Katie Keller

Katie Keller shows off the white board and cabinet full of computers for students in her specialized academic instruction courses at Needles Middle School.

NEEDLES — Technology-aided collaboration is bringing some measure of erudition to seventh and eighth grade students of Katie Keller’s specialized academic instruction at Needles Middle School.

The courses are for special needs students, Keller explained. “Trying to help the students discover how they learn and providing alternative methods of learning for them. Some of them have longer processing time. Not that they don’t ‘have it;’ it’s just unlocking it and trying to find out how to learn to the best of their ability.”

One of the school district’s driving strategies, she said, is collaboration. “Our students have to work in a collaborative setting in order to be successful. For my students sometimes that’s a little difficult. It’s easier through technology. Teaching collaboration skills is something we’ll need in the workplace.”

Hired midway through the 2017-18 school year to teach general education for second grade the graduate of Grand Canyon University moved to SAI instruction for fifth and sixth grade in SY 2018-19, then on to SAI for seventh and eighth grades in the current year. She holds credentials for general education for grades kindergarten through eighth; and for teaching special needs students in grades K-12.

Keller’s primary focus is on English language arts and mathematics, though she works with other subjects, such as science and history, as well. She’s now finishing up a master’s degree in education and technology through California State University Fullerton. She’ll graduate in December.

“I notice a lot of our students in the younger generation are really technology-inclined and a lot of students respond better to teachers who infuse technology into the curriculum,” Keller said. “So that’s been my main focus this year. I’ve had a wonderful opportunity moving over to this site because we have 25 to 30 touch-screen Chromebooks that are individually assigned to the students.”

Her students exchange email correspondence with her each day and check on their progress through an Aeries portal — an online student information system database used by the county schools system. She emails information for new lessons and attaches specific links to sites on the world wide web pertinent to the subject being studied.

“A lot of them are into YouTube,” Keller said of her students. “We can turn it into a lesson.”

The web, originally created as a means of communication between upper-level academics and military installations, offers a lot of educational material. Those resources have grown in both accessibility and sophistication over the years.

Keller cited as example short videos such as those viewable at mathantics.com. “He has a way of relating the material and jazzing up the material so it’s fun, it’s interesting and he makes it super-relatable,” Keller said. “I bring it back over to the white board, we work through the white board, then we work together in whole group, then we break it down into small group and then, hopefully, on your own. That’s the end goal,” she said.

The ‘white board’ is a large display at the front of the classroom on which examples can be projected and notations made by student or teacher.

“So that’s how I’m trying to reach these kids. I’ve seen a good success rate this year. I’m excited about it,” Keller said.

Student progress is carefully monitored and aligned toward success on the state-mandated California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress or CAASPP test; an assessment system for students in grades three through eight and grade 11.

Keller will also serve as cross country coach for the Needles High School team this year.

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