• Ed Tech Spotlight- Jenny Stearns

    Posted by Renda Fisk on 5/28/2019

    Jenny Stearns standing in her classroom with students   

    As part of Flagstaff Unified School District’s continued pursuit of providing effective learning environments, the Instructional Technology Team will be featuring educators who are using technology to enhance student learning. Our final feature for the 2018-2019 school year is a conversation with Jenny Stearns, a Computer Technology & Computer Science teacher at Mount Elden Middle School. She has been recognized as a leader in the district for her efforts to bring future ready learning opportunities to students.

     

     

    What drives you to integrate technology into your teaching?

     

    Since I teach computer classes, it is very easy for me to integrate technology into my teaching every day. I teach computer technology and computer science classes. In the computer technology classes, students learn useful digital literacy skills that will enable the students to be successful in the future. Technology helps develop these skills through creating presentations, learning to differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources, and maintaining proper online etiquette.

    In the computer science classes, the students are working in an introductory computer science course (Code.org) that allows the students to engage with computer science with opportunities for demonstrating creativity, communication, critical thinking, and problem solving – all while having fun.

     

    Can you tell about a favorite lesson/project that was enhanced and/or made possible by technology?

     

    The computer technology classes work on a Genius Project at the end of the semester. The students are given a specified budget to plan a trip. They must document this plan in a platform of their choice based upon the skills they have learned throughout the semester. This project based learning approach integrates every core content area into the technology project. The students must stay within a budget. The students also must research and document their trip, use mapping skills in planning the trip, and research the climate for the specified location.

     

    With respect to the computer science classes, the students spend a significant amount of time coding a game of their choice in the Code.org platform. While creating these games, the students become computational thinkers, knowledge constructors, and innovative designers. Once the games are created, the students participate in a gallery walk with their classmates. The students enjoy showing off their amazing work, as well as, analyzing what their classmates have created.

     

    How does technology enhance student learning?

    When students have lessons/projects that relate to their daily lives, real life experiences, or topics they are interested in, the students are engaged in learning and have a better knowledge retention. In the computer technology classes, I have designed a technology curriculum that creates opportunities to enhance learning by making it fun and relatable to their lives which encourages a more active participation. This is also true with the computer science classes. In computer science, the students create games, develop apps, and code circuits. These lessons and projects connect to how students spend their time outside of school, so providing them opportunities during school to further explore their interests enhances learning while having fun and being creative at the same time.

     

    How does technology change the way in which students demonstrate understanding?

    The projects I assign the students in both the computer technology classes and the computer science classes follow a project-based learning approach. This approach allows students the freedom to explore their own interests and strengths within the structure of a project. When students are provided this freedom of individual learning, student understanding and performance increases.

     

    List your top three tech tools you recommend other teachers to try (could be an app, device, etc…):

    1.Code.org is a free computer science curriculum for all skill levels.

    2.Google Classroom and/or Microsoft Office

    3.Sphero Edu is a coding app for Sphero robots. The students can create, contribute and learn coding with Sphero robots, as well as, applying STEAM activities.

     

    What advice would you give other teachers about integrating technology in their classroom?

     

    Try something new! There are many online resources available to help teachers improve and enhance their teaching by integrating technology. I am very excited to see the roll out of one-to-one technology devices for our school district. This is a great opportunity for all teachers to integrate technology into their classroom to enhance students’ learning.

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  • Ed Tech Spotlight- Christine Sapio

    Posted by Renda Fisk on 4/10/2019

    Christine Sapio  As part of Flagstaff Unified School District’s continued pursuit of providing effective learning environments, the Instructional Technology Team will be featuring educators who are using technology to enhance student learning. Our next feature is a conversation with Christine Sapio, a Science/CIT Teacher & the CocoNuts FIRST Team 2486 Coach at Coconino High School. She has been recognized as a leader in the district for her efforts to bring future ready learning opportunities to students.

     

    What drives you to integrate technology into your teaching?

    The technology I use in my physics classes allows the students to bring the concepts we're exploring to life. We collect a lot of our own data using sensors and then analyze it by graphing it with the computer. By doing this, we can develop our fundamental physics equations from real experiences and not just a textbook. I believe that the more a student is involved in their own learning, especially when they have a chance to explore and be curious, the more they have ownership they have of what they're learning. 
     
     
    Can you tell about a favorite lesson/project that was enhanced and/or made possible by technology?
    I have several favorites: In AP Physics, we build crash test cars to rescue an egg being crashed into a wall. We attach 3-axis accelerometers to the cars, which measure the acceleration of the impact in 3 dimensions and film the crash. The students then take a look at their data and determine how many g's their "passenger" is experiencing during the impact. It's amazing to see that even if the egg survives, the g forces are many times so high that there would have been a serious injury. 
     
    AP Physics takes similar data on our annual trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain at the end of the school year. The same technology that allows your smartphone to flip its screen to reorient "up" so you can read it allows them to take 3-axis accelerometer data during a roller coaster ride. My students take data on their phones and then bring it back for analysis, as well as analyzing the video they take of the roller coasters. They can then determine the acceleration, g-forces, velocity, energy, and momentum at any given point on the roller coaster. They then create videos explaining the awesomeness and physics of their chosen coaster to present to the class. 
     

    Another cool AP Physics project is creating their own musical instruments. They have the option of making a string, wind, or percussion instrument. The goal is to make an instrument that can play at least 6 distinctive notes or a recognizable song for extra credit! Students do the calculations, create their instrument, then perform them in class. Finally, they use the Vernier microphones to test each pitch. Using the computer, they can determine each pitch and how close it is to the actual note they were aiming for. 

     
     
    How does technology enhance student learning?
    My classes use a lot of sensors for data collection. Instruments like photogates, motion detectors and force probes make it possible for students to take much more precise data than lower tech counterparts (such as a stopwatch or spring scale) would allow. Sensors like charge sensors and magnetic field sensors allow students to model phenomena that would otherwise be invisible to them. 
     
     
    How does technology change the way in which students demonstrate understanding?
    I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year training my students to interpret data. Once we have a solid understanding of how to build a mathematical model, we use data collection to build real physics equations that you would find in a physics textbook. The difference is that it comes from their data, their conversations with each other and with me. I find that once we have good data, all I have to do is ask the right questions and they're able to describe in great detail the fundamental physics concepts and equations based on their own experience. 

     

     

    List your top three tech tools you recommend other teachers to try (could be an app, device etc…): 

    1. Vernier Graphical Analysis - free app for computers and iPads, used for graphing data

    2. Vernier Logger Pro - data collection software + video analysis (allows you to video something in motion and plot it's position and velocity right on the video)

    3. University of Colorado's "PHET" simulations and Physicsclassroom.com have awesome simulations and concept builders for physics, chemistry, bio that are fun and engaging

     

     

    What advice would you give other teachers about integrating technology in their classroom?

    Pick one lesson that you want to try using more technology and spend the time to really develop it. Think about how the technology can be used to bring a concept to life and add meaning to learning. Don't forget to try software or device you want students to use before you assign it to students...technology can be infamous for misbehaving at inopportune times! 

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  • Ed Tech Spotlight - Luis Melo

    Posted by Heather Zeigler on 1/11/2019

     

    Puente de Hózhó teacher Louis Melo in classroom holding an iPad. As part of Flagstaff Unified School District’s continued pursuit of providing effective learning environments, the Instructional Technology Team will be featuring educators who are using technology to enhance student learning. Our first feature is a conversation with Luis Melo, at Puente de Hózhó Elementary School, who has been recognized as a leader in the district for his efforts to bring future ready learning opportunities to students.

     

    What drives you to integrate technology into your teaching?

    Since I started teaching in 1987, I thought I wanted to make a change in the way I was taught. As a language teacher, I wanted my students to be engaged and be part of their learning process. I wanted them to see, use and interact with what they were learning in my classroom each day. I really wanted them to be active learners and not just receptive learners. I personally believe that as an educator I have to find ways to encourage growth and individual learning so students feel prepared for their new real world. Technology integration became part of my classroom with the first double deck radio, the first video camera, the first cell phone, the first IPod, iPad, promethean board, sled board so on and so forth. Although most of these technology tools were not there when I went to school, they are part of today's kids so why not using them if they are accessible and part of today's kids’ life?

     

    Can you tell about a favorite lesson/project that was enhanced and/or made possible by technology?

    As part of our human body lesson, we used the app, Book Creator, to summarize all the facts we learned during our unit. Students created individual interactive books and added a ton of information they thought was more than interesting for another student to learn.  They were able to demonstrate their reading comprehension by accurately adding written organized paragraphs and meaningful illustrations so the book could be interesting to read. Students had to demonstrate they had a clear idea of what their book needed to cover. So, we went over science standards and they double checked the expectations for 5th grade science. Students reviewed their writing and made sure they had accurate information, headings, illustrations on each page, added voices (Spanish) , they sequenced the events and finally added some videos with their favorite rhymes or songs from the different science lessons. Students were able to save their books as videos or a book and shared them with family so they could see it as well. Students showed a deep understanding and comprehension of content and also an incredible   knowledge of how to use technology for learning. They want to use this app for every content review now.

     

    How does technology enhance student learning?

    As teachers, we all agree that learning should be encouraged. But, it needs to be fun and meaningful as well. Using technology in the classroom is not only enhancing students learning, but also enhancing how teachers teach for today's kids. Memorizing relevant contents, facts or vocabulary is part of education, but it is the how students do it that makes the difference between short- or long-term learning. Technology can expand the way students develop these skills, prepare them to interact with the world, become successful and feel prepared for the future,

    Technology helps teachers to connect with students. It enriches lesson plans and it gives teachers time to help students individually. It can be challenging sometimes, but it is more engaging than listening to long lectures or doing extensive readings. Technology will always enrich and improve our students learning outcomes. It is the how we use technology, and the when to include it that makes the difference. Using technology to redefine makes the use of technology efficient not only for students but for teachers as well. I believe that letting students use technology as a tool to improve education and letting students interact with content will improve learning outcomes and it will have a profound impact on students’ new way of learning.

     

    How does technology change the way in which students demonstrate understanding?

    Teachers- the future is here, now. Our kids present is our future. We dreamed of having web based text books which could include assessments, animations and more interactive tools to help us learn. Those who loved reading spent hours at a library leafing through books and those who did homework spent hours trying to find the right book with the right information. Technology changed the way students can do research. Students access to information is just a click away now. Technology facilitates teachers’ ability to meet the needs of all kinds of learners. Students have access to teachers’ resources and assignments via the web at anytime. The use of iPads, notebooks, webpages, etc. allow teachers to find new ways to promote learning and it helps students demonstrate their comprehension and mastery of different contents by using their creativity. Students today are manipulating contents and not just acquiring concepts. Technology works when you are able to create and manipulate what you learn in the classroom. Technology today makes sense only if it connects you to real world.

     

    List your top three tech tools you recommend other teachers to try (could be an app, device etc.…):

    1. Book creator
    2. TC studio
    3. Flip Grid

     

    What advice would you give other teachers about integrating technology in their classroom?

    Technology today makes teachers’ life way easier than in the past. Lesson plans are a click away. Learning tools are a click away. Your personal teaching resources are a click away. Planning ahead and creating clear instructions for when and how to use a new app, web page, e tool or tech tool is essential.  Trying something new and exciting is always a great idea. You will be amazed at how students today can do more than what you think with a new tech tool. Being afraid of using technology today is not a great excuse. We need to move on with this new generation of learners and expect incredible results. There is no good reason for a student to have to wait days before having access to a tech-tool. Technology today is part of everyone’s life so why not use it for teaching and learning?

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