With a furrowed brow and a deep breath, 9-year-old Dallis Engel pressed down on the screen of her iPod touch.
Then, she began to read.
“My brother William is a fisherman,” she said, using a finger to trace words in Patricia MacLachlan’s book, Sarah, Plain and Tall.
The fourth-grader stumbled over pronunciations and skipped words as an application recorded her voice. When she finished the passage, she glanced over at her teacher, Kelly Turcotte, and explained her next step.
“I have to listen to it and make sure it’s perfect,” she said. “If you sound like a robot, you have to do it again.”
In Oregon’s Canby School District, it’s a familiar scene. While other school systems across the nation have banned personal cellular phones or mobile internet devices, the Canby School District is one of a growing number of districts that is fully embracing mobile learning technology.
During a time of steep budget reductions—employees must take 14 furlough days this school year—Canby has issued an iPod touch to every third-grader, challenging the idea that digital technology exists largely as a distraction for a plugged-in generation.
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Since implementing a pilot project at Philander Lee Elementary School three years ago, the district has used about $250,000 in state and federal grant and rebate money to purchase the iPod touches, a portable media player that connects to the internet through a Wi-Fi network.
In addition, the parent-teacher association at Lee Elementary raised about $12,000 to buy 60 iPod touches for the school’s fourth- and fifth-graders, and another parent organization pitched in about $15,000 for 30 iPads at Eccles Elementary School.
The choice of equipping third-graders first was intentional, according to Joseph Morelock, the district’s technology coordinator. The third grade is the first to take state tests, and administrators are eager to help students pass math achievement standards that recently have been raised.
In presentations, Morelock has shown that several classrooms using the iPod touches generated better test scores than the district average. He looks at iPod touches and other mobile learning devices as unparalleled tools that can be used in nearly every class.
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