News Column

Rural school district uses computer software to enhance learning

February 12, 2014

By Doane Yawger, Merced Sun-Star (Merced, Calif.)

Feb. 12--Computers and laptop devices are becoming a bigger part of students' lives in the Merced River School District.

The 156-student, two-campus district about 14 miles from Merced in the rural Winton and Snelling areas is using SuccessMaker curriculum from the Pearson educational software company, according to Ernie Montoya, the district's technology coordinator.

Hopeton School houses kindergarten through third-grade pupils and Washington School has fourth- through eighth-grade students. There are 10 teachers total working at the school sites, which are about 10 miles apart.

Montoya said the curriculum is personalized.

At Washington School students spend three times a week going over language arts and math instructional materials using Dell desktop computers.

Lower grades at Hopeton School spend 45 minutes per day, three days a week in a portable lab, using Dell laptops. Montoya said 60 percent to 70 percent of the students can access the educational software at home.

"Technology is not the answer, but it's a great tool to get us educational achievements that we want to see in students," Montoya said. "Everything's digital, and we are constantly sharing and discovering."

At Washington School all students have either an iPad or a Netbook they use throughout the day. Montoya called SuccessMaker a tool that continually provides assessments of students' progress.

Helio Brasil, Merced River School District superintendent, said the district still is working with printed textbooks and will continue to do so.

But the district is at a point where it wants to offer students another way to access the curriculum than just textbooks, he said. "The future is certainly headed to digital print and information, and not what we were educated with in terms of tools," he said.

The district's focus on technology is driven by the desire to have current, relevant and meaningful technology at the fingertips of all the students, Brasil said.

The goal is for students to not only have access to technology but to also use it daily as a learning tool with the goal of producing greater academic success, he said.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or


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Source: Merced Sun-Star (CA)

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