‘Everybody saw the potential’ - Translation earbuds help ELL students succeed at Ottumwa schools

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 6:24 PM CDT
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KCRG) - For students who don’t speak English, learning in school can be a challenge. But new technology used in the Ottumwa School district is reaching students who have a language barrier.

We first brought you this story as the district gave an update to the school board on how the technology was helping in the classroom.

It’s helping the more than 1,000 English Language Learners in the Ottumwa School district learn in the classroom in their native language.

”When they were able to listen to how we talked about our banking system in the united states and they could have that translated for them... it’s so cool because you can see their eyes pop. They’re like, ‘oh! I get it!” said Leah Hallgren, ESL teacher.

They first got the technology last September from the company Timekettle.

Originally designed for tourism, the district and the company have worked together to adapt them to Chromebooks for students.

”Everybody saw the potential. We just saw that this was a huge potential for our kids in order to get academic language to our students while they’re learning English,” said Mike Stiemsma, Director of Special Programs.

And while the earbuds aren’t something students use every day...

”Because I want to learn more, and it seems like it helps me learn more,” said Eliazar Gomez Lopez through translator Leah Hallgren.

They’re a tool to help students thrive in the classroom.

”Just because they don’t know the word, doesn’t mean they’re not smart,” said Hallgren.

”I want to know English. I want to know more,” said Rigoberto Dionicio Gomez through translator Leah Hallgren.

The district said they’re one of the few schools in the nation using Timekettles technology and with more than 100 devices throughout their schools, and plans for more to come, the district said it’s been a great tool in the classroom.

”This allows us to have more in-depth with students and we get them to think more than what is a federal reserve, they can actually talk about it. And when they can do that, then they really learn it,” said Hallgren.

Helping make sure all students have the chance to succeed.