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iLearn, we learn — Bremerton School District incorporates iPod and computer technology to help struggling readers

Fourth grader at View Ridge Elementary School, Melanie Enriquez, highlights a word she mispronounced after hearing a self-recording of a reading passage on the iPod Nov. 17. The Bremerton School District has several programs involving technology that engage struggling readers at the elementary level. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Fourth grader at View Ridge Elementary School, Melanie Enriquez, highlights a word she mispronounced after hearing a self-recording of a reading passage on the iPod Nov. 17. The Bremerton School District has several programs involving technology that engage struggling readers at the elementary level.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Logan Kerr, a fifth grader at View Ridge Elementary School, prefers working on the computer to a paper and pencil method.

In class, he is able to use the computer program Read 180, that helps students with reading comprehension and spelling. Logan doesn’t have a computer at home but he knows what he would be doing if he did.

“It broke the other day,” Logan said of his home computer. “If I did [have one,] I’d be doing this.”

The Bremerton School District has many programs via the use of computers — and iPods — to help struggling students with reading.

Because technology has become an everyday tool in the lives of many children, these programs aren’t difficult to use. For those who may not be introduced to the technology at home, the classroom is a place where they can learn while getting help in areas of reading that may be difficult for them.

“Students in our school, some have access to technology,” said Korene Calderwood, Logan’s teacher at View Ridge. “We do have families that don’t have computers. We’re trying to bridge that gap so they don’t have a technology deficit.”

For Logan, 10, it’s about making spelling interesting and gaining the motivation to want to do better.

“It’s more fun on the computer because you can type it in. It would take you longer on paper,” he said last week.

Not only is Read 180 fun for students like Logan, but because it keeps the scores of the different activities in a point system, students feel like they are playing a game and want to score higher in order to pass the next level, said Calderwood.

There are several different activities students can choose from within Read 180 — all have to be completed but they can decide in which order they will complete them. Last Thursday Logan took a spelling test where he listened through headphones and typed out words that the program told him to. There are also other options to read non-fiction passages and respond to questions afterward.

By working on computers, there is the near-instant response for students to get feedback on their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to reading.

“They take more responsibility for their work,” said Calderwood adding that getting the timely feedback engages her students.

Other than View Ridge, Read 180 is used at West Hills STEM Academy in the district, said Patty Glaser, district spokeswoman. The cost of the program is about $25,000 per school, she said. System 44, a similar program to Read 180, is available for students at Mountain View Middle School and Bremerton High School.

Another program where elementary school students are taking more responsibility in their own education is with the school district’s iLearn Project.

Students use an iPod touch to record themselves reading passages aloud and then they play and listen to the self-recording. They identify specific words they may have skipped or repeated and parts of the passage they did not read fluidly. On the iPod, they are able to do research such as look up definitions to new words or to hear the correct pronunciation. At the end, the students record a retelling or summary of the passage in their own words without looking at the passage to determine if they comprehended what they read. Each student’s recordings are turned into voice memos that are transferred to a central computer for the teachers to have access to.

Although this program doesn’t have a teacher up front telling students exactly what to do, students are responding well to it.

“We’re no longer in a world where kids want to sit and listen to a teacher,” said Scott Wisenburg, a teacher at View Ridge who helped the district pilot the program last school year. He added that the children are comfortable using the iPods because they want to be using the technology that they see their parents and other adults use all the time.

The iLearn Project, in its second school year, is modeled after a program in the Escondido Union School District in California, said Wisenburg. T

eachers at Escondido began their iRead program in 2006 collecting data about fluency rates, according to the program website. Wisenburg and a few other teachers in the Bremerton School District wanted to bring a similar program to Bremerton schools after attending a conference in Seattle.

Wisenburg said the iLearn Project helps students with self-assessments when it comes to reading fluency. When his fourth grade students know it is the time of the school day designated for iLearn, they put their earbuds in place and begin recording without hesitation.

They learn how to manage the assignments on their own with Wisenburg available for help if a question arises.

For some students, the iLearn Project can help them with better pronunciation of words. For others, like Jordan Brophy-Palsson, it is helping him become a quicker reader.

“It’s really fun,” 9-year-old Jordan said. “You can get faster and faster.”

Melanie Enriquez, 9, said that when she first started using the iPod to record herself reading aloud at the beginning of the school year, she would make about 30 mistakes and now her count is at about nine or 10 mistakes. She said usually her mistakes are mispronouncing words.

“They are very engaged by using this technology,” said Sandra Gessner-Crabtree, principal at View Ridge. “It gives feedback faster often times than a paper to be graded.”

A program that students find fun is something many teachers always want to figure out.

“I didn’t know what to do, now it’s easy,” said Melanie of navigating an iPod for the iLearn Project. “It’s fun.”

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