Exeter students try out tablet computers

Thursday, May 3, 2012
School rolls out new program early Democrat Photo/Lindsay Reed The Exeter R-6 School District rolled out its new tablet program early by issuing Kineos to all third graders on April 24. In the photo above, third grade teacher Dawna Snell answers questions and offers support as her students become more comfortable with the new hand-held computers.

The Exeter R-6 School District has decided to unveil its $30,000 tablet project a little earlier than planned. Although Kineo tablets were scheduled to be issued to third grade students during the 2012-13 school year, the district decided to provide this year's third graders with limited access to the new hand-held computers.

After allowing third grade teachers a short period of time to become familiar with the new Kineos, Exeter administrators issued tablets to students on April 24.

"They are really excited," said Dawna Snell, third grade teacher. "They are responding well to them, and they know more about them than I do."

For the remainder of the 2011-12 school year, students will only be using the personal computers on the school campus. Next year, third graders will have the opportunity to take the tablets home with them each night.

"They are using these to learn the same skills as we teach with pencil and paper, but they are more excited about learning this way," said Snell.

Last week, students began working on the Achiever software that came preloaded on the Kineos. Achiever helps students acquire skills needed to perform well on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test.

"They can do writing, reading and math," said Tamra Kester, elementary principal. "The program offers reviews and asks questions. Each lesson has a drill and practice.

"These are things the teachers are covering in class already, so it is really a reinforcement," said Kester, "but it allows the teacher to give some students more attention. Other students who are more advanced can go through other lessons on their own."

Third grader Katie Kester said she likes the Kineo because it offers some lessons that students have not received in class. Several of the students identified a series of science lessons as their favorite aspect of the Achiever program.

Each Kineo records the number of questions the student answers correctly and the time needed to complete the lesson and test. If a student answers a question incorrectly, the program provides the correct answer to help the student score better in the future.

Snell said she was excited about having the opportunity to sync the Kineo tablets with the school's Title I computer lab in order to evaluate student scores.

"The tablets are also Nook compatible, which means we will probably be able to use them in our literature circle," said Snell. "I can see how beneficial it would be for them to follow along using these."

Tamra Kester said that the district is researching costs associated with purchasing literature books for the tablets.

"The kids are so focused on them," said Snell. "It is amazing how quiet my class is.

"We started coming to the Title I lab for academic training last year," said Snell, "but they respond to the tablets better because they can hold them in their hands. They are used to playing with their parents' phones and iPads and they love the touch screen."

In the future, Snell hopes the tablets will help her connect more students to the lessons offered on her teacher webpage. Some students are unable to access the information and activities offered on the website because they don't have computers at home, said Snell.

"This will also help me work with different students who are at different levels," said Snell. "I can direct a student to go to a second grade level for a lesson in reading or math and none of the other kids will even know. With the big screen in the computer lab, they can look over and see what another student is doing.

"If a student tests above average on a lesson, I can direct them to move ahead," added Snell. "This will keep those students stimulated and learning while others are getting more practice in."

The Exeter School District paid for the Kineo tablets using $15,000 in Title I school improvement funding that was received during the 2010-11 school year and $15,000 in Title I funding received during the 2011-12 school year.

The district purchased Brainchild's AYP package, which included 50 Kineos, an Achiever subscription for the entire school and three days of professional development training.

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