Students in Jen Leese's and Colleen Gentry's first-grade classrooms at Kyrene de la Esperanza Elementary show their yearly progress to their parents and other family members electronically. They use Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel and other computer programs to build a presentation that is shown near the end of the school year.

Students have a guideline of what to put in their portfolios, such as a description of the subject they feel they improved most in, but they use their creativity in the form of graphs, charts, animations and hands-on activities with SMART Boards to do the talking.

"Six-year-olds don't really know how to explain their learning and this gives them a way, a concrete way to say look at my writing in August and look at it now," Leese said. "It makes them feel good. I had one student bring in eight people to come see and their older brothers and sisters were really proud and impressed."

Leese, Gentry and Michelle Fahy, educational technology specialist for Kyrene, presented the electronic portfolios to the National School Boards Association T+L conference, which took place Oct. 19-21. With about 60 people in attendance, the group discussed the programs they used and their experience as a whole doing them for the first time last year.

"We talked about how in Kyrene we don't teach the technology, we teach with it," Gentry said. "It's amazing how much they can retain and how they can manipulate the computer programs themselves. It's amazing that little kids can do this."

As part of the conference, members of the NSBA toured two Kyrene schools, Aprende Middle School and Brisas Elementary on Friday, Oct. 22. More than 40 members visited from across the United States and were shown places like the computer labs to see how Kyrene integrates technology into the classroom.

"It's pretty amazing the amount of software the kids have at their disposal," said Nefertiti Davis, a Patton School District board member from Illinois. "These are things we can do (in our district), but it will be hard to do."

This is the third time in four years the NSBA has honored the Kyrene School District for its application of technology to classroom instruction.

Many facets of the district's technology plan are due to the passing of the first capital override in 2005. Kyrene had a measure to renew the capital override on the Nov. 2 ballot.

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