POSTED: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 10:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 10:04am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — A New Jersey middle school has discarded books in favor of tablet computers for hundreds of students.
The Long Branch school made the switch in early January, when every student was issued a Samsung Galaxy.
"I can do my homework on the go now," said eighth-grader Danny Rios, 14.
In just a month, Superintendent Michael Salvatore said reading ability levels across all three grades jumped by what he would expect in six months of book based study.
"They're motivated by technology," Salvatore said.
Salvatore said the cost of tablets and wireless is less than what his district spends each year on new books, which he said average $100 each.
And although Verizon Wireless has helped with some grant money, Salvatore estimated that even without that aid, the cost would be about half the price of giving every student a laptop, which had been the past practice.
Teachers like James Brown, who instructs sixth and seventh grade special education students said he sees that every day.
"This tool keeps the student engaged," Brown said.
The new tablets are wirelessly connected to the internet all the time but students are restricted to about 70 learning apps right now.
One of those has access to 7,000 novels.
While about 300 kids managed to break that firewall within a week of getting the tablets, Salvatore said his IT experts saw that right away in their monitoring system and were able to make the appropriate adjustments.
And if a tablet gets stolen or lost, they have built-in GPS so they can be tracked down.
But Salvatore said students are so excited by the new technology that in four months of use, not a single tablet has been lost.
Within a few years, he expects every student from third grade through high school to be using tablets instead of books.
There's one more feature that teachers love.
Every morning, when Mary Elizabeth Woodruff powers up her desktop computer, she gets an immediate readout on whether her students did their tablet-based homework the night before, how much time they spent doing it, and what their scores were for the question and answer parts.