By Starrla Cray
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Remember the “old days,” when teachers used blackboards and chalk?
Not long ago, the thought of using an interactive whiteboard to write equations, show Internet video clips, or electronically save lesson plans was far-off future technology.
Within the past few years, however, the multi-functional devices have become commonplace in many local school districts.
“Every traditional classroom has one, and that’s pretty much district wide,” Dassel-Cokato Schools media specialist Paul Beckermann said.
An interactive whiteboard is a large display that connects to a computer and a projector, providing a way to show students anything that can be presented on a computer’s desktop, such as websites and educational software. In addition, lessons can be saved and posted online for review at a later time.
There are many brands of interactive whiteboard technology, but many area districts prefer SMART boards.
Teachers at Dassel-Cokato Schools often install the SMART software on their home computers, so that they can prepare lessons in advance.
“It’s kind of amazing, because when you’re used to having one, you feel lost without it,” Beckermann said.
Much of the value of SMART boards is in the increased level of student participation, according to Beckermann.
“There’s such a wealth of opportunities and possibilities out there,” he said. “The more students can interact with the learning, the better.”
According to an article from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, research has shown that interactive whiteboards have the potential to increase student learning if used effectively.
One feature that was found to be helpful was a handheld “learner-response device,” in which each student enters their response to questions. The percentage of students providing the correct answer is then immediately displayed on the board in a bar graph or pie chart.
Graphics and other visual aids, such as YouTube video clips or Google Earth images, also provided a gain in student achievement, according to the study.
The third feature highlighted was “reinforcing” applications, which include dragging and dropping correct answers into specific locations, acknowledging correct answers with virtual applause, and uncovering information hidden under objects.
Dassel-Cokato Schools started implementing SMART boards about three years ago.
“This is pretty much our last year of phasing them in,” Beckermann said. “A lot of it started in the math and sciences. It’s now moved throughout all subject areas.”
Money to pay for the boards has come from “wherever we can scrape up the funds,” Beckermann said.
“It wouldn’t be possible without the local levy passed a few years ago,” he added, explaining that the community, school board, and teachers expressed their interest in having money go toward interactive whiteboards.
“Students live in a world of technology, and as educators, it’s important to stay plugged into that and meet them where they live,” Beckermann said.
Now that the boards are in place, the next step is training staff to fully utilize the technology. According to Beckermann, the basics can be learned in about half an hour, but extensive training is needed for advanced uses.
To learn more about SMART technology, go to www.smarttech.com.