SIERRA VISTA — When asked what he likes most about using computers in his class, A.J. Fuhriman, a kindergartener at Leman Academy of Excellence, says he especially enjoys reading.
“I like reading Epic books best,” he said. “They’re my favorite because they have good stories and adventures.”
That response was music to his teacher’s ears.
In today’s technological world of fast-action video games, getting young children interested in reading while finding creative tools to help enhance listening and comprehension skills can be challenging for teachers, said Stephanie Lara, a Leman kindergarten teacher who incorporates technology into her classroom through math and reading stations.
But Lara would like to expand the amount of time her class of 26 students is able to spend on computers. Currently, the class shares a limited number of Google Chromebooks with several other classes at the Leman, which greatly reduces the amount of time the technology is available for her kindergarteners.
“We have a lot of technology concepts that Leman wants us to teach our students,” Lara said. “It’s important to get kids started on keyboarding skills at a young age and help them learn their way around different programs, especially now that standardized tests are done on computers.”
Earlier this year, Lara attempted to raise enough money by turning to DonorsChoose — a program designed to help classes across the country purchase special materials through donations — to purchase about six Samsung Galaxy tablets for her classroom’s stations.
“These were the least expensive tablets I could find, and my goal was to raise about $1,000,” Lara said. “But if you don’t raise the money in time, the campaign expires, which is what happened to us. Ours expired on Nov. 22, so I lost the donations that had come in at that point.”
When it comes to young children, Lara prefers Galaxy’s touchscreen tablets over a mouse, which is what Leman currently uses with the Chromebooks. The touchscreen is easier for young children to use, said Lara, who plans to start the DonorsChoose fundraiser up again after the holidays.
“Tablets are great because they allow students to learn the foundations of technology while interacting with educational games and projects,” said Lara, who used touchscreen tablets when she taught kindergarten class in the Flagstaff area.
“These tablets also incorporate different learning styles. Students learn at their own pace as they progress through the different programs. They also allow teachers to collect data for the games students play, as well as the educational concepts they learn. Technology in the classroom helps to prepare students for the future.”
Dana Hewitt, who works as Lara’s full-time classroom aid, said she agrees that the Galaxy tablets would make a great addition to the classroom.
“There are three times a year that the Chromebooks are not available to us because they are dedicated to standardized testing and are used for test mode only,” she said. “During those times, the students do not have access to the computers. I also feel the touchscreen option is much easier for children this age to use,” she added.
“The kids love the interaction they get through technology. We have a couple of websites — Zearn for math and Raz-Kids for reading. These are excellent programs for young children. It’s nice for the teacher because they practice reading and comprehension, and the program gives teachers a report, based on how the students are doing.”
Those interested in helping Lara raise the $1,000 needed for her class, can go to the DonorsChoose website at: donorschoose.org/project/tablets-for-success/4681381.