Giving Arkansas Preschoolers a Better Chance

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on April 30, 2010

Research shows that language development up to the age of five impacts a child’s success in school throughout his or her academic career. Children who spend these critical years in language rich environments are far more likely to be successful students than are children who do not. But with 20 children in a class, how can teachers insure that all children have ample opportunity to be exposed to high-quality language experiences? And how can teachers increase the likelihood that children will have similar experiences at home?

Marsha Daniels, Director of the South Central Services Cooperative (SCSC) in Camden, AR presented this challenge to staff early in 2009. As a result, 22 Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) preschool teachers and paraprofessionals representing 11 classrooms across SCSC’s service area are leveraging the fact that preschoolers are one of the fastest growing groups of technology users and ready availability of inexpensive mobile technologies such as iPods and Flip cameras to extend their accessibility to youngsters in the classroom and to the children’s parents.

Launched in July 2009, participants have received equipment and training designed to increase children’s language experiences in the classroom and extend the school day by engaging parents in activities they can do with their children at home. The focus for year 1 has been to get the initiative up and running. Each classroom received an iMac desktop computer, an iPod Classic, and a Flip camera. Five days of training scheduled across the 2009-2010 school year and provided by an outside consultant, classroom visitations by the consultant and director, an on-going support provided by SCSC staff have resulted in teachers and paraprofessionals creating monthly podcasts and videos for children and their parents. Participants also each created a classroom wiki site where parents can access these files along with other online resources and news.

The results for year 1 are very positive. Every teacher and paraprofessional has exceeded original expectations. The children are regularly accessing short language-rich podcasts and videos. Parents are slowly, but surely coming to the wiki to use these files with their children at home. The focus in year 2 will be on innovative use of these technologies in lesson design and in helping the children become more independent in their use of the technology.

This project is listed as an exemplary case of blended in- and out of- school learning on the new National Education Technology site. Read more about it!

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