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Chicago Preschools Pilot Mobile Devices

A Chicago elementary school has gone public with its pilot use of a tablet designed specifically for pre-school students. Hayt Elementary in Chicago has been using iStartSmart Mobile devices since October 2012. At least one pre-school teacher said he believes the use of the technology is an effective way to supplement what's going on in the classroom.

The device is an "early learning tablet" that's preloaded with software and apps for the students as well as administrative tools that allow the instructor to monitor student progress. Pre-k teacher Fontane Thomas said the way he uses the device is to sit with his students, English language learners, and "walk them through a series of activities to see if they're gaining the skills I want them to gain from that activity or from that lesson I've taught previously." That approach, he added, "is very important for reducing the technology gap and the achievement gap because it actually supplements what is happening in the classroom."

Once a week, Thomas goes into a reporting system, which lists all of his students and the various skills they're working on--for example, sentence segmenting, initial sounds, blending compound words, and so on--to see how they're going. That allows him to "know where I need to come back to [and] I get a quick snapshot on what their abilities are and what level they're at."

Another Chicago-area organization also trying out the tablet is West Aurora School District 129 in Aurora. Said Laurie Klomhaus, principal at West Aurora's child development center who oversees instruction in 11 classrooms, "I like the simplicity of the whole system." She can "easily" pull reports showing how often the tablets are actually used, information that comes in handy in guiding her decisions about "the professional development needs of my staff."

"Teachers play a vital role in facilitating technology use in the classroom," said Ginny Norton, Hatch president. "These pilot programs demonstrate best practices in implementing technology in early learning, as educators use Hatch technology to inform early intervention and instruction."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.