the Park: Judges survey lights; Troop 200 comes out on top
The rockin’ snowmen were singing “I can’t get no satisfaction,” but they won first place anyway.
Board of Works: Sewage fees waived on Indiana 46
The Terre Haute Board of Works and Public Safety approved a memorandum of understanding Monday between the board and the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment to waive sewer connection fees along part of Indiana 46/U.S. 40 on the city’s east side to promote future development.
- More News Headlines
- Demonstrations at NASA exhibit show how physics rules the world around us