Toss out the textbooks: Teaching tech-savvy teens - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Toss out the textbooks: Teaching tech-savvy teens

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- No more pencils, no more books: It's a popular last-day-of-school rhyme that's coming true. These days more and more teachers are encorporating technology into their classrooms.

At Washington Middle School in the Dubuque Community School District, lugging around heavy English books is a thing of the past thanks to some new computer technology.

Middleschoolers are pretty tech savy. In Lorilee Hamel's 8th grade classes, all of the kids know how to use a computer.

"I have a computer with internet access, and I go on Myspace and Facebook and stuff," Aubrey Nekvinda said.

"I use my cell phone all the time, and I have a computer at home which I use a lot," Anna Kaiser said.

So, how do you teach language arts to a class of kids that speaks a new language - the language of technology?

"They all do have smartphones that I'll never be able to work and iPod nanos and this that and the other, and so they can all teach me a lot, but the more I stay connected to it, the more I have a conversation platform to work with them," Hamel said.

In Hamel's class, students don't even get assigned textbooks. Now, they turn pages at home by clicking a mouse.

"What they've offered us is the opportunity to have the textbook completely online, so every page that's in their textbook, they can access online if they have internet access at home," Hamel said.

There's more: The site can read outloud, has video, can even translate words into Spanish, and includes homework and worksheets.

"I like it. It's better than carrying that big, heavy book around," Nekvinda said.

"It's pretty cool, and it's helpful too. If you forget something, you can just go on there," Kaiser said.

From a teacher's standpoint, using the internet also means getting assignments turned in faster and easier, and probably carries fewer "dog ate my homework" excuses. From the school's perspective, ditching the books is actually more environmentally-friendly and cost-saving.

Outside the library in the regular classrom, the class still uses books. Also, while most students use the online version of their english book at home, the school still gives books to kids that don't have the internet at home.

Hamel also created a Web page to list assignments and schedules. This year she's adding a blog section that both she and her students will participate in. Washington also has a Twitter account.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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