Stephanie Bickel: At Lawrence Free State High School, interactive whiteboards are being used in almost department. This recent technology benefits both teachers and students in comparison to older methods.
Laura O’Neil: The biggest benefit is probably for the kids to access notes at home, for my particular classes. I know some of the lower level classes are a lot more interactive with the kids coming up to the board more.
Bickel: The interactive whiteboards make it easier for students to see what is going on, such as with virtual graphing calculators.
O’Neil: With all of the addition, subtraction and doing all of the logs on the calculator, then I can project the calculator instead of going, “Well here’s what I got,” with my handheld calculator. Yeah, it would be a lot harder to teach without.
Bickel: Taking notes with the smartboards is easier than before because it helps students get important information at a steady pace.
Samantha Newlin: I’ve also had students say that they just like writing on the board better because they can keep up, like if I’m writing, they’re writing. Whereas, if I pop something up, they feel often as they have to copy everything down.
Bickel: This technology has been an important learning tool with all of the methods that can be used.
Newlin: You know, when you’re in education they say the more different ways to present the material is better.
Bickel: More interactive whiteboards have been added at Free State this year to further benefit the school. With Public Education News, I’m Stephanie Bickel
Laura O’Neil has been teaching for 12 years. When she first started teaching math and had to plot a graph for an algebra class, she had to carefully draw the graph on the chalkboard. She could also break out the overhead projector with tiny graphs printed on a transparency sheet.
When it came to demonstrating a math equation, she had to write it on a transparency and show it on the overhead projector. She also had the option of writing it on the chalkboard, making it hard for students to see each step.
Upon showing how graphing calculators work, she had to describe in detail what each step would be, then attempt to show the students the unreadable, tiny screen of the calculator. If a student needed immediate help with the calculator, she had to stop what she was doing at the front of the classroom to help the student.
Things are a little different now, however. Graphs come pre-drawn, and all O’Neil has to do is plot the points. Instead of using the transparencies, O’Neil can easily write on the board and go to the next slide once she runs out of room. A big, virtual graphing calculator makes it easy for students to follow along with O’Neil. She is able to walk around the room freely, going to the next slide of the presentation with a clicker.
All of this new technology is made possible by interactive whiteboards. O’Neil is one of a growing number of teachers across the country who uses interactive whiteboards on a daily basis.According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2008, 23 percent of public schools used interactive whiteboards regularly. A year later, the use of interactive whiteboards in schools increased to 32 percent, almost a 40 percent increase. In many schools, the interactive boards are proving to be an important learning tool.
Math teachers at Lawrence Free State High School, where O’Neil teaches, have had interactive whiteboards for about two years. There is one in every math and science classroom. Some social studies classrooms installed a few more at the beginning of the year this year.
Ways the interactive whiteboard works
The interactive white board can be used in many ways. O’Neil’s personal favorite way is the ability to save the lesson and post it online. Everything that is written on the slideshow is saved and posted as a PDF file.
Students work with the interactive whiteboard by playing math games such as Jeopardy and Whack-A-Mole. O’Neil said her trigonometry class gets to interact with it about once or twice a month, usually right before a test. Lower level classes interact with the board more, but students are really excited when given that opportunity, because it’s a fun way to learn.
“They like that so it gives them a little more of an incentive,” O’Neil said.
Quizzes can also be administered via interactive whiteboards. A mini-quiz is shown on the board and students answer with the push of a button. Results are instantly shown to the teacher, letting O’Neil know which students are struggling. This benefits the students as they can receive immediate help. It also saves the teacher from having to grade many quizzes.
Although other technologies exist, they are not nearly as high-tech as the interactive whiteboards. Before these boards, teachers had wireless slates on which they could write and the writing would be displayed on the screen. Samantha Newlin, math department chair at Free State, said she liked the slates but has since learned to appreciate the interactive whiteboards.
“It was great, but it is not comparable to the smartboard,” Newlin said.
Across town, Lawrence High School is just now getting interactive whiteboards. It took a while for the school to save up their funds for the expensive boards. Each board costs about $1,500. Lawrence High currently has one board in a social studies classroom.
However, after winter break, students will be learning with more than 20 interactive whiteboards.
The boards will be scattered throughout different departments, unlike at Free State, which installed the boards by department. There will be a few in social studies, English, math, science, foreign language, career technology education, and special education.
Principal Matthew Brungardt referenced a comic he saw on the Internet, students were given the same material through different ways, like a paper quiz and an online quiz. Each time, the results from the students never changed. He hopes that the boards will actually benefit the student’s results.
“We don’t want it to be just another tool to use,” Brungardt said. “We need for this to make an impact on instruction.”
Teachers, such as O’Neil and Newlin, who use the interactive white boards never want to go without the technology again. It not only benefits them, but also the students. Newlin thinks the interactive whiteboards makes a big impact on students’ learning.
“Their hearing is impacted, their seeing, sometimes speaking if they’re involved, so it absolutely benefits the students,” Newlin said.
Overall, the interactive whiteboards make teaching class easier in comparison to the past.
“I couldn’t imagine class without it,” O’Neil said. “It’s fantastic.”
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