Back to School: Gadgets becoming common sights in the classroom - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Back to School: Gadgets becoming common sights in the classroom

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Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 7:03 am

Without a doubt, Netbooks, iPads and smartphones are moving into many East Valley classrooms these days, if they’re not there already.

Chandler’s Willis Junior High School offers “Innovation Academy.” EDUPRIZE Schools in Gilbert and Queen Creek offer the “iClass.” Mesa Unified School District is introducing blended learning at a handful of schools this year. And in Gilbert Unified School District, some students may be able to bring their own technology device in a program being tested out in a handful of classrooms.

As more and more of these devices appear, parents may be asking, “But how does my child use this to learn?”

Jeff Delp is principal of Willis Junior High School and its Innovation Academy, or “iAcademy” as it’s become known, where this school year some 300 students will use Netbooks and the Internet, as well as pencil and paper, in a “blended learning” environment in some classrooms.

Delp said he tries to encourage teachers – and families – to use technology when it can enhance education, and not just for technology’s sake.

“We talk a lot about purposeful utilization of technology. That’s really more of a school concept with us. The point being, I think schools, and sometimes educators, make a mistake of thinking it’s about the technology. A lot of times you’ll see a program implemented where, ‘We have the computers so we use them for everything.’

“But actually, our kids like collaborating. They want to have interactions. So it’s not always appropriate for them to use technology, even in the education setting. We just want to make sure that when we use technology, that it’s adding value from a learner’s standpoint,” he said.

At home, parents may find that applications or online programs can help a student grasp a concept he or she may be struggling with.

Delp recommends first trying the website, “Free Technology for Teachers,” or freetech4teachers.com.

There, parents (and teachers) can find information about recommended programs or websites, applications, or ideas on how to use information found online.

(A recent post gives creative ideas on how to use new Google Street View images of Antarctica.)

“He’s very well known in the educational technology circles. I tend to trust the stuff he puts up,” Delp said of the author, Richard Byrne.

Once students have information, they may find Evernote helpful to organize it, Delp said. Plus, it’s available across platforms and can be accessed from anywhere (app stores or evernote.com).

“It allows kids to take and search and organize notes. They can upload pictures. They can store everything in Evernote,” he said. “It’s all searchable, including images. We have teachers that use it. They’ll take a picture of their white board after they’ve solved a problem. In Evernote, you can search and it will even find things in the images on the white board.”

Last, for those tricky problems, Delp recommends Kahn Academy (kahnacademy.org) or Sophia (Sophia.org). Both offer tutorials on everything from math to physics to history.

At Kahn Academy, users can also test their knowledge.

“It’s a great place for kids if they’re stuck on something or if a parent thinks they need a little extra help or if parents are trying to help their kids and they don’t understand a concept,” Delp said.

Parents can also scour the Internet and app stores for ideas, Delp said. But he also advises them to try it out.

“The big thing is you have to get in and do a little looking. It changes from day to day,” he said. “Things popular six months ago, you usually learn they improve upon those pretty quickly.”

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