High-tech boards raise excitement over ABCs

Smart Boards add new dimension to reading and writing for students and teachers at Two Mile Prairie
Monday, February 28, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:53 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Students in Emily Bloomfield’s first-grade class at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School can hardly sit in their seats when it comes time to work on their reading.

Seven-year-old Michael Harrington couldn’t wait to write the morning message on the classroom’s Smart Board.

“Today is February 18, 2005,” he printed before adding the class’ agenda for the day.

Then he signed his name, “Love, Michael.”

The Smart Board looks like a typical whiteboard, but it has the capabilities of the computer it’s hooked up to and the benefits of a large touch screen.

“It encourages active learning,” Bloomfield said.

The kids say it’s their favorite thing to do.

Two Mile Prairie is the only school in the Columbia School District to have Smart Boards in all regular classrooms, said Jack Jensen, assistant superintendent of elementary education.

Bloomfield, along with all teachers at Two Mile Prairie, uses the Smart Board in all curriculum areas, including English and math.

She began using the Smart Board last year with her kindergarten class after the school received an extra board. She used the board to help her students recognize words and letters when learning to read.

This year, Bloomfield followed her students to first grade, which allowed her to continue using the Smart Board with the same class of students.

“We use it every day as a learning-reading center where the children can move letters and/or words around to form sentences,” Bloomfield said in an e-mail. “They match letters to letter sounds, and many other language arts (and) reading activities.”

The students take turns doing activities, such as writing stories and circling words in poems, while Bloomfield works one-on-one with smaller reading groups.

Each child is eager to take his or her turn at the board, and they all like to write stories because they can print them out and take them home to show off their work.

Bloomfield also uses the Smart Board with her entire class to fill in graphic organizers, a structure to help her students pick apart stories into characters, plots and settings.

Bloomfield can write on the actual board or type in the children’s responses on the computer hooked up to the Smart Board.

Because each board is hooked up to a computer, teachers have the capability to use the Internet in every lesson.

Bloomfield said her class has studied bats and presidents through Internet sites and has also written class e-mails to different authors. Then the class reads the authors’ responses on the Smart Board.

The Smart Board does not come with software programs. Teachers must create their own activities and lessons for their students.

Two Mile Prairie teachers have created a share file where they can go to get lessons that fellow teachers have created.

Bloomfield said that although it does take time to create these programs, it is better to make them herself than get a pre-made software program because she can ensure lessons meet the education standards in Missouri.

Bloomfield also said that because many students are visual learners, the boards help motivate the students and create excitement for learning.

“The boards prepare students for a technological world and help students become more engaged and successful in their own learning,” Bloomfield said.

Each year, the teachers at Two Mile Prairie do a presentation on their use of the boards and allow parents to try them.

“It’s fun to watch the smiles on the parents’ faces when they try an activity and have to have their child help them learn how to do something,” Bloomfield said.

Two Mile Prairie obtained their Smart Boards through money raised in PTA fund-raisers and have written grants for their district’s technological funds.

Other schools in the district use the eMINTS, enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies, program, which also provides the schools an opportunity to use technology to enhance learning.

According to Curt Fuchs, Director of Instructional and Informational Technology Services for the district, Parkade Elementary was the first school in the district to use Smart Boards through the eMINTS program.

Fuchs also said in an e-mail that Blue Ridge Elementary and Parkade Elementary have Smart Boards in every third-, fourth- , and fifth-grade classroom.

Bloomfield would like to eventually see the district using more Smart Boards in their classrooms.

“If a teacher is given time to work on this, as well as proper training, what a fantastic piece of technology to have in every classroom,” Bloomfield said.

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