St. Patrick Teacher, Students Share Ideas Via Electronic Whiteboard

In some respects, St. Patrick School in Brantford, Ontario is like many other elementary schools today. Computers are making their way into classrooms and will soon be connected on a network. But something exciting and different is happening in one of the classrooms. Tom Grice, a Grade 5/6 teacher, is finding creative ways to integrate computer-based instruction effectively with the regular curriculum, and he's using an interactive electronic whiteboard to do it.

Eyes Glued Ahead

All students' eyes are glued to the front of the class as Grice g'es through a Language Arts lesson on expository paragraphs. First, as a class, they create a paragraph in Microsoft Write, which is displayed via an LCD projector onto the whiteboard. Words and phrases are highlighted and then moved around by pressing on the board. Students then go back to their computers and work independently on their paragraphs.

The next day, Grice demonstrates how to use Microsoft Paintbrush by manipulating the software with his finger on the whiteboard, a SMART Board from SMART Technologies, of Calgary, Alberta. Students then draw their own pictures to accompany their paragraphs.

As the final part of the lesson, Grice and his students compile a slide presentation. Paragraphs and pictures are imported into SMART 2000 software and presented on the SMART Board so the whole class can see. "Students are in awe," says Grice.

Need to Maintain Contact

When his school first purchased modern IBM computers and an LCD panel, Grice looked forward to exploiting the technology for learning. However, limitations of this initial setup became obvious.

"It is quite difficult to point and click with the mouse on the projection system while crouching near the computer and still be able to maintain the eye contact and body language students in a classroom require," he explains.

To overcome this problem, Grice applied to participate in Project Get SMARTer, run by SMART Technologies, from February through June 1996. The project gives innovative educators the opportunity to use a SMART Board to improve computer-based instruction in their classrooms.

Touch-Sensitive Surface

Once software is projected onto the whiteboard's touch-sensitive surface, a teacher or student can manipulate the application and write on top of images just by pressing on the surface with a finger or pen. Classes can even explore the Internet, access a CD-ROM, or show live pictures from a camera on the whiteboard.

Grice says that teaching with computers is much easier with the SMART Board. Whether searching CD-ROMs, drawing pictures or editing text, he finds that "students are very enthused and the Board keeps their attention captured."

Besides Language Arts, Grice integrates the whiteboard into subjects such as math, health and science. For example, in a science lesson on antibodies, he brings up a file from Grolier's Encyclopedia on CD-ROM, selects one of 16 software pen colors and highlights and circles key words on top of the images.

"The fact that visuals can be presented and worked on interactively and immediately is a huge benefit," Grice says.

He's also found it useful for training students on fundamental software like Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. "The Board is excellent in that it allows me to show by example to the entire class what the students will experience at their terminals."

Next on the Agenda

Next on the class' agenda is an ECONEWs assignment that will require the students to do a news, weather and sportscast having an environmental theme, with groups preparing and presenting their visuals on the SMART Board. They will browse CD-ROM clips and software, then import their images into a slide presentation. During their newscast, students will mark up the images as they move through their slides.

Grice is pleased to see improvements in his students' performance since the arrival of the SMART Board. "The kids are becoming more computer literate, eager to be creative and to give their best effort when using the Board," he says.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.