A fly on the wall in Peggy Andrewsâ€™ third-grade class at Battleground Elementary today would see a much different learning environment than it would have two years ago. Andrews uses her finger to tap, drag and expand images on her board â€” a Smart board â€” as she helps her students practice subtraction questions.
Her white, touch screen, interactive board replaced her chalkboards and dry-erase boards about a year ago as part of a movement to put the new system into every elementary school in Lincoln County.
The change in technology came as a burst of fresh air to those working in local elementary schools.
“It really makes lessons exciting for the students,” said Lee Oâ€™Neal, director of institutional technology for Lincoln County. “It engages them and makes them eager to learn.”
Friday, students were practicing putting together ice cream sundaes during their math lesson, dragging pictures of syrup and toppings across the screen for their classmates to see.
Having the boards has changed the day-to-day routine in Andrewsâ€™ classroom.
The students in her class are also using first responders, hand-held devices that allow the students to answer problems from their seats by typing in their choice to the questions they are asked â€” a feature Andrewsâ€™ student, 8- year-old Angelique James enjoys.
“If I donâ€™t know the answer to something and I get it wrong, Mrs. Andrews can put it on the screen and we work on it together,” James said.
Candice Burgin, vice-chairman of the Lincoln County School Board, put the wheels in motion for the boards at the end of January, trying to convince other members to think about bringing this new feature into every elementary school in the county. Some already had the boards, but Burgin wasnâ€™t satisfied.
“A discrepancy amongst elementary schools across the entire county was apparent and needed to be corrected,” Burgin said. “Each student in every school deserves the best education possible. If technology helps them in the future, then we should provide it for them â€” all of them â€” at the same time across the county. Our students should not have to wonder why other students in the same grades at different schools are entitled to state of the art technology and they arenâ€™t.”
After she riled up support for her motion, Burgin worked on figuring out ways to fund the project. Through “cost saving initiatives” and money allotted to the county specifically for developing technology, Steve Zickefoose and Bob Silver got the ball rolling to fund Burginâ€™s board-in-every-school idea.
She admitted she was half-expecting to hear her fellow members like the idea, but say they didnâ€™t think the county would be able to afford it. Instead, she was met with an overwhelmingly positive response and they were eager to get started, she said.
In February, 109 more boards were installed and are continuing to transform the classroom and the way children are learning â€“ leading to higher achievement and interest, Oâ€™Neal said.
So far, the feedback has been positive.
“I had someone come up to me the other day, after only having the board a week, and tell me they donâ€™t know how they lived without it before,” Oâ€™Neal said.
Now, every school in the area has Smart boards. Some, like Battleground Elementary, have one in every classroom.
These high-tech instruments arenâ€™t a new idea, though. Smart Technologies Co-Founder and Executive Chairman David Martin started brainstorming the fancy chalkboards in the late â€˜80s. The first board was rolled out in 1991 and has been modified and advanced ever since.
On the maintenance end, there have been little-to-no discrepancies so far. A month after she started using her Smart Board, Andrews had issues with the projector â€” the device responsible for streaming images onto the board and is a crucial part of the system.
A new projector was brought to her classroom within 48 hours and was installed the following day, she said. Since then, she hasnâ€™t noticed any other issues and is pleased with the changes she is seeing in her students.
Is there a link between technology and higher student performance? Maybe, but Andrews doesnâ€™t think that having new, fun resources is completely responsible for the shift.
Since she received her new board, she has been giving the students more responsibility in the classroom, hoping they will improve in other areas besides being able to use a computer.
“They have really increased in their communication skills,” Andrews said. “They are learning how to present information to an audience and understand topics to the point where they are able to teach it to their classmates; the highest form of learning.”