Teachers say iPads make reading assessment easier. (Paul Tople/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)

East Haven, Conn., reading specialist Gina Tomassi sits with second-grader Isaac Florentino for a quick reading evaluation, listening to him read a short story about a riverside village.

She’s conducted these informal, frequent assessments countless times with other students in her career, having nailed down a stop-watch monitoring, hand-tapping, note-taking routine that certainly seems a challenge for the uncoordinated or inexperienced multitaskers. But on this recent morning at D.C. Moore Elementary School, it’s all done with the touch of an iPad.

School officials see the gadgets as a possible answer to the district’s achievement gap, deciding at the end of last year to spend more than $120,000 on 220 iPads and software and equip every school with a set. The thinking behind the investment is that the technology will help teachers identify struggling readers faster, use time previously spent calculating and reviewing reading assessments to work with students or adjust lesson plans, and offer kids another learning tool to use in the classroom.

Now, halfway through the first school year of the district’s widespread iPad use, educators say the tablets already are having an impact.

“They’re really serving many purposes while transforming the environment of teaching and learning. And we can better communicate with parents about student growth and progress over time,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Erica Forti.

For more news about reading instruction, see:

3D technology helps autistic kids learn to read

New online service applies the ‘Netflix’ model to literacy

Reading instruction: Getting it right the first time

Forti began investigating options last year as administrators considered reallocating technology money that might have gone to purchases such as new desktop computers. There was a need for mobile technology, rather than more computers that remain hooked up in a computer lab, and for software that could better help teachers track student progress, Forti said.

“A teacher can grab one for assessments or grab five or take them all and use them in groups,” Forti explained. “I walked into a kindergarten class other day, and kids were sitting together using iPads, another group of kids was listening to stories with headphones, and another teacher was using one with kids.”

The kids have embraced the technology, according to Forti. During his Friday morning session, 7-year-old Isaac looked like a miniature Apple employee, opening the computer’s programs as if he was an old pro and flicking digital letters back and forth to form basic words on a “Word Wizards” app. “It’s really fun to play with,” he said.

Some teachers initially were hesitant to test out and begin relying on the tablets, but most have grown to be fans, especially because of the iPad’s time-saving capabilities when it comes to the type of oral reading assessment Tomassi was giving Isaac.