Young Technology

St. Clair Elementary School students are getting a feel for digital technology during summer school as they learn to use the Nexus 7 tablets purchased by the R-XIII board of education. Here, first-grader Alarik Hensley uses headphones to listen as he keys in a couple of buttons.

Even the youngest students in the St. Clair R-XIII School District are getting to put digital technology at their fingertips.

During the current summer school session, which ends on Wednesday, St. Clair Elementary School pupils have had the opportunity to become familiar with Nexus 7 tablets and use the devices to complement textbook work in math and reading.

“It’s gone well,” SCES Principal Steve Weeks told The Missourian. “We’re working the kinks out. We’re pretty excited about how the devices help engage the students in the learning process.”

The tablets were used over the summer as part of a pilot program in the lower grade levels in the R-XIII district. The devices will be available to all elementary children through second grade when the regular academic year begins in the middle of August.

Last year, the R-XIII board of education agreed to spend nearly $500,000 to purchase 1,400 Google Chromebooks for the junior and senior high school students. The devices have been tailored to fit the district’s needs, including filters that limit accessibility of certain content.

Google Apps for Education is being used.

Earlier this year, the school board approved spending another $160,000 that will be blended into the 2014-15 and 2015-16 budgets in order to put computers in the hands of kindergartners through fourth-grade students. This will complement and expand the technology program instituted during the last budgetary cycle that provided Google Chromebooks for fifth- through 12th-grade students.

Kindergarten through second-grade students will use the Nexus tablets. Third- and fourth-graders will get Chromebooks.

In the Classrooms

During the second semester of the 2013-14 school year, junior and senior high students used the devices on a trial-and-error basis as the district’s one-to-one digital learning initiative got under way. Later in the year, fifth-graders at Edgar Murray Elementary School also received Chromebooks.

This fall, third- through 12th-graders all will use Google Chromebooks to complement the traditional classroom learning.

The forward-thinking digital learning initiative is part of the district’s “every child connected every day” philosophy.

All students had to sign off on a digital device policy. The same will hold true this fall and will include the tablets for the younger children.

Having the Chromebooks and tablets will give R-XIII students Internet access at their fingertips throughout the school day to help with the education process. Blended lessons plans are being developed by teachers that include traditional textbooks.

Students whose parents pay a usage fee get to take their computers home with them at the end of each day and on weekends. If a student does not have the insurance, he or she must leave the devices at school overnight.

Superintendent Mike Murphy said the digital initiative is expected to complement — not replace — textbook learning.