Holly Hammonds knows the educational potential of an iPad. And the frailty of such an item in the hands of a pre-schooler.

Hammonds, Library Media Specialist at Lawson Early Childhood School, holds an iPad aloft, encased in what appears to be a foam, baby-blue alien and gently admonishes her audience, “Don’t forget your iGuy!”

It’s Monday, Oct. 8, and Lawson Early Childhood School is well into its second annual iLearn Academy, a program aimed at equipping parents with practical strategies to bolster their children’s learning at home.

Using a protective case such as the fun and kid-friendly iGuy is a quick reminder at the end of Hammonds’ technology session “iWhat? Technology Resources for Parents.” She has already covered downloading ebooks on iPads through special reading apps and how to use the tablet to teach letter recognition, letter sounds and a variety of other literacy skills. iGuy is just bonus knowledge -- acquired through tough experience.

Elsewhere on the Lawson campus, teachers are wrapping up sessions such as “Fine Motor Fun!” “Supporting Language Development at Home,” “Math: Easy as 1, 2, 3” and “Raising Happy & Healthy Kids.”

The 70 or so participating parents will rotate through three learning sessions during the academy.

“We want to help our parents realize that they are the most important teacher in their child’s life,” says Lawson Principal Paige Hanks, “so here’s what you can do at home, here’s what you can do when you’re driving down the street and you see a street sign, here’s what you can do at your house during a rainy day instead of watching a movie.”

Hanks says that iLearn Academy was conceived last year by the school’s leadership team as a way to engage parents more actively in their children’s education and to take away the sense that school is somehow intimidating.

“We want that child’s parents to feel welcome in their child’s school and for them to know that they are a key to helping their child be successful,” says Hanks.

For Lawson parent Candace Russell, iLearn Academy is a great opportunity to take home some effective strategies from the experts.

“As a parent, I am always looking for new and fresh ideas to incorporate at home,” she says, “and we’ve been very pleased with the school here. I know that the teachers have a lot of great resources.”

“So far, I’ve been to two classes on fine motor skills,” says Russell. “My son doesn’t have a lot of fine motor skills, so instead of just using fancy, high-dollar equipment, [we can use] things around the house to work on fine motor skills.

"I got a lot of great tips there, and the class that I just finished is on technology -- using iPads and learning about how to download books for the kids. There are a lot of great things going on here, and we just want to be able to do that at home. Taking those tools home is why I came, and I’ve gotten a lot of great tips already,” she adds.

Lawson makes attending iLearn Academy easier for parents by offering childcare for ages 3-7. “This is an opportunity for you to go ahead and bring your child up to school, and let us take care of your child, so you can have an opportunity to learn,” says Hanks.

So, while parents are attending sessions, their kids are playing games and getting some exercise outside. At the end of the day, two lucky children will go home with a pretty sweet door prize -- a new bicycle -- and all will receive a goody bag.

Parents have a shot at winning refurbished computers.

But at the end of the day, even if they don’t walk away with a bike or a computer, parents who attend iLearn Academy -- and their children -- win. 



About the author: Shane Mauldin is a McKinney ISD Communications Specialist.