Shift from pen, paper and dry-erase board being made at local schools

Shift from pen, paper and dry-erase board being made at local schools
Shift from pen, paper and dry-erase board being made at local schools | Promethean boards at Martin Elementary School

ENTER YOUR ANSWERS – While Martin Elementary School Principal Teresa Jackson (center) watches the action, fifth-grade teacher Andrew Hart instructs (from left) fifth graders Kaylin York, Claire Capps and Kyle Hart from the Promethean board and the stude

ENTER YOUR ANSWERS – While Martin Elementary School Principal Teresa Jackson (center) watches the action, fifth-grade teacher Andrew Hart instructs (from left) fifth graders Kaylin York, Claire Capps and Kyle Hart from the Promethean board and the students type in their answers to his questions on their Activ Expressions. MES currently houses 24 boards and hopes to get more.                       Photo by Sara Rachels 

Back in the early history of the country, school children thrilled in the use of slates and chalk to learn and communicate. 

The next generation of students gradually moved on to paper tablets, mechanical pencils and dry-erase boards. 

Now, the 21st-century learner enters the classroom and may have the entire day’s worth of lessons framed by one device of technology that has teachers and students alike pondering how they ever did without it.

In December of 2009, Martin Elementary School received its first set of Promethean boards. 

Much like its namesake Prometheus, the Greek god of forethought and intelligence, and according to the teachers of MES, there is very little the Promethean board cannot do as a classroom tool.

“It’s a board attached to the white board and it does not move. The information is projected onto it from a projector and a laptop is connected to it, so anything on the laptop is projected onto the screen,” fifth-grade teacher Andrew Hart explained. 

“The board comes with two pens for touching the board’s screen and students can also touch the screen for interaction. All instruction comes from the board.”

According to MES principal Teresa Jackson, 24 of the classrooms are fitted with a Promethean board and other classrooms have another interactive device called a slate. 

The slates function like the boards, but are a degree less interactive as students can’t touch a board, but must write or touch the slate pad the teacher holds. The work will be projected onto a projector screen rather than a board.

Jackson is excited at the chance to utilize the boards to their fullest extent while working towards eventually getting more.

“We have 24 now and we started out with eight that were paid for with federal stimulus funds. We matched the rest through fundraising efforts,” she remarked. 

“Every room now has some type of interactive device whether it be a slate or a Promethean board, but this is not just in our school. Every school had the opportunity to purchase some boards with the stimulus money. Everyone had the chance to get some kind of interactive software.”

As Hart goes through a history lesson on the Promethean board, students appear to be texting at their desks, but actually they’re utilizing Activ Expressions. The cell phone-like machine allows the students to record their answers to questions on the board, admit their confidence level to a certain topic and eventually, take tests. 

“This is awesome,” fifth-grader Kaylin York exclaimed.

Hart admits, “Anything you can do with a computer you can do with the board. It keeps a record of grades, hooks up to a VCR or DVD for films, recognizes handwriting with the pen and automatically fixes shapes drawn on the board. The revealer can show certain questions and hide others. There’s even a timer for taking tests.”

All of the resources for the Promethean boards come from the website www.prometheanplanet.com.

Each time boards are purchased, training is given through Dough Braden, the Weakley County federal projects coordinator. Hart admits to having received about 25 total hours worth of training. He continues to collaborate with his fellow teachers in staff meetings.

Each complete unit including the board, projector, software and installation costs approximately $3,400. 

Jackson remains hopeful that her goal of having a board in every classroom will eventually come to pass. Wal-Mart has been helping to fund the project and the next fundraising effort is in the works for a cookie dough sale beginning Feb. 16.

But, what do teachers and advocates of the Promethean board tell cynics and critics who see the boards as a replacement rather than a supplement to education? 

“They don’t replace. They enhance,” Jackson commented. “We still have textbooks and study sheets. The boards just allow kids to have a more interactive role in the classroom. It’s a neat thing. We try to stay on the cutting edge with technology. The county deserves this.”

Hart recently gave a demonstration of the board to a group of retired teachers and received a glowing response and several wishes that the boards had been around long before now.

Jackson recalls watching her teachers in training and likening their reaction to “kids in a candy store.”

“Naturally, their enthusiasm was projected onto the students. We’re fortunate to be living in such a good community and we’re blessed to have a community that will help the school,” Jackson emphasized. “Our goal is to reach every child and do the most we can for the students.”  

wcp 1/27/11

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