Del Mar Heights school advances students’ tech education with iTouch Learning program
By Karen Billing
Del Mar Heights School has its finger on the pulse of technology learning, with its new iTouch Learning program that has kids using iPod Touches in the classroom. The students’ education is put in their own hands—they are learning valuable skills, problem-solving and integrating technology into subjects such as social studies, English, science, art, math and more.
Del Mar Heights is the only school in the Del Mar Union School District to utilize iTouches and one of just a few in San Diego.
Technology teacher Gail Moran said schools in the Escondido Union School District have really led the way in San Diego, thanks to generous support by Apple. Before bringing the program to Del Mar last year, Moran met with Apple in Cupertino, looking at the philosophy behind it and the standards that young 21st century learners need to know.
“I wanted to make sure it was something sound here, not just something cute and fun,” Moran said. “It’s important that they are learning tools that can have an impact on their achievement…This generation is going to be working in jobs that haven’t even been created yet, we’re looking at how we get them prepared for that.”
While the program the Heights developed is called iTouch Learning, the iTL also stands for “inspiring tomorrow’s leaders,” Moran said.
The pilot program was started last spring with one third grade class. This year it has expanded to two third grade classes with 40 iPods. Moran hopes next year they can add a third class if the school can purchase 20 more iPods.
Touring classrooms with students using the iPods in learning, you could hear a pin drop. Every child is completely engaged in their work, barely noticing the visitor checking out what they are doing.
The iTL method is used for many different parts of the curriculum and the iPods are used daily.
For reading and literacy, students in teacher Carol Faulkner’s class read a passage of a story and recorded their voices on the iPod. They play their reading back and repeat it twice more, trying to improve each time.
“I’m listening for expression and how fast you can read,” said student Colette Burd. “It’s definitely helping me be a better reader.”
Using the comic touch app, the students write out key points learned from the passages and create or select the illustration to go along with it.
Faulkner is enjoying her second year of the program.
“Using technology in the classroom is really fun and motivating,” Faulkner said. “The biggest difference I see is the motivation level of kids really increases.”
She said the children are “tech natives”—they pick up new applications in no time and sometimes even help teach her how to use them.
In Courtney Wildman’s class, the children used the iPods as they worked on the Story Kit app. Students were creating a mini storybook using seven vocabulary words they recently learned (examples: flailed and hubbub). They did the illustrations for each page of their story, deftly drawing people and places using their fingers.
“It helps them get better with their typing and drawing ability and their vocabulary is improving. I heard some kids in line saying they were ‘vexed’,” Wildman said with a laugh.
The students’ work is then synced to the teacher’s main laptop, allowing the teacher to review and listen to assignments.
“It’s better because it doesn’t use as much paper,” said student Shefali Doshi.
Moran is excited as she said they are just at the tip of finding out everything they can do with the technology—next week students will take them along on a field trip to record information learned from a docent and edit sound bites into a report when they get back to the classroom.
“(Gail) is really the vision behind this pilot program, her expertise, energy and time she has put into this have really moved us forward,” said Faulkner.
Moran is humble and defers some of the accolades onto Assistant Superintendent Holly McClurg, Director of Technology Michael Casey, and Principal Wendy Wardlow.
“She has been incredibly supportive,” Moran said of Wardlow. “She was right there behind us 100 percent.”
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