Aug 082014

By Tammy Gray

When students return to Joseph City schools on Monday, Aug. 11, they will be using a new learning tool that may be familiar to them, but adults might not expect to find in the classroom.

As part of a U.S. Department of Education Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program, the schools will be using electronic tablets in place of some textbooks and worksheets. Students will also be able to bring their own electronic devices to school to use in class.

Superintendent Brian Fields explained that during this school year, the tablets will be used mainly to support and enhance traditional teaching tools. For example, in kindergarten classes students will use interactive programs to practice reading, as well as to bolster their knowledge of colors, shapes, letters and numbers. According to Fields, some testing will take place via the tablets at the kindergarten level.

In the junior high school, the tablets will be used to replace traditional books in math classes for grades six through eight. Students will also use special applications on the tablets to complete math drills and lessons.

At the high school, students will use the tablets for real-life applications. For example, the auto class will be able to run diagnostics to determine what repairs are necessary.

Thanks to a partnership with Arizona Public Service Co., students in the high school physics class will have tablets that will allow them to run complex equations.

Fields explained that at first the tablets will only be available for certain classes, but eventually he hopes to have one for every student and for all classes. The district has already moved toward electronic textbooks and by making tablets available, students will be able to access books, assignments and other class materials at any time.

He also pointed out that the tablets offer a way to make learning more enjoyable and interactive for student,s and although the focus will remain on education, one of his goals is to make learning fun.

“We want to continue to perform, but we also want to make school a fun place to be,” he remarked.

In addition to the tablets, students will have the option of bringing their own electronic devices, such as tablets and smart phones, to school to use for learning-based activities. Fields noted that teachers will have the flexibility to allow students to use the devices for projects and assignments. Students must first agree to use the devices only in appropriate ways and only for specific activities.

One other major change for the upcoming school year is a shift to seven periods per day.

“They will be shorter periods, but each class will be held every day,” Fields said. “We hope it helps with attendance, and with math scores and reading.”

Previously, schedules alternated each day with longer periods for each class.