George Lucas Educational Foundation

Tech in Real Life: Students See Devices as Tools, Not Toys

Classes at Clearfield High School, in Clearfield, Utah, apply computers and diagnostic equipment across the curriculum to engage in authentic learning.
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Bonnie: So here we are, right here at Clearfield High School, and you look at these pollution plumes, a lot of you guys live in this area right here. You could possibly have the pollution plumes underneath your homes.

Narrator: Chemistry and biology students at Clearfield High School are personally involved in their studies, because they impact the health of their community.

Anthony: And there's actually some areas that are contaminated so bad, that the fumes rise up into the basements of people's houses, and so they get these TCE fumes in their house, and that can lead to cancer and other serious illnesses.

Narrator: The source of the pollution is nearby Hill Air Force Base, on the outskirts of Salt Lake City.

Man: We overhaul C-130s, that's the big planes behind you, if you don't know what they are.

Narrator: It is the largest employer in the state of Utah, but it also generates about four million pounds of hazardous waste each year.

Man: This looks like it's a perfectly separate liquid here, but this water up here still contains trichloroethylene compounds that far exceed the levels that we have to clean up to.

Bonnie: How do you track the disposal and make sure they didn't disappear from the facility?

Narrator: Students in Bonnie Bourgeous' class have been studying the situation and monitoring the pollution since 2006.

Bonnie: Actually getting to go out and collect the data in the field, and getting to see some of the sites that we were able to visit on our field trip, it just makes it so that they understand that, you know, if you affect one thing, that you do have consequences for what you do. And they get to see man's impact on the environment.

Man: By this stage, most of the metals should have been removed. The only thing that's left at this stage will be the volatile organic compounds that--

Narrator: Students follow the trail of the toxic waste from the base through various stages of purification, to a canal at the local water treatment plant.

Student: We are measuring the turbidity of the water, which basically means, how clear it is, and how many different kinds of particles are in the water.

Narrator: There, they work in teams to gauge the water quality.

Student: I'm kicking up the dirt, and then Chandler is catching everything I kick up, so that we can identify it.

Whitney: We were testing the water for nitrogen, oxygen, the Ph, the temperature, the light source.

So go into the experiment.

Our group used the computer the most.

Narrator: The tablet computers came from a technology grant that included probes and software.

Student: It leveled out.

Student: Trevor, I'm going to tell you to take it out in about 20 seconds, so wait until I tell you to take it out.

Massiell: What the computer allows us to do, isn't it gain up to hundreds of readings within seconds, or even a tenth of a second, rather than the Ph strip, where you can just put it in the water and have one reading. So that-- the computer is really convenient for that.

Student: That's the Ph?

Bonnie: They're able to see immediately what the data is, and then you can do the statistical analysis, and determine whether the lab results are good or not, and what they need to change. And they can see and compare two data, right next to each other. And so it makes it real life.

Student: How far down?

Student: Just barely in.

Student: The percentage of error will be less with the technology, and that helps with our calculations that we'll do in our presentations that we make, the reports that we write.

Bonnie: Remember, so there's a lot of things you're being graded on. So we've done the planning, and we've done the action. Now we need to do the follow up.

Narrator: Once students complete their research, and analyze the data, they write reports that are sent to both Hill Air Force Base, and the International Baccalaureate Program, which awards them college credit for their work.

Bonnie: And I teach the same subjects on A day and B day, and so on A day, I did without the technology, B day, I did it with the technology. And so I taught exactly the same stuff, but their understanding and the concepts went up by about 20 percent when they were taught with the technology.

Narrator: For Bourgeous, the portable computer and projector were particularly handy when she had to hold her class in the school cafeteria while her science lab was remodeled.

Bonnie: I wouldn't have been able to survive without the projector and the laptop. The new definition of portable classroom was on my back, I'd carry my laptop and my backpack and with the projector being small, it made it so I could get from classroom to classroom, and be able to have that information for the students.

Teacher: Hey, what are some potential problems, and some solutions for creating a debate website?

John: Technology is a great enhancing tool to what the students get in a classroom. Our students can gain more than they ever used to, because there's more information available, not only because it's accessible to them, but it's more interesting to them.

Student: The Zhou people conquered the Shang people--

Narrator: In teacher, Paulette Hopfenbeck's World History class, students experience a wider world with the improved access to technology.

Paulette: One of my classes, I took on a virtual field trip of a World War I trench. And by showing them that, all of a sudden, it became more real to them. They looked at that and said, I cannot imagine living in that for a couple of years in a war. I couldn't have done that another way.

Does war impact environment? How so?

So personally, the technology it's been wonderful, and I know the other teachers in the building are very excited about integrating it, and it makes it possible for us to do more cross-curricular things, because we have similar equipment, and we're using it.

Think about the silk road, because it reaches all the way to Europe. Is that another environmental impact?

Bonnie: It's been incredible to watch the students involvement, and their interest levels increase, as they get to do-- it's like toys to them, but they think they're toys at first, but then they realize that these really are tools, and they do enhance our learning and understanding, and it makes it become real life, rather than doing 30, 60, 90 triangles for trig. I mean, you know, that gets really boring, and so that technology can bring this alive for the students.

Student: Whitney, can you type in Ph Sewer One?

Narrator: For more information about, What Works in Public Education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Karena O’Riordan

Executive Producer:

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producer:

  • Loren Micalizio


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Rob Weller
  • Gerald Hartley


  • Michael Pritchard

Original Music:

  • Ed Bogas

Comments (10) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Carbon14's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is really cool to see run down old Clearfield high school getting some technology.

When I went there, we had cardboard up in the windows during the winter because there was no glass.

LeNina Wimmer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This grant has been a great experience for Clearfield High. CHS is an older building but the students and faculty are superior and if equipped with the right tools can achieve amazing results. All three teachers highlighted in this clip are dedicated, hard-working and exceptional teachers who are using technology to continue to improve what they all ready do--and that is to be great teachers!!

Patricia Ortega's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is wonderful! Kudos to Bonnie Bourgeous for getting this kind of technology into her classroom so her students can have a more authentic learning experience!

batool's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

i like new ways of teachin because i beleaf that teacing does not mean classes at all, we can learn from any thing, anyone. ....

Nathan Wright's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great video. This is how all biology should be taught (scientific instruments, hands-on, in the field)

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think that the technology given has granted students with the chance to educate their peers. They are able to make slide shows to present to the class. Clearfield is an amazing school something that most people do not see.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Mrs. Bourgeous was my teacher last year and we learned a little about this. We never went on a field trip though. But i think its awesome that these guys get to see what is going on instead of just hearing about it.

James and Steve's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Among the tools used the data projector on the whiteboard could be improved. The multi-tasking sensor provided a plethora of data quickly.

yazid's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This video is great but the students seems bored

Summylin Burton's picture

I really enjoyed this viedo, teachers going outside the box. Taking students outside the classroom using tablet computers, obtained from a grant is an experience these students will never forget. These teachers are outstanding especially the teacher who uses a portable computer in the cafeteria to teach her students. This is leadership in the classroom.

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