By Glenn Collins
First in a Series
Monday, April 5, 2010 | 11:04 AM
Have you been in your children’s classrooms lately? Well, you may not recognize them as classrooms. These days, classrooms resemble more the bridge on the Starship Enterprise than the classrooms we remember from our youth. The chalk board has become the smart board.
Cindy Taylor’s 6th Grade Math Class: fractions!, lowest common denominator! (Yeah, I’m having flashbacks, too). 1/2 plus 2/3 equals …. The equation is on the board. Hands shoot up, “I know” and “Got it” echo throughout the class room. These students are excited about fractions? They’re talking through the steps to the solution. They got it!
Touch the “PAUSE” button. Wait, there isn’t any chalk. Where are the erasers?! (History check: remember clapping erasers and oiling chalk boards?) The fractions are on the board, I can see them, as can every student. Then, the teacher touches the board … and … it … comes to life. It’s … a … MAGIC board! No, it’s a smart board. “Beam me up, Scotty!”
Fact: there is a smart board in every classroom in the Haleyville school system, except high school math. Which begs the question: “Who is smarter, teacher or board?” Duh, that’s easy. That is the same as asking “Who is smarter, the carpenter or the hammer?” To the teachers, the smart board is a tool, an extremely powerful tool. “If you believe in magic …” the song goes. And so it is, if you believe. O, I do believe, Mr. Kringle.
Ashley Tidwell’s Special Education Class: physical therapy! The process of standing can be very painful for some students. Enter the smart board. Games, lessons, videos, etc. help her students through that time and can make it enjoyable.
Then, I wonder, “If only a desk could be as smart.” Got that too! And, coincidentally, it is called the smart table. Yes, Virginia, there is a smart table. Simply, it is a table with a touch computer screen for a top. My characterization: ingenious. Tidwell’s classroom’s favorite thing to do at the smart table: finger painting! Remember finger painting? I do. I tended to get more paint or me and Wendy Jones (she sat next to me in kindergarten) than on the paper. No paint everywhere in this class though. This finger paint is smarter. Re-usable as well.
Interacting with the smart board, smart table, and a touch screen, says Tidwell, “allows my students to engage more, to gain some measure of independence.”
Christy Bice’s 1st Grade Class: how do you handle a 1st grader? Structure: “Kids know how to move in my classroom,” Bice says. “I teach them the procedures for every item in here.” You guessed it: smart board, smart table, and toss in four computers. She adds, “Technology is always changing and this is the foundation to build on.”
Emile Gilbreath’s Digital Video Class: and some of you are asking, “What is digital video?” Well, these students know and they are working with it every day. They also maintain the HHS web site. Hands on in a field that is charting the course for how we, as a society, get information.
Neina Middleton teaches a variety of courses in the business and marketing area. Each student sits at a computer. No sharing time, no looking over the shoulder, no assisting. Ever tried learning computer from a book? Middleton challenges her students, “How do you use this in a business setting?” These students are doing in class exactly what they would be doing in an entry level position at a finance company or marketing firm.
First graders will never know a world without computers. Every current student in the Haleyville Schools cannot possibly imagine a school without computers. And the teachers all echoed one theme: We are very blessed and fortunate to have all this technology.
Next time: Where did all this technology come from? How much training goes into utilizing it? How far ahead is Haleyville compared to other systems? How can parents get involved by using technology?