LODI – Third-grader Alexia Marquez looked down at her iPad to see a photograph of ancient pyramids in a dry desert.
She read the word beneath the photo: “Egypt.”
Marquez, 9, is one of 30 English-learning children at Lodi Unified’s Beckman Elementary School who has been assigned an iPad equipped with Rossetta Stone language-learning software.
“I like it. I’m reading better,” Marquez said.
Rossetta Stone, a nationally known computer software company, is famous for its money-back guarantee. It has traditionally targeted adults interested in learning a second language. However, Lodi Unified and other school districts are starting to gear the software toward students who don’t speak English as their primary language.
The language app – the tech term used for iPad software – is a new method Lodi Unified officials are trying to help teach English. The goal is to eventually raise language-arts and reading scores on state tests.
Rosetta Stone for the iPad is an interactive, fun learning tool for children who were previously frustrated, Beckman Principal Jon Price said.
The results haven’t been evaluated clinically, but so far the feeling is that children are learning at a faster rate than before the iPad program was launched on Jan. 1.
“It’s low pressure, and they move at their own pace,” said Price, adding that during this pilot year, three third-grade classrooms and one second-grade classroom are using the technology.
“We’re seeing a difference. The kids using Rosetta Stone are still getting English instruction from their teacher 30 minutes a day. They are taking more risks, speaking up more and they are moving up to higher levels (of instruction).”
On a normal day, four third-graders from Maureen Diehl’s third-grade class will check out their iPads and move to the back of the room. They put on headphones that have built-in microphones, and they move at their own pace through a Rossetta Stone assignment.
“I love that it’s helping my speaking,” said 8-year-old Alondra Solis.
Diehl said Solis is not only improving in reading, but the program has also helped her become more confident in class, speaking a language seldom used at home.
“Her confidence has just soared. She used to be so shy in class. Now I sometimes have to ask her to lower her voice a little bit,” Diehl said.
Art Hand, Lodi Unified’s assistant superintendent of facilities and maintenance, also oversees technology for the school district. Hand said he is eager to expand the Rosetta Stone program.
The challenge comes in paying for it. The district must invest in iPads and purchase licenses for Rosetta Stone programs – which cost about $130 each. Lodi Unified has purchased 3,000 licenses for about $400,000.
The 30 iPads at Beckman cost about $15,000.
“iPads are a part of our technology plan,” Hand said. “We’ve done surveys, and it’s greatly preferred to laptops and desktop computers. It’s something we want to do with a limited amount of money.”
Hand said that along with Rosetta Stone for students, Lodi Unified could use it as a tool to attract parents who want to increase their language skills.
“We’re looking into it for foreign-language classes too,” he said.
Contact reporter Keith Reid at (209) 546-8257 or email@example.com. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/lodiblog.