Room 123 sits in the pre-K quad behind the main building of Glen Oaks Park Elementary School in North Baton Rouge.
The classroom looks like a small children’s museum, decorated with posters and charts, mobiles hanging from the ceiling, art projects covering the walls, colorful bins of blocks and markers, vegetables growing outside in a garden, a corner library, and two guinea pigs.
Anyone who enters the class will be overcome with the desire to learn.
And that’s the way the teacher, Bertha Hinojosa, wants it.
“I want my students to be exposed to a variety of things,” she said.
“One unique thing about children is they are very inquisitive; I want to encourage that.”
Hinojosa’s been teaching for more than 30 years, retired twice, and returned to teach gifted and talent students.
She has amassed nearly 1,000 books for her classroom library which is organized by reading level.
She spends her weekends shopping library sales, garage sales, and thrift stores to find books.
“I keep all the of books organized by reading level so my students can see what level they are on. I encourage them read at that level or higher,” she said.
With the collection out growing the class’ corner library, Hinojosa wanted her expanding collection to continue grow so she decided to get iPads for her 16 pre-K and Kindergarten students.
Not only would she be able to incorporate modern technology in her students learning but one, eight-gigabite iPad can hold up to 6,000 books and take up less space than the actual books.
The students could also be challenged to use and master the new technology in their learning.
“Technology and education evolving together is very important, because now–more than ever–most jobs are technology instead of labor based,” she said.
East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Bernard Taylor agrees.
“It’s thinking outside the box, being innovative, and relating the use of technology in education and daily life to children at an early age that can only help increase their ability and motivation to learn and the success of the school,” he said.
Hinojosa has seen her students become more motivated.
She said this enthusiasm for learning sparked by the use of iPads in class could be the reason that a large majority of her Kindergartners are reading at or above a first grade reading level.
“Before we got the iPads I had 14 students who were trying to use only four computers to learn and take Accelerated Reader tests. (The iPads) have really helped increase the amount the students learn in the time we are here,” said Hinojosa.
Now, the tests are taken on their iPads and scores are sent to parents cell phones.
“This gives parents and guardians more ways to stay involved,” she said.
Hinojosa said the iPads have helped open more lines of communication with parents. Many times parents will call or email with suggestions on what applications are good to use.
“With such equipment, they have their pulse on and immediate access to more innovative information and educational formats and are wired in preparing for their future,” said Taylor.
The iPads have encouraged the young students to develop their overall knowledge of more advanced subjects including math concepts, names of U.S. Presidents, and matching states with their capital cities.
Four-year-old Addison Robertson identifies all 50 states on a blank map and 3-year-old Owen Waguespack is already adding and subtracting because of iPad applications.
Originally, Hinojosa’s plan was to receive iPads through a grant, but funding would not be available until after January 2013.
“We wanted them by the time school started, so we decided to find donors on our own,” she said.
She and coach Ron Robertson, contacted parents, friends and local businesses including Cargill Inc. and District 5 Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards, who provided the class with first-generation iPads.
The class has six iPads, but Hinojosa hopes to receive enough donations for a classroom set of 16 to monitor each child’s individual academic progress.
Under a new Louisiana law those who help Hinojosa reach her goal, by donating iPads, would be eligible for a tax credit.
“Technology is always changing and people always want the latest versions of gadgets and now they have a chance to help children learn when they get rid of their old ones,” said Hinojosa.
Thanks to legislators, a person or business is eligible for a tax credit of 40 percent of the cost for property donated which is of a “sophisticated and technological nature” including any computer or data processing equipment which is capable of being used for purposes of research, research training, or direct education of students.For a new iPad donation, a person could receive as much as a $200 credit. Glen Oaks Park will provide donation receipts.
“We’d love to get this technology throughout the entire school. Imagine that,” said Hinojosa. The school is located at 5656 Lanier Drive.