Linda Burkey’s algebra students know she is peeking over their shoulders, so to speak.
Handheld personal digital assistants are standard class supplies in four Supai Middle School math classrooms.
A card hooks them into a wireless network allowing teachers to observe students working on assignments and answer questions electronically without singling anyone out.
"The nice part is, you can see everybody’s response," Burkey said. "You don’t just get the kid who raises their hand."
At that, she noticed no students had correctly answered question 7 on a lesson she prepared. With a click, she took control of every device in the room, and gathered attention for an example on the board.
"This is the Game Boy generation," she said. "They love using all the gadgets."
Supai is the only school in the district using the technology, and was the first in the state to receive it through a federal grant. The devices have been ordered for Coronado High School.
Expanding the use of the devices, however, is at issue in the Scottsdale Unified School District.
The district governing board on Dec. 9 approved a five-year plan to spend about $10 million a year on technology including more digital assistants, which range in price from $100 to $200 each.
Board member Christine Schild said it’s too expensive to buy the devices throughout the school district, and they can be easily stolen.
"I’m not a big fan of the PDA program because it costs too much money," Schild said. "We can accomplish the same thing using other technology that costs less money."
But Supai principal Daniel Cooper recalled the days he fashioned small chalkboards to have students interact in a similar manner.
"We want every kid engaged and on task 100 percent of the time," he said.
Anne Boyle, director of technology in the district, said the plan is to provide the devices for all math classrooms and possibly expand to language arts and
Joseph Rea, 13, a Supai eighthgrader, said the devices help him concentrate on his work.
"If you don’t get it, you can always ask her how to get an answer," he said, without interrupting class or having to wait until the end.
"It keeps my attention better," added 12-year-old James Burkhardt.