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 email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
Reading comprehension has improved in grades 3-9, and instruction can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each student.
You’re home now
To say that Michael Curry was stressed is an understatement.
‘Ups and downs’ in the Statehouse
As state legislators head into the final week of the state legislative session, five of them from the Wabash Valley met with citizens Saturday at the Vigo County Public Library in downtown Terre Haute and engaged in conversation about the “ups and downs” of the recent session.
Finding what the kids need
One Saturday morning event in Terre Haute aimed to raise awareness about the resources available to people with disabilities.
Spotting pot, gun in home nets 2 arrests.
Two adults were arrested and two children removed from a Vigo County home on Friday after drugs and a handgun with altered serial numbers were discovered in the home, authorities said.
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: Focus on poverty, inequality
The issues of poverty and inequality will be at the forefront of the 13th annual Terre Haute Human Rights Day on March 18 at Indiana State University.
VIDEO: Tasting their way to a cure
People appeared to be in high spirits Friday inside the historic Indiana Theatre as they gathered for an evening of wine, food and conversation while supporting efforts to find a cure for breast cancer.
Same-sex marriage: 4 couples sue state over ban
Four gay couples from southern Indiana sued the state Friday, seeking to force Indiana to recognize same-sex marriages from out of state and issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Time to check smoke alarms
Three years after a house fire on South Nine Street in Terre Haute resulted in the death of three people, a Terre Haute grandmother still wonders if the outcome of that fire would have been different if smoke detectors in the home had been working.
Indiana State Board extends president’s contract
Indiana State University has signed up Dan Bradley, the school’s president, for an additional three years of service.
New animal shelter gets welcome boost
The aging Terre Haute Humane Society shelter is not a place for the faint of heart.
Vigo County high school team in FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional
Drivers of remote-controlled robots will match skills, similar to those used in basketball and soccer, to score in the FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional on the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Benefit planned for daycare fire victim
Veronica Gray never met 19-month-old Emma Lloyd, but when she learned about the child’s tragic death in a Sullivan day care fire, she had to do something.
Winter’s costs add up for Vigo
While still within county and city budgets, the snowstorms of January and February were more costly than a year ago.
Mayor Bennett threatens veto of consultant funding
Mayor Duke Bennett is threatening to veto a measure before the Terre Haute City Council that would transfer money into the council’s budget allowing the body to again hire a financial consultant.
Semitrailer fire slows eastbound traffic on Interstate 70
Traffic on Interstate 70 was slowed Thursday afternoon by a semitrailer fire just east of Terre Haute.
Tests show Skittles had no unusual chemicals
The Indiana State Health Department has given Skittles a clean bill of health.
No problems reported in early 10-digit phone dialing
Just be grateful you (probably) aren’t using a rotary telephone these days.
Cloverdale woman sentenced to 10 years in molestation/neglect case
A Cloverdale woman received a 10-year prison sentence Thursday after pleading guilty to child molesting and neglect of a defendant in Vigo Superior Court 3.
College students spend alternative spring break helping in Vigo County
Pruning in the orchard and preparing plants for the garden has been part of the experience for a group of Minnesota students who are spending this week as an alternative spring break at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
MARK BENNETT: How you approach the day will influence if you are a ‘morning person’
I can still see the stacks of coins, 40 cents in each, arranged on the dining room table.
Area Plan Department considering raising fees
The Vigo County Area Planning Department is exploring the possibility of raising the fees for its services.
Tuesday night crash leads to arrest on drug charges
A Terre Haute man was arrested on drug-related charges after a one-car accident Tuesday night in Clay County.
Clock ticking on downtown TIF district
The sun is setting on Terre Haute’s downtown tax increment finance district, which city economic development officials say has been crucial to downtown revitalization, following action this week from the Indiana General Assembly.
Lay pastor files guilty plea in child sex case
A Terre Haute man has pleaded guilty to seven felonies in connection with a child molestation that allegedly involved the man’s wife as well.
Man gets 1 year probation for child, animal neglect
A Vigo County man has been sentenced to one year on formal probation after pleading guilty to housing children and animals in a filthy house.
Three-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 injures three
Three people received minor injuries and one motorist was cited following a three-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 at Springhill Drive at 9:59 a.m. Wednesday.
Sullivan daycare fire victim ID’d
Sullivan County authorities have released the name of a 1 1⁄2-year-old girl who died Tuesday morning in a Sullivan County daycare fire.
Sullivan Daycare fire: Broken hearts
A 11⁄2-year-old girl tragically died early Tuesday morning as the result of a fire at Waterman’s Wonderland Daycare on Sullivan’s south side.
Sony DADC cutting 34 distribution jobs here
Sony DADC is halting product distribution operations from its Terre Haute plant at a cost of 34 jobs, a company official said Tuesday.
Bill ends automatic license suspensions for many crimes
Unpaid parking fines, falling behind on child support, drunken driving: So many offenses trigger a suspended driver’s license in Indiana that more than a half-million Hoosiers have lost their driving privileges. In fact, driving on a suspended license is the most common charged offense, prosecutors say.
- More News Headlines
- You’re home now