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Posted: November 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Teacher Profile - Della Kirkpatrick

Teacher develops learning Web site for students at home, in classroom

By Carrie Huenke/

Shining bright: Della Kirkpatrick teaches fourth grade at Livingston Elementary School.

 Della Kirkpatrick's fourth grade students at Livingston Elementary literally have an entire curriculum at their fingertips.
 Kirkpatrick, along with the help of fellow fourth grade teachers, recently put together an educational Web site for the fourth grade students at Livingston. The site is referred to as eLearn and is used to differentiate instruction - especially in math and reading - in order to help accommodate students' academic/learning levels. Students can log on either at home or at school and gain immediate access to their text books. They can also play learning games, watch educational videos related to their studies and practice the skills and concepts they are learning in class.
 Parents can use the site to obtain their children's grades and for monitoring their educational progress. Homework assignments and spelling word lists are updated on the Web page, and the site also contains links to educators' e-mail addresses so that parents can more effectively communicate with them.
 "I am really excited about our eLearn site," Kirkpatrick said. "There are so many possibilities with it."
 Kirkpatrick spearheaded the process of putting together the fourth-grade site after attending a 40-hour computer training course at Alcovy High School last summer. Kirkpatrick said the Newton County BOE offered the program to the school system's teachers in an effort to encourage Internet learning sites as part of curriculum.
 "The purpose is to keep students engaged in what is going on in class," she explained. "The Web site also provides the students with a safe environment in which they can explore classroom resources we teachers find on the Internet and post to the site."
 Recently, Kirkpatrick's class used social studies information on the site to research American Indians for social studies reports. The kids were able to do their own research, and Kirkpatrick said she didn't have to worry about them pulling up anything inappropriate since she had already screened the material. Her students have also used the site for researching six explorers covered in social studies this year, and they've benefited from watching the site's embedded videos that other students in other states created on some of the explorers.
 "The kids can see that kids everywhere are learning about the same things," she said. "We're all connected."
 Recently, Kirkpatrick attended an advanced eLearn class where she learned how to post assignments, quizzes and journal prompts to the site.
  "I can't wait to start using those features of the site regularly," she said.
 Kirkpatrick said she recognizes her students are living in a digital age and that having an opportunity to familiarize them with computer technology is important. However, since not everyone owns a computer, she does not require her students to use the Internet at home. She said that out of the 23 students in her class, over half of them actually use the site outside of school.
 "And some of the kids who do not have computers at home have gone to the public library to access the site," she added. "Their parents took them to the library and that is great."
 Kirkpatrick grew up in Gibson. She graduated from Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville in 1993 and then obtained her master's degree in 1997. She is certified to teach both early childhood and middle grades. She said she adores teaching fourth grade students and enjoys getting them prepared for more rigorous fifth grade and middle school curriculums.
 "They're so much fun at this age," she said. "They're becoming great thinkers."
 Prior to obtaining her position at Livingston five years ago, Kirkpatrick taught school in Gibson.
 For the past two years, she has represented Livingston's fourth grade teachers as grade-level chairperson on the school's leadership team.
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