News

iPod, iLearn: Hillcrest Elementary students get tech savvy and top scores

Fifth grader Steven Vallery watches a math video on an iPod during a lesson led by his teacher Duane Sisto. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Fifth grader Steven Vallery watches a math video on an iPod during a lesson led by his teacher Duane Sisto.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Within about a month’s time, Hillcrest Elementary School fifth grade teacher Duane Sisto has managed to not only raise his students’ average test scores, but he’s actually managed to get his students to admit that learning is fun.

A new era of teaching has begun.

Just before winter break, Sisto’s class received a set of iPods purchased with funds from the school district’s technology budget. Sisto said Oak Harbor Superintendent Rick Schulte was interested in finding ways to get technology into the hands of students in an inexpensive way. And since Sisto is one of the district T-3 teachers (teachers teaching with technology) and has a master’s degree in instructional technology, the district thought his 27 kids would make a perfect pilot group.

“These guys are really aware that their success in this classroom can affect other classrooms,” Sisto said.

At the beginning of class each day, Sisto checks out an iPod to every student. He’s incorporated the tool into all subjects. For example, the flashcard app is used to study multiplication tables, dictionary websites are used to assist with vocabulary and notepads are used for social studies. Additionally, the students have familiarized themselves with educational podcasts, email and other tools, like digital protractors.

Sisto said the iPods can support students at their own levels of learning. With a variety of apps, the students can select those which best suit their needs. Sisto said since he introduced the iPod into his classroom the first week in January, the class average on weekly reading tests has improved by about 10 percent.

Some students have noticed personal progress.

“It helps me get work done faster,” student Scout Powell said. Scout said since she started using the iPod to assist in her math homework, she went from scoring in the mid 70s on tests to the mid 80s.

“They’re really amazing,” she said. “I’m really glad the school district gave them to us.”

Many of Scout’s classmates agree with her. Chase Boudreaux and Madison Harrison said they had noticed improvements in their math grades. Madison said she especially found going through the electronic flashcards before a test helpful while Boudreaux said the iPod makes him want to be more engaged.

“It makes school more interesting,” Boudreaux said. “I used to not like school, but now I do.”

Sisto had a little bit of trouble keeping the students from playing games on the devices or using the email option for personal use when they first got them, but he said the kids have gotten much better at staying on task now that they’re comfortable with the iPods and see them as tools rather than toys.

“There were a few distractions,” Powell said, “but this is an opportunity. Other kids will get to do this if we get it right.”

The cost of the iPods, cases and MacBook computer (which provides the wireless Internet) was just under $7,000. Though the number may seem steep, the district’s Information Services Director Bruce Roberts pointed out why the iPods are such a bargain.

“For the price of about four desktop PCs, we provided the class with a virtual Swiss army knife,” he wrote in an email. “Not only do they connect to the Internet, they are a camera, calculator, recorder, etc. ... Despite our best efforts, it still costs a little over $350 per PC to maintain, license and operate it over a year. The cost of maintaining the iPods has proven to be much less so far.”

If Sisto’s students reap educational benefits from the devices, the district will consider buying them for additional classes.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 27 edition online now. Browse the archives.