Gust Elementary ECE teacher Jonell Tafoya says her preschool class likes its interactive board.
(Andy Cross, The Denver Post)
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In Jonelle Tafoya's class at Gust Elementary in southwest Denver, Liliana Lucero takes a stylus and uses it to identify the number three - her age - projected on an interactive, electronic-type chalk board called a Promethean Board.
She taps the number and drags it into place, filling in a blank in a sentence on the board. Then - with some help - she reads it to the class.
"Hi class. I am 3. Your friend, Liliana," she says proudly before bouncing back to her seat on the carpet.
Tafoya uses the Promethean Board to expose her preschoolers to technology while teaching them to read and to identify numbers or emotions through pictures and sounds.
As new national standards begin to roll out in 45 participating states, technology education is becoming part of the teacher's load as early as preschool.
"These things aren't going away. If anything they're going to get more complex," Tafoya said. "Using technology, especially incorporated in literacy and math or in social skills here in ECE, really does build those foundations for them and gives me a different tool to catch those different learners."
The national Common Core State Standards that Colorado signed on to adopt in February 2010 will incorporate a technology component across different subject standards under an emphasis called "21st Century learning skills."
In reading, for instance, the standards require that students "gain, evaluate, and present increasingly complex information, ideas, and evidence through listening and speaking as well as through media."
Students must be able to both create media presentations and also critically analyze them. Having students create a podcast they can post to a class blog is an example of an activity for a fourth grader.
Previously in Colorado, every district was free to create technology standards if they wished, but the state didn't guide them, which created inconsistencies.
Denver Public Schools in 2004 created a matrix of suggestions for what kids should know at different grades. By the end of kindergarten, for example, DPS students were expected to know how to wake a sleeping computer, to be able to double click and to start programs.
In Tafoya's ECE class, most studens can already perform those basic functions.
Laura St. John, parent and vice president of Imagine Tomorrow, a family run Denver company that creates computer classes for kids under age eight, believes that because children can learn quickly, they should be challenged more.
Through Imagine Tomorrow's new online games, kids learn the concepts of computer code, typing and cloud computing - the idea of storing data on the Internet instead of on a computer.
"They are sophisticated concepts," St. John said. "But in elementary school years we're really setting the foundation that technology is a tool not just a toy."
Tafoya said learning to respect the computers and the Promethean Board is part of first-day activities.
"They know at the most basic that it does things they like," Tafoya said. "When we learn with it, they get extra excited about it."