Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts

Utah school welcoming smartphones to art class

Instructor wants students to learn the opportunities, challenges of technology.

First Published May 26 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated May 27 2014 01:14 pm

Woods Cross • Yearbook students sit in front of computers, their drinks and snacks at hand. They glance at their smartphones as they work, occasionally taking a break to check Pinterest or text.

It’s up to them to track their work hours and make sure they complete projects. Woods Cross High School teacher Shon Feller doesn’t stand over them and nag.

At a glance

Innovators profiled in documentary, airing Thursday

Five Utah teachers have been selected for KUED-The Salt Lake Tribune Teacher Innovation Awards, which celebrate their creative use of technology in classrooms.

The awards were given in the categories of arts, math, language arts, science and social studies.

The winners will be profiled in a continuing Tribune series this week and in a half-hour documentary airing Thursday at 7 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"At the beginning of my career, I used to take away a lot of cellphones just because that’s what we did as teachers," said Feller, 30. "Then I started to realize they were a powerful tool they could easily look up an image on or look up a fact, so I said, ‘You know? I don’t want to do that. I’d rather teach them how to use them appropriately than take them away.’ "

Feller’s attitude toward technology and his ability to teach kids how to use it are part of what won him one of five KUED-The Salt Lake Tribune Teacher Innovation Awards this year. At a time when many educators are still learning how to incorporate new technologies into their classrooms, Feller has been a leader.

Like Feller, teachers across the state are progressing past the idea of forbidding student handheld devices and other personal technologies, said Rick Gaisford, educational-technology specialist at the Utah Office of Education.

"Once we get past the idea of banning them," Gaisford said, "it’s how do we embrace them and use them educationally?"

Plus, being allowed to use their devices can often make students feel more at ease.

"It helps with the learning process," said senior Hailey Call. "Technology is not going away, and we need to know how to use it for learning purposes instead of just for fun."

Feller, of course, didn’t win the $500 award just for letting kids use their smartphones in class. He also teaches students how to use various design programs as part of his photography, commercial art, 3-D design and other classes.

He allowed his beginning photography students, for the first time this year, to take pictures exclusively with their phones. For many students, the highest-quality cameras they own are on their phones, he reasoned.

story continues below
story continues below

And his commercial art students use the video-creating and -sharing app Vine to create 6-second videos.

"Just like when you’re working with a client, you have a set of constraints you’re working with," Feller said of Vine’s 6-second limit. "It’s more real world to work with constraints."

And he has helped the school, as a whole, move forward with technology. He helped organize efforts to raise money for the school’s electronic marquee near Interstate 15, helped design the school’s new logo, and converted its newspaper to a website.

On a recent school day, he worked with several students designing electronic posters. Why use cardboard, they wondered, when they could use the televisions throughout the school?

"It grabs more people’s attention," said senior Taylor Willis. "I don’t read or notice the posters often, but if I see them moving or changing, [I do]."

"He just comes up with ordinary things," added senior Brady Stahle, "and makes them amazing."

Psychology teacher Annette Nielsen, who nominated Feller for the award, said Feller has done much to bring the school up-to-date.

"If we don’t keep up as a faculty and don’t have leaders who can teach us to do these things," Nielsen said, " ... kids won’t want to take our classes, and they’ll fall behind."

Feller knows some teachers are intimidated by technology. He said for many teachers, it’s just a matter of not being familiar with it.

But not everyone grew up with a dad who, like him, was into computers. Feller has always loved gadgets and has four computers at home. He even named one of his four children Mac, after the Apple computer ("I tried to fight for Pixar as a middle name," he said, "but my wife wouldn’t go for it.")

Last year, he taught a technology class for educators at Brigham Young University.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.