OGDEN -- First-graders at James Madison Elementary are getting their hands on the latest iPad technology.
For the past month, about 100 students have spent a portion of their day learning English, math and reading, all at the touch of a finger.
Last year, first-grade teacher Jessica Namovicz was eager to find a way to reach students struggling to learn English when she heard of some innovative applications available on iPads -- but the school didn't have any iPads.
Principal Julie Palmer Gnotta prepared a grant request to the Ogden School Foundation and received $4,000 as a school priority grant.
The principal signed off on the grant as a positive tool for the students to use, said Janis Vause, Ogden School Foundation director. Foundation members also loved the idea of supplying iPads for the first-grade students to use during small group learning sessions.
The first-graders have been using eight iPads for the past month, and the change has been amazing, Namovicz said.
"It is a great motivational tool. It is unique and very engaging."
Not only are students getting good individualized instruction directly from the iPad, but they also are getting the chance to work in small groups -- learning to share, take turns and work as a team to solve problems.
First-grader Jose Guerrero quickly grabbed his pencil and carefully spelled out the words while playing a game with classmate Jasmine Martinez.
Jose said only he is allowed to write when playing the game because the pencils cannot be close to the iPads. When the first round of the game is done, he and Jasmine switch places.
"It's part of the strategy to have them work together as a partnership," Namovicz said.
It has been especially great for her Early Language Learners, because the students are, for the most part, very quiet.
"It motivates them to want to do it," the teacher said.
Students keep the noise to a quiet chatter as they work and laugh when correctly getting the answers. Occasionally Namovicz directs the students to a new application.
Jasmine said her favorite time is when using the iPads.
"It's fun and it makes us smart," she said of her rotation time, which is the time she spends using the iPad instead of the pencil.
Jose quickly found a book that he had read aloud and had recorded on the iPad. He loved listening to his voice read it back.
Jazmin Saenz read a book about the solar system. Her partners were quickly recruited to help her read the words on the iPad. When they got stuck, they touched the word and the iPad helped them sound it out.
When iPad time is over, the students very carefully carry them to the teacher, so she can put them away.
Namovicz enjoys the fact that they take pride in the little machines and are eager to follow the rules so they can use them.
Palmer Gnotta said the iPads have been a perfect fit for the school, and she looks forward to expanding the use to all of the school's primary grades next year.
The infrastructure at the school isn't ideal for computers in every class, but iPads work well because, once the application is on the machine, Internet access is not needed.
"It's a great solution and really quite cost effective," Palmer Gnotta said. "There are so many good interactive applications."
Namovicz is piloting the program in the school and in the district.
Vause said Namovicz is the only teacher in the district using iPads in a classroom setting.
She hopes more teachers home in on what Namovicz is doing and look for funding sources to get the technology in more classrooms.
Namovicz is glad she took the leap.
"I have always been one to take risks if I think it will work," she said.
She loves that it is working for her students, and she is sure much more learning can come out of it.
"We are barely grazing the surface of what's out there. I'm all for exploring it."