Digital learning

Published 10:15 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Electronic readers: Paige Brianne Ross, left, and Manuel Mendez, both second-graders at Creekside Elementary School, enjoy the school’s e-readers in the library. Students at Creekside Elementary have been involved in a pilot project to introduce e-readers to Suffolk elementary students. After success at Creekside, the program now is being introduced to all Title I schools.

Division adds new technology to Title I schools

Dozens of brand-new Nook e-readers will be arriving at elementary schools in Suffolk within the next couple of weeks.

After a successful pilot program at Creekside Elementary School, the division ordered the devices as a way to reduce book costs, introduce students to up-and-coming technology and get kids excited about reading.

“These kids really like new technology,” said Kim Richardson, media specialist at Creekside. “They’re not intimidated by it, and some of them have had their hands on something like this before.”

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For the past year, Creekside had been a pilot school for integrating e-readers into the classroom, and the library has three devices — two Amazon Kindles and a Sony eReader — for students to check out, just as they would any book.

The media specialist loads the readers with several types of books so that all levels of readers can enjoy using them. The devices are programmed so that nobody can add new content to the devices except the librarian.

Richardson said the readers have been a hit.

“It was very popular, and it’s still popular,” she said.

In fact, the program worked so well that the school division will now integrate e-readers in several other elementary schools throughout Suffolk this fall.

“This type of technology has the potential to reduce costs and increase the educational opportunities for students and staff,” said John Littlefield, director of technology for Suffolk Public Schools. “Also, these types of technologies are what students will be exposed to in the future after graduating high school.”

Littlefield said he was unsure how much money the division saved using the technology.

Richardson said she thinks the new devices are great.

“We’ve got to stay on top of technology,” she said.

Littlefield said the division tried out different brands but decided Barnes and Noble’s Nook e-reader was the best fit as a permanent tool in the schools.

In the next couple of weeks, Nooks will be arriving at the schools, and Creekside is expecting about 20 of the devices with colored screens.

Richardson said the devices can read text to the user, and the text size can be enlarged.

“Special education children and those with special needs who need larger print or need to be read to can use these,” she said.

Littlefield said it’s too early to predict the specific effects of the e-readers, but like Richardson, he thinks they are a good addition to the classroom.

“Most students are eager to use new technologies, and if the new technology helps them to read better, then it is definitely a benefit to the student,” he said.

Even though Richardson still prefers paper books for herself, she’s ready to promote any product that gets kids reading.

“If it’s a way to get children excited about reading, you want to do it,” she said.