Higher Order Learning

Rikki Basson, 11, left, and Indyjah Williams, 10, work together on solving a math problem using an iPad in their fifth-grade class at Killip Elementary School Thursday morning. The iPad lesson involved the students recording a presentation on their iPads and outlining the steps they took to solve the problem. Students then shared a recording created on the iPad of the solution with their classmates. (Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun)

The students sat in groups of two and three in Katie Butterfield’s fifth-grade class at Killip Elementary School,  working diligently on an iPad.

By the level of their interest you might expect to see a game on the screen, but actually the students were working on math problems. Their task was to work on a division problem using patterns of 10, show how they completed the problem and explain their process.

They completed each step, written and voice recording, on the iPad. Their work was then shared on what they call the “jumbotron,” the interactive whiteboard, in front of the class.

Welcome to technology in the classroom. Increasingly, schools around Flagstaff are adopting technology, beyond computers, in the classroom. Teachers use interactive whiteboards and iPads in their lessons. Instead of having them taken away, students in secondary schools can sometimes use their smartphones for research in class.

Mike Vogler teaches at Coconino High School and uses many technical tools in his classes.

“There is something to be said about pencil and paper and books,” Vogler said. “But our world is being increasingly defined by this technology. How do we teach students to use it ethically, responsibly and ... to improve community? They don’t know and adults don’t always know, either.”


Mary Knight is the director of FUSD’s technology department. She explains FUSD has been able to purchase technology and implement plans because Flagstaff residents passed the 2006 capital override and 2012 school bond. Of the $21 million estimated to be collected from the school bond, $4.9 million has been allocated for technology replacements and upgrades.

Knight explains the district used funds from the 2006 override to purchase laptops for teacher use and projectors and document cameras for each classroom. Projectors can be attached to laptops to display information on the computer to the whole class. Document cameras have taken the place of overhead projectors but are more interactive and can display information from books. Knight said FUSD has a wireless network that is pervasive across the district.

“Teachers don’t have to log out and log back in as they go from building to building,” Knight said.

“Our biggest initiative right now is mobile devices, and that’s iPads for us,” Knight said. “A year ago this last spring, we began to implement iPads district-wide at the elementary school level. We had done some targeted projects before that to demonstrate the value of iPads in the classroom.”

Knight said the first, second and third grades at each elementary school have an iPad cart,  which costs $17,000 and includes 30 iPads, cases, cart and apps. This fall they will have carts for the kindergarten, fifth- and sixth-grade classes, too.


Butterfield was at Thomas Elementary for the initial test project with iPads. She now finds they aid her instruction and help students gain confidence.

“These can be used in their portfolios (for parent-teacher night),” Butterfield said. “Students can explain their thinking and see their progression. They feel confident and good about (their progress).”

Indyjah Williams, a fifth-grade student in Butterfield’s class, has been working with iPads since fourth grade.

“The iPad helps because some kids get bored just doing pencil and paper,” Indyjah said. “It helps me pay attention.”

 “It’s very interactive,” Knight said. “Students can receive immediate feedback and instruction can be individualized. These apps have many different levels, so you can find the appropriate place for the student and help them improve those skills from where they are starting, so it has a lot of flexibility for that. It really leads to personalized learning.”

Jose Ruedas, also in Butterfield’s class, finds it helpful.

“We learn new things we didn’t know about,” Jose said. “(I like) the app we are working on right now. We are recording and explaining our work while we do it.”

Up through third grade FUSD purchased apps for the iPads focused on reading to go along with Arizona’s Move on When Reading Program. For fourth and fifth grades, the apps will be focused on math. Knight emphasized schools can download their own apps.


Flipped classrooms, BYOD and instant feedback are the buzzwords at the secondary level.

Gaby Garcia, a pre-calculus, pre-algebra and algebra teacher at Coconino High School, is excited about introducing flipped classrooms to her students. In a flipped classroom, students will watch the lesson at home online or on a DVD. They can stop, rewind, pause and continue the lesson when they are ready.

“When they do the activity they have access to me,” Garcia said. “Rather than the other way around.”

For math it can be especially helpful when students have questions doing problems.

During her training she heard it was a “culture shock,” so she plans to introduce it slowly.

Bring your own device is “BYOD.” Knight explains the program was piloted at CHS but this year the option available at other secondary schools if they choose to participate. One student said teachers allow students to use smartphones as a dictionary or calculator. When smartphones are used for research, students, using a username and password, can access FUSD’s network.


Mike Vogler uses technology in his classes on a daily basis. He teaches World History and AP World History and AP Statistics at CHS. He requires his AP students to have online access. If they don’t, they can stay after school to work in his mini-lab of 10 computers.

He communicates assignments online and students take tests and quizzes online as well. He and fellow teacher Paula Wright acquired 30 iPods through a grant for students to complete documentaries. He also uses the iPods for instant feedback on quizzes. The students answer questions in class with the iPods, and Vogler instantly knows how many students got the answer right.

“I have been a teacher for 10 years,” Vogler said. “The use of technology has made the job way easier,” Vogler said.

He explained students sometimes feel more comfortable talking with him online, and he can let them know of changes to assignments online.


Robert Hagstrom, FUSD director of research and assessment, explained the district has adopted Common Core standards in English language arts and mathematics. This year the curriculum will be used at all grade levels in preparation for upcoming PARCC tests in 2014-15, Hagstrom said.

The PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test is aligned with Common Core curriculum. Students will be expected to take the PARCC test online.

Knight explains details have yet to be worked out, but the district is watching closely to make sure it meets recommended specifications for the test. The iPads will work for the test with external keyboards and headsets.

Knight said FUSD needs to remain aware of three areas: the hardware and bandwidth that’s going to be required to take the test online, Common Core standards and students’ digital literacy skills so the online assessment is not a barrier for them to demonstrate their mastery of those standards.

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“We really have to be ready for all three of those things,” Knight said, noting that students need to be as comfortable with the computer hardware and software as they are today with the bubble sheet on the test.

“We don’t want there to be any difference for them.”

Cecile LeBlanc can be reached at 556-2261 or cleblanc@azdailysun.com.

FUSD Calendar


AUG. 12: First day    

SEPT. 2: Labor Day

OCT. 18: Fall Day, No school

NOV. 11: Veterans Day

NOV. 27-29: Thanksgiving Holiday

DEC. 23-JAN. 3: Winter Break

JAN. 6: School resumes

JAN. 20: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

FEB. 17: Presidents’ Day

MARCH 17-21: Spring Break

MAY 26: Memorial Day

MAY 29: Last day

May 30: High school graduation

SNOW DAY MAKE-UP DAYS: April 25, 28; May 5, 12, 23

NOTE: Charter school calendars may vary.

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