Students at Ralph Dunlap Elementary School in Orcutt sat quietly in a darkened computer room, headphones over their ears, faces focused on the screens in front of them, and computer mouse clicks as the only outside noise.
Before winter break earlier this month, students using the Orcutt Union School District’s new online teaching tool had their final computer lab session, but teachers were hopeful that won’t be the last the kids see of the program until classes resume in January.
Many educators sent notes home with their students, encouraging them to access Compass Learning via their home computers or those at the library over winter break.
Compass Learning, which was implemented districtwide last month, creates individual learning folders — or “learning paths” — and assignments for students according to how they score on an online assessment. Three schools were part of a pilot project last school year.
Because of the initial program’s success, students at each of the Orcutt district’s 10 schools now spend 30 minutes twice a week in the computer lab to complete a series of five-minute online activities.
Kathleen Stevenson supervised Ralph Dunlap first-, second- and fifth-graders through their activities and quizzes on a recent morning, answering questions when students got stuck on math or reading problems.
“It’s to offer both intervention and enrichment,” Stevenson said. “It’s interactive. Parents can actually log in, too.”
Ralph Dunlap teacher Jacqueline Plumey said she goes into the program and builds lessons for each student depending on their academic level.
She said she’s already seeing some subtle signs of academic growth in those students who are ahead and also those who have fallen behind.
“This is great, and because they get to do it at home their parents can follow along,” said Plumey, noting that parents can see how their children are scoring. “You get to adjust it to their needs; all different learning levels.”
Plumey, who has taught in the Orcutt district for 17 years, assisted her first- and second-graders as they diligently worked through math problems with a pencil and scratch paper at their side.
In addition to improving knowledge, Plumey said, students also are learning about the importance of computers at a young age.
“Starting from first grade, they get technological skills right away,” she said. “I do see improvement. Kids don’t have concepts of leveling. This is like a video game but with educators. They love the graphics.”
Students are learning and having fun, which is another reason why Plumey was encouraging parents to keep the steady improvement going over break.
“This is the future of education right here,” she said.