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First-graders get first crack at iPads

First graders at Hemlock Elementary school read an

First graders at Hemlock Elementary school read an eBook on an iPad. Their class received the technology after their teacher, Amy Sullivan, spearheaded an effor that resulted in a $4,000 grant. (Jan. 11, 2011) Photo Credit: T.C. McCarthy

Six-year-old Adam Vuoso dropped his head into his hands.

The first-grader at the Hemlock School in Garden City was a having a hard time getting used to the keyboard on one of his classroom’s six iPads as he tried to write a story about his family.

“This is fun, but it’s hard!”

Vuoso’s teacher, Amy Sullivan, uses the iPads, as well as iPod Touches, to take advantage of apps designed to aid in teaching math, writing, reading and keyboarding skills.

“We are using technology as a tool to reinforce the skills that are taught daily,” she said.

Sullivan said the devices also have social benefits for her 20-student class, which she has dubbed “The Sullivans.”

“You’ve got children working together that wouldn’t ordinarily be together,” she said.

Sullivan and computer assistant Dara Perlow pitched the idea of bringing the technology into the classroom to Hemlock principal Audrey Bellovin after they attended a seminar on the subject.

“I enjoy technology and think it has a wonderful place in every classroom,” Bellovin said.

Sullivan secured a $4,000 grant from the Thomas DiPietro foundation to fund the purchase of the six iPads and the necessary apps. Last year, Sullivan secured a grant from the Paul R. Eckna foundation, a local non-profit set up in the name of a 9/11 victim, to purchase the six iPod Touches and a MacBook for her classroom.

Bellovin said the Garden City Union Free School District has responded positively to the class’ use of the technology -- so much so that the district has purchased another six iPads for Sullivan’s class and has equipped each classroom at Hemlock with a wireless router so that the iPads can connect to the Web.

Other schools in Nassau County have taken up the technology in their classrooms as well. The California Avenue School in Uniondale started using iPod Touches for English as a Second Language classes this year. Sullivan said she and Perlow are also in talks with teachers from other districts who are using iPads and iPods in the classroom about forming a collegiate circle where they can compare stories and ideas.

In one of “The Sullivans’ ” bigger projects, the class built an ebook compiled of vignettes featuring facts about of each of the students’ families. Next up is an ebook about animals in the winter, which Apple will be looking at as a possible feature for its website.

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