"It's a fun way to do it and they really get into it. They're very engaged," Saylor, computer and technology teacher at Everitt Middle School in Wheat Ridge, said.
Saylor is using Google Apps for Education to create a virtual domain for her students. They can use word processors, spread sheets and graphic tools to create projects which are done entirely online.
For example, eighth-grader Alex Brown created his own imaginary company. His project included conceptual graphic designs, a business plan, an architectural layout and a spreadsheet containing a payroll outline for the employees.
"It was hard at first, but as soon as you get it, it's really easy," Alex said.
Google Apps for Education allowed Alex to put this all together in an online portfolio.
Saylor says it helps her trick students into learning. Right now, she has students creating their own superheroes.
"The superheroes, that's a writing assignment. But you'd never know it because we dress it up so much and they get graphic skills, they get outline skills," Saylor said.
She says when students are doing projects about things they're passionate about they are more willing take on math problems or essays.
"I see it as expanding the walls of the classroom," Dan Brooks, education technology specialist for Jefferson County Schools, said.
Brooks says teachers and students all across Jeffco are using the internet tools because it offers a dimension that had not been available.
"The kids can share with a teacher, the kids can share with another student, or they can share with a small group if they're working together," Brooks said.
Students and teachers can control access to their projects. Brooks says it's like having their own personal Internet with little to no security concerns.
"This kind of system is not something we could create on our own," Brooks said.
Saylor says what might be the best part is the feedback. Students can go online, view another student's project and offer comments right there on the web page.
"It's good to get feedback from people our own age cause they think like we do," Alex said.
Marina Tricarico, another eighth-grader, says she likes the exchange between students. She says it does make a difference in their work.
"It just makes you want to do better on it since people are going to see it," Marina said. "If someone wasn't doing something right, I'd tell them."
Saylor says it creates an environment of complete classroom collaboration.
"They do care more about what their peers think than what I think," Saylor said. "But they need to know to go out and be good workers, how to collaborate with other people. You don't go to work in isolation."
The use of Google Apps for Education is free and it contains no ads.
"It made it easy to say, let's try this, it's free," Brooks said.
Another benefit is that it cuts down on paper use, also saving money.
"That's where kids go for the assignment. They don't always have to print. Kids are turning in their papers online," Brooks said.
It's also saving on headaches.
"Kids come in and say the dog ate my flash drive or the dog ate my homework. If you did it online it's there," Brooks said. "The excuses go away a little bit too."
Brooks says last year more than 32,000 users within the district were active on Google Apps for Education. Jeffco is one of the largest groups nationwide using these internet tools. Now, Brooks is preparing all 85,000 students to start using the tools in every class at every level.
"I just talked to a kindergarten teacher yesterday who's ready to get kids on Google Apps," Brooks said. "The demand is huge and it seems to be meeting a need in this 21st Century learning environment."
Saylor believes that these types of tools can be used in nearly every subject.
"It should be in every class and I think a lot of teachers are trying," Saylor said. "I don't think there's a place where you couldn't use this."
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