TeacherMate Computer Program Improves Kids' Reading, Math

TeacherMate
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A literacy program called TeacherMate that runs on a small, handheld computer is improving kids’ reading and math skills. The program comes from Innovations for Learning, which has partnered with a Chinese manufacturer to make the TeacherMate computers very affordable.

According to The Today Show, which talked about TeacherMate this morning, the high-tech gadget makes learning fun because it turns learning into what looks like a video game. In the case of TeacherMate, the video games are all about reading and math. Parents can purchase the handheld computer and program for about $100 each. The TeacherMate System can be purchased for as little as $400 per classroom, according to the TeacherMate website.

The TeacherMate is the brainchild of Seth Weinberger, a corporate attorney who said in a July 2008 interview for Chicago Business that “Literacy alone won’t break someone out of poverty, but if they can’t read, they won’t have a chance.” To help kids get a chance, he developed TeacherMate. Mr. Weinberger says he thinks he has put together “all the elements needed to help educate children at risk of failing,” and at a price that is inexpensive enough to make it affordable for parents and schools.

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With grants totaling $450,000 from the JP Morgan Chase Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust, Mr. Weinberger was able to make his dream come true. In September 2008, he began distributing the TeacherMate to first-grade children in Chicago public schools. JP Morgan Chase has been donating $300,000 per year since 2007 to Innovations for Learning.

The TeacherMate is a little bigger than a BlackBerry and resembles a handheld video game. Each computer is loaded with reading and math lessons. Teachers and parents can download each child’s work onto a computer to help track each student’s progress. Parents and teachers can also load each device with whatever level of lesson a child needs.

The TeacherMate website asks readers to “Imagine a device so engaging, it will keep students focused on learning throughout the entire school year,” and “Imagine having a tool that provides an individualized lesson plan for each student.” The TeacherMate computer program has reading activities that include phonics, spelling, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. The math activities include number sequence, addition, length measurements, temperature, scales, fractions, money, time, and geometric shapes.

SOURCES:
Chicago Business, July 14, 2008
TeacherMate website
The Today Show, Dec. 30, 2009

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