Samsung Galaxy Note goes to the head of the class in rural Arizona school district

by Michael Singer

November 4 2013

Getting kids to use tablets is a no-brainer. But empowering them to use tablets in the classroom to improve test scores, increase attendance, and save money is what one Arizona school district has done.

Students at Eloy Elementary School District were on the wrong side of the digital divide. Arizona’s rural school districts typically rank the second lowest funding per pupil with fewer than seven in 10 students graduating.

In addition to budgetary challenges, administrators struggled to improve student engagement and attendance. More than a third of the students in the district are English language learners (ELL), who typically test below average in reading and math.

Classroom technology was nearly a decade old. Teachers had no way to assess student performance in real time. Many students were disinterested in learning and needed an incentive to simply come to school, noted Danny Rogers, Principal of Eloy Intermediate School.

“Metropolitan areas certainly have larger amounts of money rolling into their programs,” Rogers said. “The concern is that lower socioeconomic areas are at a disadvantage from a resource standpoint -- some resources such as updated technology have simply not been available for students here.”

With the help of a Federal School Improvement Grant and an assessment of available technologies, the District chose to adopt a combination of software and hardware called Samsung School. The integrated classroom technology package incorporates Galaxy Note  10.1 tablets, interactive whiteboards and wireless printers, tied together by classroom  management software.

The initial deployment of tablets and software covered 350 students spanning grades 4, 5 and 6 at Eloy Intermediate School.

The 10.1-inch WXGA (1280 x 800) touch screen tablets run Android 4.1.2. Jelly Bean and include multi-screen capabilities and an interactive pen that allows for drag and drop as well as handwriting recognition.

Huge benefits to tablet teaching

One of the most exciting things for the teachers is the ability to better manage the classroom. The pre-loaded back-end management software allows a teacher to see every student’s tablet on his or her own screen. “This provides an easy and integrated way to monitor the entire class,” said Michelle Covarrubias, the district’s Director of Curriculum and Student Academic Services.

(For other examples of how tablets and apps are transforming education, check out TabTimes.com/education)

The feature also allows teachers to track student progress. If a student is spending longer on a particular problem, the teacher can instantly intervene and start a private chat with just that student so as to not bring unnecessary attention to a student that is struggling.

After only a few months of deployment, the District reports 100% student attendance. The program has allowed teachers to also tap into online learning resources such as the Khan Academy, Think Central, Galileo ATI, Learn Zillion, Learning A-Z, Brainpop and Renaissance. The district is now planning to purchase e-books next year, which is another step toward immersive digital learning.

Eloy Elementary School District’s case may serve as a roadmap for not only educators but multilingual proponents as well.

The collective purchasing power of the North American Spanish-speaking population is expected to reach 1.5 trillion dollars by 2015. New research by industry analysts with Flurry suggests apps favored by Spanish speaking population are much more likely to be Android apps over iOS apps.

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Michael Singer is the Business Editor for TabTimes

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