“It’s time to show what you know by finding words,” the announcer says. “In this game, you will click on words that mean the same thing as the word the narrator says. Click on the word that means the same thing as ‘marvelous.’ ” Lena, dressed in her school’s burgundy-plaid uniform, clicks on “wonderful,” and the announcer doesn’t waste time with praise. “Pay attention. Go as fast as you can and do your best,” he says. A few words later, she hesitates over “fragile,” before finally clicking on “breakable.”
Six-year-old Lena was among 116 kindergartners last year who participated in an experiment at her school with a teaching method called “blended learning,” where students learn from computers as well as teachers. She attends the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Empower School, which opened last year to serve minority and low-income students in a tough South L.A. neighborhood.
“The early indications are that this is replicable in future kindergarten classrooms and, as we grow, into higher grades,” says Richard Barth, chief executive of the KIPP Foundation, which supports the KIPP model of extended school days, a longer school year and frequent standardized tests to measure progress.
At KIPP Empower, principal Mike Kerr devised a complicated school-wide rotation where children are on laptops inside their classrooms twice a day for roughly half an hour each time. He says the computers allow him to preserve the small-group instruction that he considers critical to student success. As a result, students who started the year behind their peers graduated from kindergarten on track.
Author: Jill Barshay
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