Considering this generation’s love of technology, the Istation program is the perfect fit for students at Georgia Matthews Elementary School, according to teachers Elaine Ferrier and Megan Bailes.

“They love anything where they feel in control of it, and putting them in charge of their own education in a sense,” said Ferrier, a fourth-grade teacher at Georgia Matthews. “It empowers them.”

Georgia Matthews was the first school to win the Kansas Participation Contest, sponsored by Istation, where schools competed for a chance to win the program. Istation is an adaptive, interactive computer-delivered program that has a comprehensive library of support materials allowing for individualized instruction. According to the company, more than 4 million students on 8,000 campuses are using them.

The school received a prize of $500 from the company in January, an Istation Bluetooth speaker for every classroom teacher and a link to printable Istation certificates for each student at the school.

Bailes, who is a first-grade teacher, said they are unsure what the school will use it for, but most likely for additional technology pieces.

The school participated in the contest from Nov. 9 to Dec. 16 and had the highest average total minutes spent by students on Istation’s reading and writing instruction. They competed against other schools in the state, according to the Istation website.

Ferrier said the Istation program is available on a website accessed through an Istation app that can be used on nearly any device. Her fourth-graders each use their own iPads, provided through a pilot program. Each student has an individual log-in and accesses to the skills where they need improvement.

“It’ll track their progress and send teacher reports to us so we can see if there’s something they’re struggling with,” she said.

Ferrier said students can work one-on-one or in a group to develop reading or other skills.

Bailes said data generated through the program allows teachers to do differentiated reading centers and understand exactly what skill a student needs.

“We’re doing a lot on ending and decoding words and adding prefixes and suffixes that will make sense in the context of the story,” Ferrier said. “That will tell me which prefixes or suffixes they as an individual are struggling with and then I can make a center just for them, or I can make a center where there’s several kids struggling with the same issues.”

Bailes’ class focuses more on the phonics skills — working on letter recognition, sounds, decoding words, building words, and finding words in a sentence — or filling in the missing word in a sentence.

Both Bailes and Ferrier said one of the benefits of the Istation program is it allows teachers to tailor instruction for each student.

Instead of teaching one lesson to the class or group, students can work at their own pace, either working ahead or getting additional help if they need it, Ferrier said.

“If they’re struggling, they can get more assistance from me. If not, then they just keep on trucking through the program. It’s what they need,” Ferrier said. “It’s directed for their learning. The stories are all high interest for the grade levels that they’re assigned to.”

Both teachers said the students appear to love the program. Being similar to a game format, it intrigues the students, and at the same time they are learning, Bailes said.

“They know that they’re learning, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels more engaging to them. It’s more fun,” Ferrier said. “I hear my kids sharing stories that they read, and there might be a few on the same story, or they’ll say ‘You just have to wait for that one, it’s a great one.’”

Bailes added that with the program, students are able to learn phonics skills that they can apply in class. Students also can use the program at home if they’d like. Ferrier said she has several students that will log in at home and read the stories online.

“I think that if we continue with this, and we continue to use it at home, then we’ll see a lot of growth throughout that student data,” Ferrier said. “In education, differentiation is everything. Any moment that we can give that child what they need specifically, it’s going to help them grow.”