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Learn how learning through technology brings students to life in one Arizona school. In the words of Tara Smith, a first-grade teacher at Holiday Park Elementary School in the Cartwright School District, “learning through technology brings students to life!”What was once left to the technological p

Aug 18, 2015

Learn how learning through technology brings students to life in one Arizona school.


In the words of Tara Smith, a first-grade teacher at Holiday Park Elementary School in the Cartwright School District, “learning through technology brings students to life!”

What was once left to the technological professionals is now achievable for anyone with access to a computer, tablet, phone or device. In fact, Smith’s first graders learn and practice the skills that make blogging an everyday activity.

As mobile technology continues to advance, many teachers remain adamant about technology integration in the classroom. While most desire for the luxury of easily accessible devices, it’s not a possibility for everyone.

For this reason, Smith applied to be, and was then named, a 21st-Century Classroom teacher for the Cartwright School District in 2010. After seeing great success in student learning over a three-year period, she applied to participate again. Since January 2015, Smith has added 1:1 iPads back into her classroom environment.

“I have seen this form of learning bring life to students that were once not engaged or enthusiastic about school. My attendance is nearly perfect day after day. The students come in with smiles on their faces, ready to learn something new each day. They love to share their learning with their friends and family,” said Smith, who has been teaching at Holiday Park Elementary School for 14 years.

While the classroom enthusiasm is organic, the Arizona State University alumna says it’s crucial that teachers work to stay abreast of the ever-changing technological advances. Smith chooses to engage in professional development opportunities to better herself for her students.

“As we all know, technology is always moving forward. To ensure we stay current, we, as teachers, need to keep our skills sharp so that we can promote quality technology implementation in our classrooms,” she explained.

Smith, also named the Arizona Department of Education 2013 English Language Learner (ELL) Teacher of the Year, is currently registered to attend Camp Plug & Play 10.0 in July. The Arizona K12 Center hosts the five-day professional learning opportunity each summer, enabling teachers to use their creativity to sharpen their craft surrounding technology integration. As a tech camp ‘regular,’ Smith also frequents International Society for Technology in Education conferences.

Stefanie Daley, National Board Certified Teacher, is the Instructional Technology Specialist in the English Language department for the Cartwright School District. She supports the district’s iClass21 initiative by working with 23 ELL teachers.

“We work with English Language Learner teachers to integrate technology into the four-hour block in order to improve content knowledge and language development. We know that the use of technology impacts student achievement and allows our ELL population to compete with their proficient peers,” said Daley, who was named a 2015 Tech4Learning Innovative Educator.

She says Smith stands out as an educator for many reasons, attracting the admiration of her peers.

“In Tara’s classroom I have seen technology transform the way her instruction impacts student achievement. Through technology integration, her students become independent beyond their developmental age and take ownership over their personal learning and growth,” Daley explained. “There is no limit and students are not constricted. They approach new learning in a way that allows them to bypass the minimum and develop a level of understanding that exceeds their potential.”

Since becoming an iClass21 teacher, Smith says student blogging has become a classroom norm. Whether her first graders are posting a single photo or an indepth writing sample, each is responsible for personal publishing.

“Students are using multiple layers of education as they produce their blogs, and as they learn and communicate with each other, parents and teachers. By using different apps to exceed their objective, they are showing mastery through technology. The published blog conveys their ideas through synthesizing and evaluation,” Smith explained.

Explore the technology trainings with the Arizona K12 Center today.

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