August 5, 2008

Chalk Boards Go High Tech

By Anna Kurth, The Daily Telegram, Superior, Wis.

Aug. 5--Five Superior classrooms are turning high-tech this fall when teachers will roll out new interactive white boards in place of their blackboards.

The boards are a combination computer and projector that allow a teacher to develop lessons and show them on the screen.

The computer contains software that allows a teacher to create a lesson combining documents, video, Internet links and regular blackboard uses of the board, said Sam Jones, director of information technology.

"It's really software (that) allows teachers to create a digital classroom," he said. "And today's kids were born into the digital world, so they're very adept at using computers and technology in their day-to-day lives and this allows us to transfer the classroom into the digital arena."

Superior school district purchased six of the $4,000 Promethean interactive boards for schools throughout the district. They were purchased with technology funds leftover from the 2007-2008 school year.

The information technology department collected proposals from teachers for technology-in-the-classroom projects this spring, Jones said.

"Every one of the proposals were for interactive white boards," he said.

The boards are being piloted in five schools. The classes using the boards will be monitored during the next three years to see if the students are improving as a result of having the boards in their classrooms, Jones said.

Four Corners fifth grade teacher Deb Ganz-Brown requested one of the board's for her class.

"I'm so visual. I teach with my overhead all day long," she said.

The interactive board will make a difference. There are many times when teachers realize their teaching would be enhanced by having their students research a topic or photo on the Internet but are unable to get to their classes to the computer lab, Ganz-Brown said.

With the white boards, teachers are able to bookmark Web sites, install video clips and link to Word documents to demonstrate what they're teaching, she said.

"You can take kids into the computer lab, but it's very limited," she said. "This is all right there."

The boards help visual learners because they are able to see images of what they're learning, she said.

A teacher doing a lesson on Lake Superior could have links to pictures of the lake, information about exotic species and examples of the pH scale, she said.

The ability to show the same images on an overhead are limited, she said.

A few of the elementary school parent teacher associations have pitched-in to purchase additional interactive remotes for the boards at their schools.

The remotes allow students to answer questions a teacher puts into the white board system from their desks. The remote student response systems cost an extra $2,000-$3,000 per classroom and the district could not purchase them, Jones said.

The remotes will allow teachers to assess immediately how students understood a concept, Ganz-Brown said.

Her classroom will have the student response system, which she said will improve her teaching.

Instead of going home and grading quizzes to see that the majority of her students missed a concept the day before, she can get the answers back instantly using the board's software and change her teaching style immediately.

The student response systems allow for every student to get involved when teachers put questions to their class, Ganz-Brown said.

"The ability for everyone to have a voice even if you're really shy is really powerful," she said. "I think it's just going to transform how we teach."

The boards have been installed at Cooper, Four Corners and Great Lakes elementary schools, Superior Middle School, Superior High School and the district office. Teachers gathered at the district office Thursday for training with the software.

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail [email protected]


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