Tupelo students using iPods to learn

Kindergarten students at Tupelo’s Church Street Elementary school may learn handwriting by sliding their fingers along a display screen.
Others at the K-2 school can improve their reading by recording themselves on an iPod Touch and then listening to the words that gave them trouble.
Church Street Principal Kay Collins recently used some of the school’s instructional money to buy 25 iPod Touch devices – one for each of the school’s teachers.
The idea was to cut back on some of the money spent to buy paper and use those savings to buy an instructional tool that she believed would be invaluable.
“We’re teaching like we have been forever,” Collins said. “We have this technology now so lets use it. This is what the kids know.”
The school’s parent-teacher association is also working to buy additional iPod Touch devices for teachers to use in their classrooms, Collins said.
Among the most useful tools of the iPods is the ability for teachers to download and store educational applications on them.
One program allows students to learn D’Nealian handwriting by tracing letters on a screen, another lets them touch letters and hear their sounds, and yet another provides math flash cards.
“When you pull out an iPod, the kids are so excited they get to use this and learn at the same time,” said Trae Wyatt, academic and behavioral interventionist at Church Street. “They don’t realize they are actually learning. They think they are playing.”
Teachers at the school also connect the iPods to external speakers and play themed music about the lesson. Students can plug in headphones and listen to music while they read or hear an audiobook or educational podcast.
“It is more appealing to the kids,” said Church Street first-grade teacher Amy Wyatt. “They are familiar with iPods, and there is the ‘cool factor.’”
Collins plans to buy splitters, so several students can plug in headphones and listen to the iPod at once, and microphones, so students or teachers can record onto the device.
This is useful for students who can hear themselves read and for teachers who can record lessons that students can review later.
First-grade teacher Carolyn Beasley said the English-language learners in her classroom can listen repeatedly to stories she’s read to the class to improve their vocabulary.
Teachers say the devices also allow for differentiated instruction. Some applications are geared toward English-language learners and students who are struggling to understand a concept and others help gifted students delve deeper into a subject.
“If I have someone who needs to work on rhyming words, I could find an application just for that person,” Amy Wyatt said.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal