Red Bluff, Calif. - Grade school has come a long way in the last few years, and one fourth/fifth combined grades class in Red Bluff is learning with laptops.
Alethea Vazquez teaches the fourth and fifth grade class at Jackson Heights Elementary school and incorporates 32 Google Chromebooks, four iPads, seven Kindles and two iPhones into the daily learning process.
They learn through a variety of applications and with videos picked by Vazquez.
YouTube and many other sites are blocked to the students so they can't access the nastier corners of the internet.
The teachers say that the computers are helping motivate the kids and helping them learn and retain lessons easier.
It is especially helpful if one student doesn't completely get a lesson on the first shot, and another does. Instead of holding the whole class up, the students can review until they finally grasp the concepts taught.
The technology has had the additional effect of keeping the kids more engaged and keeping attendance up.
"We've been winning the attendance award quite a bit this year." Says Vazquez, "the kids are really excited when they use the Chromebooks"
The computers have the added ability to keep kids focused on their lessons while playing games and keeping it fun.
Today fifth grader Daizjah was learning the states and their capitals with a game.
"We were on an ap that there's this little guy and it says ‘send me to Nevada.' So you pull him back with the mouse and you fling him." She says smiling and bouncing with delight, "if he flings onto the right state then you have to type what the state's name is."
But the games and connectivity have a deeper meaning and lessons
"It helps the students have perspective on the world and realize that they're part of something bigger," says student teacher Carly Jasielum, "they are learning interpersonal communications skills and how to be part of something bigger than them. And that's really what technology is."
That shows with the group participation and cooperation between kids.
Several times students got up and walked over to help out another student who was having trouble with the lesson.
Vazquez says the act of helping each other empowers the kids and builds their confidence.
And do you remember the hand cramps you used to get from writing in elementary school? Those are now a thing of the past thanks to the keyboards.
"We do a lot of writing in class and it usually gives us hand cramps" says Daizjah, "now that we've started using the chromebooks it's just a lot better."
Jackson heights is the first school in the district to get the computers but they're planning to expand to 1,000 laptops by Jan. 1, and one for every student at Vista Preparatory Academy by June of 2014.