FORT MILL --
When it’s reading time in school, students don’t always turn to a paper book. Like many people, students are learning to use e-reading technology.
First graders in Erin Owens’ class at Riverview Elementary School can read from one of two Kindle Fires in the classroom.
Owens got the funding for the new technology from the Foundation for Fort Mill Schools. Her idea was to ignite the “fire” to read in her students by using technology. That idea earned her the TEC Dowling Memorial Grant for Technology, named for a former superintendent and worth $500.
A Kindle Fire costs between $150 and $300, depending on the screen size and memory capabilities.
“My main goal in class is that when they leave they are excited to learn and excited to read,” Owens said. “Kids who wouldn’t normally be excited about a paper book, maybe this will be the way to reach them.”
Owens also used some of the grant money to stock the Kindle Fires’ library. A major benefit to using the Kindles was that Owens could buy the book for one Kindle and it can be read on both tablets. She hopes to one day have at least 10 Kindle Fires in the classroom – enough for each student to share with a friend during reading time.
In the long run, using Kindle Fires instead of traditional books could save money, she added. When purchasing a set of books for the classroom, 20 copies wouldn’t be needed. With just one purchase, the book could be loaded onto all of the Kindle Fires.
“With this, we just buy it once,” she said. “I feel like this will be more cost effective in the long run.”
Using the Kindles in the classroom also exposes students to new technology. In Owens’ class, several students don’t have access to a computer at home and only a handful of students have used touch-screen computers.
When the Kindles were delivered a few weeks ago, Owens taught them how to swipe the screen to turn the page and how to tap the home button to return to the Kindle library.
“It makes them aware of what’s going on. It’s good for them to be aware of current technology,”
Owens is no stranger to grant writing. She has won grants in the past to fund classroom activities and projects. This was her first Foundation-funded grant, but it isn’t likely to be her last. She’s already considering writing a grant next year to fund a visit from a company that brings gem mining to the students.
But this grant had special meaning, she said.
“This grant I was particularly honored to get. When I was a new teacher, I worked with [Dowling.] He was very innovative and wanted us to be on the cusp of technology. I feel like this was a great way to honor him,” Owens said.
On a recent school day, Owens gathered students and assigned them to reading centers. Trevor Steverson and Liam Hasty got the plum assignment – to read on the Kindle Fires.
Their excitement was evident.
“I’ve never used one,” said Steverson. “I like this better than a regular book. It’s more fun.”
Hasty liked the graphics. The pictures on the page are brighter, he said, and more fun to look at. But a regular book would suit him fine, too.
“I just like to read,” he said.
Owens isn’t the only district classroom to use Kindle Fires to encourage reading. Orchard Park Elementary School teacher Kim Price also won a Foundation grant to pay for Kindles in her fifth grade classroom.
Price is using the Kindles to help students who are “reluctant readers,” she said. She downloaded books on their reading level that she thought would interest them.
“I showed these students how to use the Kindles and it was like magic. These kids can’t put these devices down,” Price said.
One of her “reluctant readers” has even begun taking the Kindle to lunch and recess and has read more than five books just since school began, Price added.
“Talk about lighting the love of reading! And all it took was a little technology,” Price said.