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Students show off iPad skills

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BLACK RIVER — Jason J. Badalato, 9, who will be entering fourth grade at Black River Elementary School, loves maps. In his integrated regular- and special-education summer school classroom, he showed how his favorite iPad application can take him from the north country all the way to Stonehenge.

He is one of more than 100 students in the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services summer school program at Black River who are using iPads as a learning tool.

During the last half of the school year, students at Black River Elementary, which is in the Carthage Central School District, had very limited use of iPads because only 28 of the computer tablets had been purchased. Now, each grade level has its own cart-load of iPads and individualized grade-appropriate applications.

Other school districts also have used iPads with younger students. Shannon M. Whitney, Watertown City School District coordinator of special education, said she uses the tool for speech therapy and to teach students with disabilities. The program at Black River is the first time iPads have been used in summer school for BOCES special-education students.

“The common-core standards infusing into education this year influenced the apps purchased,” said Kelly J. Coon, third-grade teacher and coordinator of supplemental education services at Black River Elementary. “I wanted the apps to align to the standards.”

She said the iPad is a great tool because it keeps children engaged. Unique applications can allow disabled and high-achieving students to practice English and math skills without falling behind or getting bored with the material.

“There is instant reinforcement if they have an incorrect or correct answer,” said Black River third-grade teacher Jennifer L. McFall, who is a summer school teacher for third and fourth grades. “It scaffolds the learning of the individual.”

Like many of the students in the program, Kinth Robertson, who will be entering fourth grade, does not have an iPad at home.

“You get the games,” he said in a soft voice. “You download the apps.” One of those is “Math Ninja,” which tests students on multiplication and division.

Kinth said he likes workbooks and reading just as much as using the iPad.

“It’s very engaging and interactive,” Mrs. Coon said. “He’s a struggling learner, so he’s at the age where school can be a turnoff.”

Jason, whom Mrs. Coon calls “her little social butterfly,” said he uses rivers and roads to navigate in real life and in the map application. After finding Stonehenge in England, he named the places he would pass before making it back to Watertown.

“This brings the world to the kids,” Mrs. Coon said.

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