By Polly Keary, Editor
This is a far cry from the dusty green chalkboards of yore. This even eclipses the overhead projector, that classic of classroom instructional tools.
Rachell Sullivan’s whiteboard talks.
And that’s not all it does. With a click, it is a calendar. But today’s date is missing. When the kindergarteners gathered before the board call out Thursday, Sullivan reaches up with a stylus, selects the world “Thursday” from the options listed on the screen, and drags it to its rightful spot on the calendar.
Another click, and it is a math workbook or a grammar lesson. It’s an interactive whiteboard, and thanks to an active PTA, Frank Wagner Elementary has them in every class.
“Our principal turned us on to a deal at the start of the year; they were doing a matching funds kind of deal for interactive white boards, and we knew some of our classrooms didn’t have them,” said Frank Wagner PTA President Gena Weeks.
The whiteboards, onto which lessons are projected, but which are touch-sensitive and which calibrate to the lessons that are projected upon them, cost about $1,500 each.
The PTA mustered the help of the students to raise money to equip each class.
“Most of it was from the kids,” said Weeks. “They surpassed our expectation with the walkathon and the cookie dough sales.”
The PTA was eventually able to buy five of the boards.
Sullivan, who has had one of the interactive boards in her classroom for quite some time, said that it is an invaluable teaching tool.
She can make lessons called “flip charts” and then share them with all the other teachers in the district, she said. The lessons can be customized for each curriculum, and other teachers can improve upon them.
Also, they can be customized for each class. In order to teach the letters of the alphabet, Sullivan can put up pictures of her students.
“Then we can say, ‘Peter starts with a “p,”’ Kids love that.” she said
It’s also environmentally friendly, she said. She doesn’t need nearly the number of worksheets she once did.
And if a kid is having trouble, the whiteboard allows Sullivan to determine if it is due to problems with writing or with the actual material. If a child can easily move words into the right order on the screen, then the problem might be that trouble with writing is slowing the child down.
“It gives teachers the ability to know exactly how to help the child,” said Rosemary O’Neil, spokesperson for the district. “You can target and make the biggest impact.”
And kids growing up in the electronic age now are accustomed to working on screens, and things that don’t move fast lose their attention, said O’Neil.
So useful have the boards been that the PTA now wants to get a few more.
“Our specialist teachers don’t have them yet,” said Weeks. “Our music teacher would love to have one. Hopefully our specialists can have them soon.”