Hayden Sixth-grader Kenny Corriveau demonstrated Tuesday how Robin Bush’s Hayden Middle School science class can dissect a frog without actually having to dissect a frog.
An image of a frog — its legs and arms spread wide as it would be before dissection — was displayed on the 4-foot-by-5-foot SMART Board screen. Kenny identified different parts of the frog by touching the screen with his fingers and moving them to the side.
The Hayden School District, through a matching grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation, bought three interactive SMART Boards this year. They serve as digital white boards and projectors, among other things.
Two were placed at the high school and one in Bush’s class.
“It’s more hands-on,” Kenny explained. “We can do experiments here without having to go other places. The experiments come to us.”
Bush said she uses her SMART Board every day for instruction, activities and even games, in addition to experiments. She can use the interactive software to teach or take a lesson or assignment from one of the many websites that offer them. Her class watches videos, as they did to see news coverage of the Haiti earthquake and volcanic eruptions in Iceland. Bush can demonstrate a science problem using the whiteboard or projector functions.
Whatever she does, Bush said she can transition seamlessly to what’s next without having to bring in an overhead projector, television or take the class to the computer lab. Simply put, the SMART Board has simplified things.
“It doesn’t limit you,” Bush said. “If you don’t have money, resources or time, you can still do it. … To me, it brings the outside world into the classroom.”
Hayden High School Principal Troy Zabel, a member of the district’s technology committee, said buying SMART Boards is part of the district’s plan to incorporate technology into the classroom.
Zabel said there’s potential to harness the educational benefits of SMART Boards in every subject area, and the district’s goal is to eventually place a SMART Board in every classroom.
Next year, Hayden will have nine more SMART Boards, paid for by a $15,400 grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation, $7,400 from the Education Fund Board, and about $7,000 from the district.
“The way we offer education to kids is evolving,” he said. “Every year, we take a step further.”
Hayden isn’t the only Routt County school district using SMART Boards. Steamboat Springs has six and will get eight more next year. South Routt has two and plans to apply for grant funding to buy more in October.
South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said the reason the district wants to improve its technology is simple. He said students will have to use different technologies when they get out of school, so why not incorporate them into the classroom.
Steamboat Springs Technology Director Tim Miles said his staff just completed a project to simplify and add specific district goals to the state’s new broad, and vague, technology standards.
He said the district hasn’t done well the past few years with technology. By breaking down the standards, Miles said the district will create technology committees at every school that will work with teachers to establish priorities. He said those priorities will help the district identify what teachers need to know to use new technological tools.
Steamboat Springs also uses gadgets such as iPods and interactive computer software. Ideally, Miles said integrating technology into the classroom shouldn’t put a burden on teachers or make them work harder. Mader agreed.
“Teaching is going to be teaching,” he said. “Those elements of instruction that are good, that are necessary, are always going to be there. (Technology) will only enhance that. If kids can touch it, if they can see it, if they can access it more quickly, all of those things are going to make teaching more effective.”
Hayden High School science teacher Dean Massey, who also has a SMART Board, said its greatest advantage is the participation it coaxes out of students.
Massey said it’s too early to tell whether his students have earned better grades as a result of the SMART Board, but his students’ attention and focus is noticeably better.
Bush, whose sixth-grade students sometimes can’t sit still, also couldn’t say whether her students performed better after using the SMART Board but said that it was conducive to engaging students.
“To me, when you have fun in learning, people pay more attention,” sixth-grader Heather Ray said. “When you’re just reading out of textbooks, people don’t pay attention.”
Bush said students, who in the past didn’t want to participate, now often are engaged in lessons. She said the SMART Board has exceeded her expectations.
“Now that I have it, it would be hard to teach without it,” Bush said.