Look mom, no more chalk! Tech arrives

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 9, 2001

Teachers may soon say goodbye to the blackboards of earlier year. The smartboard has arrived.

The smartboard, an interactive whiteboard that acts as a computer screen, has been installed at a computer lab at Trinity Episcopal Day School. It is the only board of its kind in Natchez.

&uot;I’ve waited all my life for this,&uot; said Claudia Stephens, computer teacher and information technology director at the school.

Stephens says the smartboard has invigorated instruction and, with the help of new computers, has increased an interest in learning among her students.

Students love to be around the computers, often coming by even when they do not have classes in the lab, Stephens said.

&uot;It’s just fun to be able to come to a place where everybody’s excited about learning,&uot; she said.

Trinity Episcopal Day School revamped its high school computer lab prior to the spring semester to include the smartboard, new computers and a networking system.

&uot;The kids are so attentive and so eager to learn and when the bell rings they don’t want to leave,&uot; Stephens said.

Students also say the changes are a big improvement over last semester’s lab.

&uot;Last year, oh, we couldn’t get on anything,&uot; said Marlana Godfrey, a ninth-grader, referring to the computer equipment being used for larger classes.

&uot;It was slow and you had to share printers,&uot; said Sam Kirby, a ninth-grader. &uot;And with these it’s a lot faster.&uot;

Kirby has also been impressed with the smartboard. &uot;I want one in my house,&uot; he said.

Scott Sternberg, an 11th-grader, thinks the smartboard is bringing the lab to a new level.

&uot;If I had to pick, I’d say this is the most (technologically) advanced computer lab in the state,&uot; Sternberg said. &uot;Just the smartboard propels it over anything else.&uot;

The smartboard aids in instruction because it is networked with the teacher’s computer, Sternberg said.

Students can watch what Stephens is doing on her computer on the smartboard as opposed to having to all gather around a small monitor, Sternberg said.

When the smartboard is in use, a person’s hand serves as the mouse for the screen.

&uot;There’s just so much flexibility in what you can do,&uot; Stephens said.

Teachers can write on the smartboards with special laser pens that can be easily erased.

But instead of losing the information as when a blackboard or whiteboard is erased, the information on the smartboard can be saved on the computer or transmitted to the screens of all the student computers in the lab.

&uot;It’s so much (better) than the teacher writing on the (black) board,&uot; said Katie Merritt, a ninth-grader.

The smartboard is quicker and it saves time, the students said. And if students are not paying attention in class, Stephens said she could use the school’s new software to lock up all the student computers at one time.

&uot;Then everybody’s locked up and they have to listen so it’s been really great,&uot; Stephens said.

The students hate that but it is a wonderful option to have, she said.

The teacher can also project the student computer screens onto the smartboard if she wants to show the work of one student to the entire class, thus integrating the instruction.

It brings the whole classroom to life,&uot; Stephens said.

Members of the Trinity Episcopal Day’s School’s computer technology committee did a survey last year and at the time only two schools in the state said they had a smartboard at that time, Stephens said.

But the committee members decided they had to have one for their high school.

&uot;They could just see this being a revolutionary piece of equipment in getting our children up to snuff and ready for college,&uot; Stephen said.

In addition to using it in computer classes, the school also wants it use it for other classes such as teaching virtual dissection for biology class. The new equipment, which was purchased through grant funds and local sources, also included four new computers for the library and two for the teachers lounge.

The school also has already wired its entire building for networking purposes and it has a plan in place to expand its technology further in the future.

It also hopes eventually to open the lab for community events and use the smartboard to play digital versatile discs (DVD), Stephens said.

Sternberg and several other students have assisted Stephens and other volunteers setting up and troubleshooting the lab.

&uot;It took us a while to get it to work,&uot; he said. &uot;Now that we’ve got everything perfect it runs like a well-oiled machine. Before it was a bunch of computers. Now it’s one network.&uot;

Trinity Episcopal Day School plans to dedicate the lab to the memory of its former librarian, Evelyn Junkin.

It will hold a dedication service May 11.