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Story - Education

Apr 29, 2010 9:50 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

SmartBoards make excellent tools in classrooms

Apr 29, 2010 9:50 AM

A teacher’s desk contains many objects—lesson plans, hall passes, red pens and maybe an occasional apple. But one thing that’s already becoming hard to find in the classroom is chalk.

As computerized, interactive whiteboards—often referred to by the brand name SmartBoards—are replacing traditional chalkboards in classrooms from East Hampton to Eastport South Manor, and across the country, teachers and administrators are noting an increased level of student engagement and excitement for learning.

Interactive whiteboards are wall-mounted and use a projector to display a computer’s desktop onto the board. Students and teachers can control the computer on the screen with pens or even their fingers. There is also a “document viewer” that goes with some interactive whiteboards and it basically works the same way as an outdated overhead projector, explained Julieanne Purcell, the lead teacher of instructional technology for the Southampton School District. Documents or objects can be put under the viewer and they will appear, in full color view, on the interactive whiteboard screen.

Interactive whiteboards are being installed in classrooms across the globe, according to a study by Project RED (Revolutionizing Education), a group that examines the effects of technology in schools across the nation. The report, titled “America’s Digital Schools,” was completed in 2008. One chapter is dedicated to understanding the academic impacts of interactive whiteboards.

According to the report, which cites various accounts from schools and committees across the globe, there is substantial evidence in some schools that the installation of the boards has had a positive impact on learning—including increased retention rates and test scores. For example, the Richland School District Two in Columbia, South Carolina, reported that test scores rose by 30 percent more in Advanced Placement biology classes that utilized interactive whiteboards regularly than the classes that did not use the boards with every lesson.

And according to the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, the boards have produced a number of benefits for students, including the ability to cope with complex topics, the need for less note-taking, increased self-confidence, and improved personal and social skills.

Locally, East Hampton, Southampton, Hampton Bays, Remsenburg/Speonk and Eastport South Manor are among the school districts that utilize the interactive whiteboards, which cost in the neighborhood of $3,000 to $4,000 each.

The East Hampton School District has a total of 72 of them, explained Chuck Westergard, the information technology manager for the district. That district uses the Promethean brand whiteboard and began buying them in 2004, he noted.

“We’re adding a couple to the mix each year,” he said.

Mr. Westergard added that the district uses the boards to show students instructional YouTube videos, play DVDs, and teach kids about current events.

“It’s basically very similar to having a 78-inch television set for the room you can write on,” he said.

Southampton has 105 installed throughout the district, Ms. Purcell said. About 75 percent of the district’s instructional spaces have the boards and school officials there try to keep additional costs down by mounting the boards themselves and using their own wiring, she said.

Ms. Purcell, who first used interactive boards five years ago, when she was still a science teacher, added that 50 of the district’s boards were purchased with grant money. Another 12 may be added to the school district’s inventory, if the budget for next year is approved, she added.

All of the classrooms in the Hampton Bays School District feature interactive whiteboards, said Board of Education member Marie Mulcahy. She said that students learn quickly on the boards because they are interactive and hold their attention.

For example, Ms. Mulcahy said she recently visited the Eastern Suffolk BOCES headquarters on Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton to check up on a Hampton Bays student, and observed 10 to 12 students using one of the boards. A student was given $25 in play money and instructed to buy as many items as possible in a store, which was depicted on the whiteboard screen, and also make sure he received the correct change back. All of the students were enthralled with the game, she said.

Hampton Bays secured many of its interactive whiteboards through a $300,000 grant offered by Long Island Power Authority, Ms. Mulcahy said.

“One teacher said she’s way ahead because of the SmartBoard,” Ms. Mulcahy said. “It’s very valuable to our kids.”

The interactive boards can also be used to communicate with other students. In Southampton, second-graders in Marissa Randone and Vicky Tureski’s classroom are talking with third-graders in Miamisburg, Ohio, with a whiteboard and a safe video chat program called ooVoo, Ms. Purcell explained. The students sit in front of a camera, and their image is transmitted to the interactive whiteboard. A student in Ohio does the same thing, and his or her image appears before the class in Southampton.

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OMG! Schools have been using these tools for over 10 years!!!!!
By sirpoochala (78), Hampton Bays on Apr 29, 10 4:53 PM
Stella Maris is Sag Harbor also has Smart Boards. Wonderful school!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on Apr 29, 10 6:42 PM
Methinks I smell a budget increase!
By Hambone (514), New York on May 2, 10 10:08 PM