New technology helps guide Kyrene students in digital age

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The days of poster-board projects and flip-chart presentations are slowly fading away in the Kyrene School District, as new software opens opportunities for students to mouse and click their way into the digital age.

Students at south Tempe’s Waggoner Elementary School completed projects this year that allow them to combine documents to present information in videos they create using their own animations, text files, pictures, music and voice recordings.

“Here at Waggoner, the professional development focus for this year has been on writing,” said Jacinta Sorgel, education technology specialist for the Kyrene District. “So, I have been supporting them with technology to use to publish and post their writing.”

The presentation experience for students is much more interactive now, Sorgel said.

The software gives students the ability to record their own written assignments, or have the computer translate text boxes into speech that plays along with their presentation.

“With the Share software, they can put scrolling textboxes, so their entire report can be on their poster,” she said. “They could include videos, graphs, and images.”

Erin Dedrick, a second-grade teacher at Waggoner, said the students loved presenting their projects on the digital Smart Board, some even asking to see their peers’ projects multiple times.

Students in Dedrick’s class didn’t hesitate to pick up a laptop and quickly access their past projects to share.

And, with the new software, students can publish with the click of a button, giving parents and teachers easy access to the children’s work throughout the school year.

“I think they like it because it’s a new tool that lets them produce something that shows their understanding,” Sorgel said. “Before, the kids were using PowerPoint for many projects, and I think they just got ‘PowerPointed’ out.”

The second graders use a program called Pixie2 that allows them to illustrate projects with an animated slide show, including a recorded narration of each written report.

Theo, one of Dedrick’s students this year, said he liked drawing the background animations for his project on the bee.

“I liked it a lot,” he said. “It’s fun to put music with my project.”

Karin Camptell, the gifted-resource teacher at Waggoner, said her students were motivated to work with another new piece of software, Share.

The Share program allows students to bring in documents from a variety of sources, including Microsoft Word and Excel, Sorgel said.

“This is a lot more creative, and it allows the kids to do much more with their project,” she said. “It gives them experience in a variety of programs.”

Ali Cohen, one of Camptell’s students, said she likes working with Share the software more than using PowerPoint for most projects.

“In the beginning we had to do research, and then we learned a brand new software we haven’t worked with before,” she said. “We had to make graphs and videos to put with our projects.”

Ali’s project was on the Holocaust, and included a picture of Anne Frank into which Ali cropped herself using the Share program.

“It really works well for certain types of projects,” Ali said.

Sorgel said all the Pixie2 and Share software, provided by a company called Tech4Learning, is easy to use, and students are able to bring a variety of Microsoft documents into their projects using those programs.

“It’s very user-friendly for the kids,” she said.

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