Auburn’s Placer is High-tech

Teacher says iPad program good way to learn, save paper
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Technology is booming at Placer High School in the form of Twitter, Google Apps, robotics and more. Teachers and students throughout the Placer Union High School District are using Google Applications. Students are assigned e-mail accounts with their schools and can then use their accounts to interact with several Google Applications, said Dan Wilson, technology coordinator at Placer High. “With their account they can upload documents, they can create Web pages, they can create forms,” Wilson said. “They can make customizable forms, which my journalism class has done to collect data or conduct polls. What is nice is they can convert different types of files so they can be viewed on different computers.” Wilson said the school hopes to take its use of the applications, known in the district as PUHSD Apps for Students, to the next level. “Ultimately the plan for next year is for students to start creating a digital portfolio using Google Docs, so students can take all their assignments, all their projects from all four years and keep that with them. They can hopefully use (that) for a future résumé to shoot to future employers, but that’s still in the early stages for us.” Wilson said students in his production classes are also learning Adobe Master Collection Creative Suite 5, which allows them to use Photoshop, InDesign and Flash software. Wilson’s journalism class uses WordPress to publish its online edition of the Hillmen Messenger newspaper. Several teachers on campus also use Twitter to communicate with their students, according to Gregg Ramseth, director of technology for the high school district. “I don’t currently use Twitter, but I’m going to,” Wilson said. “Seeing how some news agencies are using it to post updated information … I’m starting to realize it’s an extremely useful tool.” Placer High junior Sam Wolken, 18, said students can now register online, check their grades online and e-mail homework assignments to teachers. “I think it’s a good thing just because of the fact that the economy is so bad right now, and a lot of places are starting to go paperless now,” Wolken said. Junior Rashawn Baker, 17, said he is impressed with the Placer High math department’s SMART boards. “I think the technology’s awesome,” Baker said. “In math the projector goes on the whiteboard and they can write on the board with an electronic pen.” Ramseth said Wireless Internet is also available on some parts of the Placer High campus currently, and the district plans to build its strength in the future. Placer High teacher Jason Long said he is working to bring an iPad pilot program to the school. “I guess it was a year ago that I started to read about the iPad when they were first rolling out,” Long said. “One can tell right away this looks like the future for sure when you see the capabilities of this tablet. I thought this was kind of a no-brainer for education in general.” To bring a class set, or 42 iPads, to the school, the cost would be $20,000. Apple offers leasing and financing options, but Long said the district isn’t sure which option it would explore yet. “We haven’t discussed exactly which path we would take at the district, but one thing we are going to do is Apple does a third-party trade-in program where we can send in to them older computer systems,” Long said. “It’s pretty cool, so it’s a straight value trade-in for what you want. So, we’re going do it. I talked to my environmental studies kids and they are all over it. They’re looking at it as a pay-it-forward kind of thing.” Long said he and his class are planning to host a drop-off day March 26 at the school for people to donate their old Mac or PC computers to trade in for as many iPads as possible. Long said although he isn’t sure exactly what using the iPads in the classroom will be like yet, it will be a way to begin saving paper, including buying less textbooks, and a great way for students to learn. Tom Stargaard teaches Mechatronics at Placer High. “It’s modeled to feed into Sierra College’s Mechatronics program, so it’s kind of a pre-engineering class,” Stargaard said. The class is a combination of mechanics, electronics and computer programming, and gives students the beginning skills they need for a career in engineering, Stargaard said. In the Advanced Mechatronics class Friday, students were starting to work on solar tracker systems, which eventually lead to the creation of robotic arms, Stargaard said. Stargaard said these projects not only teach students how things work, but the hands-on work gives them the satisfaction of knowing they built something themselves. “In the end when you see that work it’s like, ‘Wow, I did that,’” Stargaard said. “You see smiles on people’s faces when it finally works in the end. You have stoic students who will smile when that thing is working.” Sophomore Lee Melbourne-Weaver, 16, said the class fits his future career goals. “It’s a lot of fun, especially the first year,” Melbourne-Weaver said. “It gives you a different understanding of how things work. It’s already come in handy to have this class, and know the whole program. I do want to go into engineering.” Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------ Technology at Placer High School For information on the March 26 computer drop-off call Jason Long at Placer High School at (530) 885-4581 ext. 5834 Placer High School Mechatronics Program Information: Call Tom Stargaard at (530) 745-5732 or e-mail Website: