Posted 10/28/09

When Anne Smith teaches language arts to students at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, it is definitely not your parents’ English class — not …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?

Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.


Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.

Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.



When Anne Smith teaches language arts to students at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, it is definitely not your parents’ English class — not even close.

Assign term papers? Yeah, she’ll do that, sort of. But in Smith’s classroom, that’s just the beginning.

“You could take that paper and turn it into its own Web site,” the teacher said. “You could add direct links to YouTube videos to illustrate examples or link to your sources.”

In an era of increasing environmental awareness, a term paper in Smith’s class does not even have to involve paper at all. It might be a Web movie or a term podcast that gets graded.

When Smith’s high-tech style inevitably raises eyebrows in the teachers’ lounge and elsewhere, she answers with rhetorical questions of her own.

“Kids are using this technology in their everyday lives — Why not use it in the classroom?” she asks. “Why do we ask kids to power down every time we come into a classroom? Why don’t we use these tools in meaningful ways?”

Smith’s computer-savvy classroom caught the eye of the national education community. She is one of two Littleton Public Schools teachers who were recently recognized as leaders in technology-based education.

She and Chris Moore of East Elementary School in Littleton were included on the “20 to Watch” list by the National Association of School Boards, which held its annual convention in Denver, Oct. 28-30.

As Smith, 35, accepts her recognition, the attention has caused her to reflect on the ways computers have changed education since her own college days in the mid-1990s.

“They had one computer lab and the school controlled your floppy disk,” she said, bemused by the memory. “You could only use it during class.”

Flash forward to 2009: Smith’s motto: “This is not education as usual.”

A case in point was her class’s reading of “Fahrenheit 451,” a Ray Bradbury novel that imagines a future world in which books are illegal and critical thought has been replaced by a kind of hedonism — and high technology.

“We’re doing something with the book called live blogging,” Smith said. “It allows the blog to automatically refresh so kids on the outer circle of this conversation are having a conversation online and the other kids are having a face-to-face conversation.”

Bradbury had described “Fahrenheit 451” as a cautionary allegory about society allowing technology — specifically television in 1951, when the book was published — to replace reading, literature and the quest for knowledge.

The irony of Bradbury’s social comment is not lost on Smith; the fiction of inner-ear devices reminded one student of her iPod — though the pointed novel about, in part, superficiality has not caused Smith to rethink her techno-teaching style.

“It’s awesome having a laptop classroom where kids are immersed in technology and they’re reading this novel about a dystopian society that’s become overrun by technology,” she said.

Still, Smith does recognize the immense responsibility of a teacher who encourages her students to use an instantaneous worldwide communication system — one in which rumors spread as quickly a book bonfire at 451 degrees and anyone can establish an “expert” Web site.

“You have to be willing to teach kids how to discern what is valid information,” Smith said. “What do we need to figure out about this author? How are we going to fact check? It’s not all about content. It’s about a life-learning skill.”

That is one of the reasons that, despite ever-increasing technology, teachers will never be replaced by androids, according to Smith’s best prediction.

Still, the teacher says, it is high time for educators to rethink their role as the revered knowledge giver holding court in front of a waiting classroom.

“The teacher is more the facilitator of learning than the end-all, be-all of learning,” Smith said. “Kids have so much to say. Why not let them be in charge? We’re not here to teach English. We’re not here to teach science. We’re here to teach kids.”


Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.