Sound grant boosts learning

Apple iPad from the Medford Schools Foundation is helping improve language skills in three elementary schools

When teaching a speech therapy student to pronounce the tricky letter 'r' sound this year, speech pathology assistant Angie Wilson will turn to a new resource — an Apple iPad.

The computer tablet, with a screen just smaller than a sheet of paper and one-third of an inch thick, was delivered to Wilson on Thursday, purchased through a grant from the Medford Schools Foundation.

Medford Schools Foundation 2012-13 grants

Griffin Creek, Hoover and Washington elementary schools: iPad used for speech programs.

Hoover Elementary: Installation of an ActivBoard, interactive classroom whiteboard; more structured recess program to provide additional activities during break time.

Jefferson Elementary: Creation of a new school garden.

Kennedy Elementary: Purchased two cameras, two video projectors and two presentation remote controls.

Hedrick Middle School: Kindle devices will be provided for students to encourage reading; new math website will allow students to reference missed assignments or master a topic.

North Medford High School: Forensics will be expanded to a yearlong class, introducing students to the science of crime scene analysis; group of students will participate in Prescott Park Challenge Course.

South Medford High School: English language learners will be provided with books on tape, CD players and classroom book sets.

North and South Medford high schools: Music skills program will connect students with community members to provide clinics and private instruction; after-school tutoring program will purchase support materials in English, Spanish and Korean.

Central Medford High School: Funding for new software and hardware for a digital art class teaching students skills for most art and animation careers.

Student Services: Funding for Project Dove, an intervention program for students in elementary and middle schools to keep at-risk students in school.

Food programs: Funding to educate and serve students fresh fruits and vegetables that are different from their lunch servings two to three days a week.

Just days later, it's already being put to use at the three Medford elementary schools Wilson visits regularly.

Wilson and speech language practitioner Beth Van Domelen applied for a $600 grant for the iPad through the Medford Schools Foundation, which awarded more than $22,000 to Medford schools last month as part of its annual award program.

The money paid for the device, a carrying case and $150 worth of speech and language applications to use with students.

Each application is downloaded for a fee, and focuses on a specific skill-set or enhances a current lesson Wilson already uses.

So far, 25 apps have been downloaded for use in lessons on articulation, language, grammar and vocabulary, as well as interactive literature books for students to read and reinforce what they've learned.

One application allows students to see what the inside of a mouth looks like when enunciating certain words.

"That's been really exciting," said Wilson. "They can actually see how sounds are formed."

Van Domelen had brought her personal iPad to schools last year, and without the grant, Wilson said, she probably would have used her own money to purchase one this year, recognizing how useful the device could be.

Several of the grants given this year by the Medford Schools Foundation were technology driven, including Kindle reading devices for Hedrick Middle School and an interactive whiteboard for a class at Hoover Elementary.

"The amount of students that can be helped through technology is much higher than with textbooks," said Steve Thickett, grants committee chairman for the Medford Schools Foundation. "One iPad can serve so many students in so many ways."

Thickett said the grants committee tries to identify which grant applications will have the greatest impact on students, considering the costs.

The one iPad Wilson was able to purchase will reach about 100 students at Griffin Creek, Washington and Hoover elementary schools.

An iPad is much easier to transport than a cart filled with lesson plans and curriculum, she said.

"It's portable to move this through three schools," said Wilson. "This is the wave of the future."

Last year, Wilson and Van Domelen used Medford Schools Foundation grant money to purchase flip video recorders and sound-canceling headphones. The video recorders allow them to tape students and replay video so the students can see and hear themselves talking.

"They can see what it looks like when they stutter, and what they sound like," said Wilson.

Eight years after becoming a speech pathology assistant, Wilson said technology is rapidly changing what educators are able to accomplish.

"It's going to be really dynamic," said Wilson. "The kids are really receptive."

Often her students have a faster learning curve with new technology than she and other teachers, Wilson said.

"It's amazing. I think the kids are far beyond me. It's been a little overwhelming the last week," she said.

Wilson said some app developers work with speech pathologists to determine the need for new apps, while other developers are professionals with a background in computers and speech.

For more information about the Medford Schools Foundation, which is funded entirely through community donations, visit

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or

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