Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

It's point and click at Durham as kindergarteners turn to iPads to learn ABCs


Digital natives use iPads to learn how to read and write

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Alejandra Mendoza Romero, Jorge Ruiz, Sammy Mudd and Carson Miller are kindergartners in Leslie Kolbs class who use iPads to complete their classwork. In Leslie Kolb’s kindergarten class at Durham Elementary School, students are working on their writing.

The assignment is a tough one for the gaggle of 5-year-olds: Write a story about your favorite game in physical education class and directions on how to play it.

But the students make no move to pick up any paper or pencils to write their essays. Instead, each of the students grab a shiny, black Apple iPad and get to work.

The students have no problem controlling the tablet computers, opening programs and embedding photos and drawings into their essays.

Jorge Ruiz, 5, sounds out the letters he needs for his essay about how to play a popular game called “battleship.”

“You get a ball, and you knock down a cone, then do five jumping jacks,” he explained as he added a final punctuation mark to his essay. “It is fun.”

But Ruiz still has to turn in his work.

“Remember,” Kolb told the class, “you have to email it to me.”

It’s just another day in kindergarten.

‘They can do it’

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Durham Elementary School kindergarten teacher Leslie Kolb helps Brenda Colorado with a project on her iPad. The scene in Kolb’s class is becoming more and more common in Tigard-Tualatin schools, which have been rolling out new technology to classrooms of all grades during the past two years.

“We work with it pretty much all day,” Kolb said.

Each of the three kindergarten classes at Durham have sets of iPads for their students, and the kids have taken to the new technology like gangbusters.

“I’ve been able to bump up the instructional level for all the kids because of it,” Kolb said. “They can do it, and they are really good at it. They are learning so much faster. They are engaged, and they love it. And, it’s so hands-on.”

Kolb uses the iPads to help teach reading instruction and word-building — difficult concepts for children to learn.

“(The students) have to organize their thoughts and break each word down into the individual sounds. It’s a humungous process for them. They are learning each and every step of the way,” she said. “The more often we can do it and make it fun for them, the better.”

Kolb believes the technology will help reduce the achievement gap in reading and writing between the school’s English-speaking students and language-learners.

“It helps to give them a firm foundation in reading,” Kolb said. “The goal is getting those lower performers up.”

This is the first year students at Durham have access to the new technology. Last year, Kolb used similar products for a few weeks in a trial run.

No fear

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kindergartners Kaylee Smith and Sammy Mudd scan a code as part of an assignment in Leslie Kolbs class at Durham Elementary School. IPads are a part of life in the school and are used to teach reading and writing.A kindergarten teacher for more than 20 years, Kolb said she was concerned at first that the students would lose themselves in the devices.

“I thought it would be insular, and they would have their heads down in them all day,” she said. “But they aren’t. They help each other, and they are learning together, which is really cool.”

Kolb flips back and forth between writing on the iPads and using traditional pencil and paper.

The devices are successful because of simple, game-style activities that make learning fun, she said.

Ruiz agreed.

“Do you want to see something cool?” he asked, opening an application.

The game asked Ruiz to match letters together to spell the word “demolish.”

After matching the correct letters, a large cartoon monster knocks down a building, demonstrating the meaning of the word “demolish”

“When you demolish something, you break it on purpose,” the computer said aloud.

Kolb said for Ruiz, working with the new technology has gotten him more interested in learning to write than he would be otherwise.

“Writing is not his favorite thing,” she said. “But if he can do things with the letters, he is so much more engaged.”

The days of filling out worksheets are over, Kolb said. In her class, students get the repetition needed to learn through fun games they initiate.

“These kids are digital natives,” Kolb said. “In their lives, they have always had this technology on their parents’ phones or on their brothers’ iPods. They don’t know what it’s like without this.”

It’s natural for them to want to use the technology as part of the learning process, she said.

“They don’t fear it like older adults,” Kolb said. “For them, they want to see what they can make it do.”

Kolb can envision more technology being introduced into the classroom as students become more adept at using the devices.

“These kids amaze me with what they can do,” Kolb said. “There are days when I don’t know how to do something, and they’ll show me. They are teaching me.”

For more information about the devices and Kolb’s class, visit her website, kolbkindergarten.weebly.com.