Hi-tech tools make classroom more interactive for students

Michelle Stuckey
December 02, 2009 at 10:38 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Hi-tech tools make classroom  more interactive for students
St. Charles Parish Public Schools are all about looking towards the future, especially where technology is concerned.

The school district is constantly striving to adapt to current technologies, according to Colleen Charles, director of Instructional Technologies for the district.

The newest technological additions to district schools are Promethean Interactive Whiteboards, which are interactive displays that enable anything that can be seen or done on a computer screen to be projected onto an interactive white board.

Teachers can use special tools to do things on the board, such as draw perfect shapes, show slideshows, or just write. Students can also interact with the board by using tools like the ActivVotes and ActivExpressions to send information to the display, similar to the way text messaging is done on a cell phone. 

“A teacher can give a question and a student can respond with the ActivVotes. The responses from all the students will appear on the board,” Charles said.

Heather Skiba, a 7th-grade teacher at J.B. Martin Middle School, said this technology helps teachers to see how well many of the students understand the material.

“The (Activ)Expressions are helpful because it tells me not only who has the right answer and who has the wrong answer, but when I see what the wrong answers are I can also figure out where they’re making their mistakes,” Skiba said.

Skiba is also the Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators’ Middle School Teacher of the Year for District One.

Charles said that the students have no trouble with the new boards or the equipment that comes with them.

“The kids pick it up so much quicker than (the teachers and staff) do,” Charles said. “The equipment is very simple. If you can text on a cell phone, and almost all students can, then you are able to answer the question.”

The district started using these boards in 2007 when one board was placed in each middle and high school.

In the spring of 2009, two boards were placed in each of the six upper elementary schools.

Whenever a board was placed in a classroom, the teacher was trained on how to design lessons using the technology.
In the summer of 2009, the district launched a new professional development model called “Educators at Work: Building 21st Century Classrooms.”

Two teachers from each school in the district attended.
“They learned how to incorporate newer technologies into the classroom such as webcams, iPods, and Promethean Boards,” Charles said. “Each teacher who attended received a webcam, four iPods and a Promethean Board for their classrooms.”
Currently, there are 80 Promethean boards in the St. Charles Parish public school system, with plans to add more.

Each board costs about $3,000 with a projector.

Charles said that the board and other technologies are funded in part by grants and local funds, such as the PTA, and in part by the School Board.

“The (school) board has dedicated additional funding this year to support the long-range strategic action plan for technology. They’ve given us quite a bit of funding,” Charles said. “This is just not part of our regular budget.”

Superintendent Rodney Lafon said that the school district plans on continuing to try to integrate technology into the school environment.

“Currently, technologies such as cell phones and iPods are prohibited in schools. When visiting other school districts, we often see these technologies being successfully used in classrooms to enhance the curriculum and engage students,” Lafon said. “As a district, we continue to explore different ways to use these technologies. In the future, policy may need to be reviewed and changed to best support the district’s core business of teaching and learning.”

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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