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'Smart' technology enhances learning

September 03, 2008
Imagine walking up to a white screen with the images from a nearby computer pasted on it and being able to not only view that information but, with the press of a hand or marker, interact with it. That would be some seriously smart technology, right?

Well, students in teacher Ryan Haas' class at English Elementary School don't have to imagine. They can do it every day.

A sixth-grader at English Elementary School marks the correct answer on the new SMART Board during a review of a recent test. (Photo by Chris Adams)
Haas' classroom, which includes fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, became the first in Crawford County's five elementary schools to receive the interactive white board, called a SMART Board. Now, through the aid of a projector hanging from the ceiling and software, he's not only able to relay the images from a computer on his desk to the 72-inch white board, he's able to have students' do activities on the board.

Those activities may include reviewing a test, where students take turns marking responses on the board, with a message on the board indicating to them if they are correct; watching video from the History Channel's Web site about how the wheel was invented in Mesopotamia; or dissecting a frog just like in real life, only on the screen using a virtual frog.

"Anything you can do on a computer you can do on there, and you can even do more because you can write your programs," Haas said.

His classroom became the first in Crawford County's elementary schools (SMART Boards have been ordered for the English classrooms at Crawford County High School) "because I asked for it," Haas joked.

EES Principal Debbie Ade last year asked Haas, who was teaching first grade at the time with plans on switching classrooms, if he needed anything. Haas, who had some experience with the boards when he taught in Kentucky, answered he would like a SMART Board.

"I just jokingly said I'd like to have a SMART Board," he said.

However, Ade took him seriously and after the two visited a school in Louisville to see the boards in action, she committed part of EES's Capital Project Fund dollars toward purchasing one of the interactive boards, with the school corporation providing the balance with its CPF monies.

Dr. Mark Eastridge, corporation superintendent, said the board coast $3,627, with $860 of that being for installation. Having seen Haas and his students use the board, Eastridge said it was a wise purchase.

"I'm really glad that we have it and glad we have Ryan, who is knowledgeable about it," he said.

Haas said some teachers use the SMART Board as a primary teaching device, but he chooses to use as more of a secondary one.

"I use it to accompany my lessons," he said.

By "intertwining" the SMART Board into his teaching, Haas said he is able to grab his students' attention before going through the traditional book material.

Ade said the technology is impressive, and she can easily understand how it would help students learn.

"My sense is that if I was in the classroom, I would want one of these," Ade said, adding she is hopeful the school can find ways, including fundraising campaigns, to purchase more of the boards.

"If I had my choice, I'd have them all the way through the building," she said.

Eastridge said he believes that the corporation's technology crew, having watched the English installation, will be able to install future SMART Boards themselves, saving the corporation the labor costs.

The corporation, Eastridge added, has done quite a bit to improve its technology in the past few years. Whereas the corporation had about 100 to 150 computers with Internet access three or four years ago, it now has 700, including several recently purchased with grant funding for the English classes at the high school.

"The stuff that we're doing is all adding," he said.

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