Technology is helping sixth-graders at Tempe’s Gililland Middle School become better readers while teaching them skills they can one day use in the workplace.
Teacher Sara Bartling won a $5,000 Champions of Active Learning Grant from the Chase Foundation to buy five computers for her classroom. The computers will be used for lessons in reading.
"It will get them used to doing more than one thing," Bartling said. "In the real world, they have to do that, and they have to use a computer."
Bartling’s students already use the Gililland computer lab for their reading assignments. Last week on the computer they read "A Writer’s Story" about Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of "Anne of Green Gables." They then took a quiz that the computer program immediately graded.
The grant will allow these students to do the same thing without leaving their classroom. They also will use the computers to develop PowerPoint presentations on books they read.
Bartling said research shows that students’ reading comprehension improves when they discuss what they have read with others.
"Once you take ownership like that, it helps them to be able to remember and comprehend," Bartling said.
"And, they need to get used to doing PowerPoint presentations because those are used widely in the business sector."
Bartling should know. She worked in banking and finance for 20 years before becoming a teacher. Her students not only get an elementary education — but some workplace skills as well.
"When I got into teaching, I was like, ‘Why did I waste all those years?’ It’s like I came home," she said. "This is where I belong."
Hundra Enriquez, 11, is one of the Gililland students benefiting from her teacher’s workplace experience. Hundra said she likes using the computer, but sometimes finds it to be challenging.
"I did good on the quiz, but it was hard," she said of her assignment last week. "When you take the quiz, you get nervous."
But she’s not nervous when pursuing her favorite computer activity: "I love to go on the Internet," she said.
Most kids do, her teacher said. For their generation, a book on screen is often preferable to a book in print.
"They are very focused on the screen," Bartling said.