Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona technology and innovation, a Phoenix teacher recently honored nationally as one of digital innovators by PBS. The teachers are recognized for using technology in their classrooms in ground-breaking ways. Prodcer Shauna Fischer and Juan Magana introduce us to first grade teacher Karen Mensing and her pint-sized programmers.
Shauna Fischer: What looks like a typical classroom is anything but.
Hey, I'm Charlie, and I'm -- and today we're going to work on MIT calculator app.
Shauna Fischer: The first and second graders in Karen Mensing's classroom embrace technology in a way that is astounding.
Karen Mensing: We have been working on coding all year, using scratch and tinker and app inventor and the kids love it.
Shauna Fischer: Today the kids are creating a calculator app with a little help from student tutors at Paradise Valley High School.
Karen Mensing: The kids are very, very natural with technology which is fantastic and I say the younger ones -- they're a clean slate. Put something in front of them and they catch on very quickly. Many times I'll introduce something new, and a student in the class has mastered it quicker than I have. And that's great. I tell them great. Now you can show us. You can show me.
Shauna Fischer: Ms. Mensing uses technology every day in her classroom. Fireside elementary, is a 21st Century school, which means technology is incorporated into every lesson.
Shannon Sherwood: It's common to walk in classrooms and in kindergarten, up until the 6th grade classrooms, there will be students that are in groups working on their projects based through the iPads, through chrome books, a lot of Google apps.
Sareena Gupta: It's awesome, because you get to like explore different sites and not -- it's not like math, because it's boring, you just have to do it on a sheet of paper. But in technology, there is like these math sites that are games but they're actually -- you're actually learning math.
Shauna Fischer: Sometimes the technology is the lesson as in the case of the calculator app. And sometimes Ms. Mensing incorporates technology into the lesson. Here the students are reviewing a lesson on 5 de Mayo by using Google forms to create a questionnaire about the holiday. Assistant principal says given the world we live in, it is important they are introduced to technology at a young age.
Karen Mensing: So it’s really important that we start them in 1st, start them in kindergarten, foundations to take upon and grow further. Time to graduate high school and into college, move into the work force, they're well equipped.
Shannon Sherwood: Right now it is 2014. This is the world we live in. There is technology everywhere. Every adult I know has a smartphone in their pocket at all times, meaning they have a computer in their pocket at all times. They can take a picture, video, Google something, send an email, any of that at a moment's notice. That's where we are. If I teach the kids like it is the 80s, I'm doing them a disservice. That's not the time it is now. I need to teach them how the world is right now.
Shauna Fischer: With access to all kinds of devices, it does seem intimidating, but the student are enthusiastic. Not only have they created apps, but they also have made games and art programs.
Sareena Gupta: Usually it's pretty easy, once you get the hang of it. Like for the first time when I like open the computer last year, I was like what do I do? What do I do? But once you like learn and your teacher explains it to you, you kind of get the hang of like how do you go to this site and what do you do and it's just easier once you practice.
Shauna Fischer: And that practice leads to success. And an outpouring of gratitude for a teacher who believes in her students unconditionally.
Karen Mensing: If I could clone and make million -- absolutely, I would put a Karen in every classroom.
Bethannie Woodard: She is a great teacher. She -- she teaches us a lot of technology things, and she is the greatest teacher I could ever have.
Ted Simons: Karen Mensing is also a Google certified teacher and travels around the country instructing other educators on Google's educational programs.