Julie Buckler, iPad teacher, instructs students using iPads in J.T. Kuzior’s third grade class at Green Primary School in Green, Ohio, on Jan. 5. (Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)
GREEN, Ohio ― Teaching grade-schoolers to speak Mandarin might not be difficult in Asia, but in America, the challenge is daunting. But the students in J.T. Kuzior’s Green, Ohio, Primary School third-grade classroom are doing just that, using a computer application that helps them learn the language.
Thanks to a local businessman, the nearly 1,000 students at the school in grades 1-3 are getting foreign language instructions and lessons in other subjects twice each week using the latest technology.
“Most students are afraid of a new language,” iPad instructor Julie Buckler said while teaching an introductory class in the official, national language of the People’s Republic of China. A few minutes later, students began reciting the names of primary colors in the Mandarin dialect.
Randy Theken, founder of the Theken Family of Companies, manufacturers of orthopedic medical devices, donated 60 iPads before the first day of school and used his engineering background to build two, 30-bay docking stations to charge them each night.
“My impetus for funding the school with iPads is two-fold: one, knowing how important it is to introduce technology as early as possible to grade-school children; and two, my passion for engineering, technology, and innovation, as this is a large driver in our local economy for creating jobs,” Theken said.
“Randy is simply brilliant and he has been very helpful in this initiative every step of the way,” Green Primary School Principal Kevin Finefrock said Thursday.
Theken, who has a son in the second grade at the school, next is providing for an additional 30 devices that will allow the students in each of the 38 homerooms more iPad time each week.
“He’s a good friend and actively involved in the school’s vision for how we use technology,” Finefrock said.
Enthusiasm at the school for learning with the popular hand-held computers is palpable, Buckler said.
“It’s just amazing,” she said. “I’m walking through the hallways, and they ask me, ‘Is it our turn today?’”
The computers have a retail value of about $50,000, Finefrock said.
“We’ve had cases where (parents) have struggled to get their children reading, and since we introduced the iPad, they look forward to it,” he said while demonstrating a reading app, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
“The technology is conducive to how they learn. ... the animation draws the student into the text,” he said as books seemed to fly past the pages of the iPad he held.
There are enough iPads in the school to allow Buckler to rotate students through the class once every six days. In addition, a traveling cart of iPads each week gives students an additional day of classroom instruction. With 30 more devices, students should have at least two or more sessions with the popular computers each week.
This new generation of youngsters is growing up in a technology-driven culture that schools have to respond to, Finefrock said.
“Our vision is for students to use this technology in a way where they are podcasting, videocasting, editing, collaborating and presenting,” he said. “We are now in a position to use that technology to get our students to a higher level of critical thinking and engagement.”
Besides foreign languages, the school has apps for math, phonics, grammar, spelling and books. Students even have access to an app from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A Math Monkey app lets students use a slingshot to shoot at the correct multiple-choice answer to a math problem. Glitter Doodle is an app for drawing and writing with a sparkle.
“We wanted to look at getting apps that were fun, engaging and creative,” Finefrock said.
During Chinese lessons in Kuzior’s class Thursday, the focus of every student was on the iPads in front of them.
“When you walk into one of these iPad classes, it’s exciting,” Finefrock said.
As many as 25 percent of the students have some form of “i” device at home with some of the same apps they use at school, Kuzior said.
“It’s cool because they already know how to use it,” he said.
An Apple television connected to Kuzior’s iPad projects the image to the classroom wall as an additional teaching tool.
Even though there is one iPad for every 10 students at the school, some children have asked their parents to buy one to use at home, Finefrock said.
“I’ve had parents jokingly say ‘Thanks a lot. You just cost me $500.’”
By Kathy Antoniotti
(Akron Beacon Journal)
(Distributed by MCT Information Services)