Monday, July 30, 2007



(JAY KARR/McClatchy-Trinbune)

Fifth-grader Paula Lusena touches her science lab Smart Board, an electronic blackboard that allows students and teachers to project and manipulate graphic displays by touching and moving items around.

Detroit Free Press

High-tech teaching

Smart Boards engage students weaned on the Internet

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- At the start of each school day, Bluffton Elementary science teacher Tara Crewe fires up her laptop and video projector and beams the day's agenda onto a big-screen version of a 21st-Century blackboard.

What happens next is mind-boggling. Using a new interactive electronic white board, Crewe taps a yellow sun on the screen, and a quiz appears.

When a student answers a question, Crewe swipes a dry eraser over a blank line on the screen, revealing the correct answer almost magically.

Welcome to the future of teaching.

As schools across the country try to find ways to reach tech-savvy children in the video-game and Internet-saturated Information Age, these new interactive Smart Boards have emerged as a tool for teachers to engage students.

"It's turned learning in the classroom into the interactivity and entertainment kids are used to at home," Crewe said. Using Smart Boards "has made me a better teacher and made the kids more motivated learners."

Most of Crewe's instruction time is spent in front of the Internet-connected touch-screen board, which is linked to her laptop computer.

It allows her to link to educational videos, Web sites, slide-show presentations and blank screens -- like traditional white boards -- that she can draw on, save and print.

She often invites students to come to the front of the class and reveal answers with a simple swipe of the hand.

This kind of hands-on involvement with each lesson is especially beneficial to students with learning disabilities, those who have a hard time staying focused and children who learn more efficiently through interaction.

Crewe, one of the first teachers in her area to use the technology, started teaching with the Smart Board in January, when Bluffton Elementary installed them in six classrooms. Twenty-four teachers there now use the boards.

In the next several weeks, the district will roll out 48 more boards to schools throughout the county. To buy the equipment, Bluffton Elementary used a combination of district money and federal Title 1 funds, said Principal Kathleen Corley.

Each board costs about $1,500. The total per classroom with installation is around $3,800, according to the school district.

The benefits of the technology far outweigh the costs, said Crewe, who added she'd pay money out of her own pocket if the boards weren't provided by the district.

In classrooms with Smart Boards, homework completion rates are up as much as 60%, Corley said.

"You can demand, you can beg them, you can punish them, you can reward them," she said. "But the biggest thing is motivating them. And that's what these boards do. They help engage students in active learning."

Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.

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