Kindergarteners at the keyboard

Kindergarteners spend an hour at the computer each day at KIPP Empower School in Los Angeles, writes Jill Barshay for the Hechinger Report. The “blended learning” experiment has worked so well, it’s spreading to other KIPP schools.

While 14 students play learning games on computers during two half-hour periods, the teacher works with the other 14 students in the class.

Principal Mike Kerr says 95 percent of his kindergarteners scored at or above the national average in math after the first year, while 96 percent scored at or above it in reading. Nearly all KIPP Empower students come from low-income families: Only nine percent arrived in kindergarten ready to read, according to a pre-reading test. By the end of the year, 96 percent of kindergarteners reached the proficient mark on the same test, Kerr says.

Computer time shouldn’t replace “active, hands-on, engaging and empowering” activities with “electronic worksheets and drill and practice,” says Chip Donohue, director of distance learning at the Erikson Institute in Chicago.

Each day, KIPP’s technology instructional assistant, Elisabeth Flottman, collects data from the educational software on each student and gives the information to teachers.

The software can report, for example, if a student has been struggling with beginning sounds, ending sounds or blending sounds. This can help the teacher zero-in on individual student needs. It also reports if a student sat idly at the computer for an extended period of time.

There isn’t much good learning software for kindergarteners, says Kerr.

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Comments

  1. “There isn’t much good learning software for kindergarteners, says Kerr.”

    I suspect that’s because the big money is in standardized testing, not in producing good learning software. Schools, school boards, and government departments of education appear not to see the creation of learning software as part of their educational mission. Large “educational” corporations appear to find it much easier and much more profitable to create standardized tests then lobby for mandates that require schools to license those tests.

    There are companies producing software for early readers (Lexia comes to mind, but there are others), but they need to convince schools and parents to pay for their product. If you’re a software developer and want to make money, odds are you’re going to create products for business, government or entertainment.

    • Deirdre Mundy says:

      Heck, we only got 10-15 minutes a day when I was in Kindergarten! (Classroom had 2 apple IIe computers…..)

      As for the “no good learning software”, we’re the proud owners of a vintage Apple ($5 at a rummage sale, woohoo!) and the old software I grew up on is still highly educational. I have noticed that most NEW educational games are Flash and online rather than CDroms for purchase. Maybe the educators need to think outside the box?

      • You make me feel old. The Apple IIe wasn’t even a gleam in Steve Jobs’ eye when I was kindergarten-aged.

        I enjoyed the old games like Oregon Trail, now available for iPad. I saw, and even wrote, basic math drills and the like for the Apple II series. But the fact that the stuff from that era is pretty much as good as the stuff from this era (albeit not as pretty) suggests to me that there has not been much interest or investment in developing quality educational software.

  2. MagisterGreen says:

    “Only nine percent arrived in kindergarten ready to read, according to a pre-reading test. By the end of the year, 96 percent of kindergarteners reached the proficient mark on the same test, Kerr says.”

    I know, I know…I nitpick. But am I reading this right…a bunch of kids failed a pre-reading test and then passed the *same* test? Am I just a cynical old man to suppose that all they learned was designed to help them pass that test? That’s not to say what they learned wasn’t valuable or useful, but is this datum really worth anything?

  3. “There isn’t much good learning software for kindergarteners, says Kerr.”
    He must not have preschoolers using the Starfall website. It’s mostly free and absolutely engaging and instructive.

    • Engagement and edutainment are great, but can be hit-or-miss and don’t necessarily lend themselves to measuring progress. Good software would comprehensive, responsive to learning style, emphasize systematic learning (and overlearning) of concepts and sight words, automatically adjust lessons based upon individual student progression (or regression) in their skills, produce meaningful reports for teachers….

      • Catherine says:

        You lost me when you mentioned sight words…
        Seriously, though, I home school (mostly), so I don’t need reports to know what my children are learning. I see your point for classroom teachers.