Class project leans heavily on technology

One Laguna Beach High School senior's economics class project not only fulfilled a requirement, it also exemplified what brain power combined with technology can accomplish.

Student Jack Winter had the idea to turn an economics assignment into a digital magazine using the articles, photos and graphics produced by his classmates. The magazine would be titled World Economist and it would be readable on an iPad. However, Winter has no plans to publish it on the Internet.

His project was also an example of how technology has become a hot topic for Laguna Beach Unified School District staff, and faculty and community members are noticing.

Representatives from SchoolPower, the district's main fundraising organization, pledged $150,000 to upgrade wireless connections at all four district schools, they announced at the May 28 school board meeting.

District staff met with publishers earlier this week about possibly using digital textbooks in high school history classes, said Victor Guthrie, the district's chief technology officer.

Staff also met with Apple executives about ways to incorporate iPads into classrooms, Supt. Sherine Smith said during the school board meeting.

For the economics project, 29 students, including Winter, in Mark Alvarez's class divided into teams to create content for the magazine.

Winter and Reece Barton edited it. Winter handled layout and design and Barton focused on editing.

Winter presented the finished product May 14 at the school board meeting.

The "proof of concept," as Winter called the magazine, included articles on inflation, poverty and unemployment.

This is the first year Alvarez gave editors freedom to create a digital product. In the past each student contributed $1 to create a bound magazine, Alvarez said.

"The best stuff comes when I give up control," Alvarez said.

Winter said he took inspiration from Popular Mechanics and Wired — magazines he used to read in hard copy but now browses online.

I wanted to make the magazine as user-friendly and fun to read as possible," said Winter, who will study film at Chapman University next fall.

Students had three weeks to complete the project. They divided into seven groups (Winter and Barton formed one group). Each group was required to submit one article and one original photo.

Winter worked at home on his Mac Book Pro and used Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and an application called Mag+ to create the magazine, alleviating the need for much nitty-gritty coding.

"It took me a good couple hours to figure out how to make it work," Winter said. "This is the first time I've ever made something using an iPad app."

Winter hopes the project revealed the iPad's capabilities as an effective learning tool.

"It showed the board this can be done today," Winter said.

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