New technology gets students out of seats and to the board

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vidalia — Lots of “me, me, me” could be heard in Sara Atkins first grade class at Vidalia Lower Elementary Friday afternoon.

Every student waved his hand it the air hoping to be the one picked to do the math measurement exercise Atkins was teaching.

That’s because, Atkins said, every student is eager to see their classwork larger than life.

The latest classroom technology, smartboards and Elmo projectors, make that, and much more, possible, Atkins said.

“Having the same information presented on the screen makes them more eager to participate, to learn,” she said. “They want to touch it, write on it.”

Smartboards and similar technology are catching on across the nation as the newest and greatest teaching aid because they allow students to interact with the lesson, teacher and other students to learn a concept.

Workbooks, readers, games and other activities are online and fully compatible with the technology.

“Before (the smartboards) we had to stand in front of the class and hold tiny cubes or paper clips when doing this same activity,” Atkins said of measuring items with non-standard measuring devices. “Now it is huge to them and everyone can see the activity and focus on it better.”

In the second-grade classroom of Liz Walker the smartboard has replaced the need for her dry erase boards. Now they are covered like brightly colored bulletin boards. This school year is Walker’s first complete year with the smartboard.

“Before the smartboard, I spent a lot of teaching time stationary at the board,” she said. “Now with everything on the computer and on the screen I’m up and around with the students more.

“It is 100 times better for the students because they are more actively engaged in learning.”

Walker said the implementation of new technology in the classroom is necessary to keep up with the technologically savvy children that are coming to school each day. She said, in her opinion, the smartboards replace chalk board and desk work.

“We are competing with computer and video game graphics that these students use outside of school,” Walker said. “We can use this in every subject and they love it. It keeps their attention and keeps them wanting to learn.

“Mine comes on before 8 in the morning and doesn’t go off until after 3 in the afternoon.”

Khira Yates, 7, said her favorite things about the smartboard and Elmo projector in her teacher Amanda Wilson’s room is the calendar math and the spelling magnets, especially spelling her favorite word — earth.

“I like that we can do stuff with it,” she said. “I like spelling words with the magnets.”

The calendar math teaches skills like days of the week, counting school days and shapes. She said she also likes the piggy bank activity that adds money to the bank for everyday of the school year.

“Now we have 154 cents,” she said. “That is $1.54.”

Wilson said teaching with the smartboard and Elmo has opened up new ways to reach students.

“It allows for sensory learning, especially for students who have special needs,” she said. “It allows for manipulation and interaction that we didn’t have before the smartboard.

Wilson said the new technology also allows teachers to store lessons and activities from year-to-year and share with other teachers.

And now, after using them for three school years, she can’t imagine teaching without it.

“I had to, for two weeks, when the bulb in my projector went out,” she said. “The first day, I walked into the classroom and thought ‘what do I do?’ I had to go back to other methods of teaching. We did that and did fine, but that sort of illustrates how important the technology is to the classroom.”