This year, Kyrene Middle School is on the forefront of technology-assisted learning with a soon-to-be implemented learning center, a model of what other Kyrene schools could ultimately follow. Lori Walk, the Kyrene district’s assistant director of instructional services who is overseeing this latest initiative, said the goal is to prepare students for potential careers in science and technology.
“What we’re looking at, and what (Superintendent) Dr. Schauer is very interested in, is basically that we have to find other ways to engage students – different ways of teaching and different ways of learning,” she said.
Although the learning center is just in its beginning stages, Walk said it will develop as students, teachers and community members make use of the area.
“We’ve got a subcommittee from the Tempe-Kyrene Business Advisory Council that’s going to be meeting (at KMS),” she said. “They are people like SRP, Chevron and folks who care about science and technology.”
Walk said planners are hoping to get local engineers who are involved with technology to become interested in the center and in working with KMS students.
“We’re going to be bringing in individuals from Arizona State University who work with things like gaming embedded with content,” Walk said. “Students actually create videogames that are content-based, and it reinforces the learning.”
Nick Proveromo, a KMS teacher who works with technology-based learning, is creating new learning methods that allow students to use electronic devices, like their cell phones. He recently developed an on-the-air program that runs four times a week in the computer lab adjacent to the learning center.
“It’s a great program; the kids do an awesome job,” he said. “We do it four days a week, and it’s about a 10-minute program, running from 8:15 to 8:25 a.m.”
The broadcast features students who report on various school activities and current events, he said.
“We have an administrator on, usually to try an anchor (spot) at the end of the show,” Proveromo said. “We’ll usually do a feature, like a book review, or sometimes the kids will do the weather.”
Proveromo did his master’s-degree thesis on mobile learning, and is developing applications for cell phones that can assist with learning activities.
“I made a little mobile flash program that kids can load on their phone that works with the Pueblo Grande Museum,” Proveromo said. “And so, this would be an archeology assistant. During their dig, they would access all these little kind of learning bits.”
The students then send Proveromo a text message based on what they learned. The main issue, though, is the number of students who have cell phones.
“The dream is we would get a grant from, like, Nokia, where they would supply cell phones,” he said. “In some cases, I had to team kids up or I would give them some older phones that have been reconditioned and give them the basics – there are ways around it.”
Proveromo said he will present his research on mobile learning at this year’s microcomputer and education conference held at ASU.
“After my research, I came up with the decision that kids needed an application that they can download on their phone to use with assignments,” he said.
“It’s never going to be able to everything that you do directly teaching, but it’s that piece that kids get excited about.”