Smart Boards are taking place of chalkboards, overhead projectors

By Editor

Catholic school making use of interactive technology

HOWARD — The traditional chalkboard is giving way to technology in more classrooms each year. St. John the Baptist School is an example. A few Smart Boards were installed at the school in the fall of 2009.When students arrived this September, nearly every classroom featured the interactive whiteboards.

“It allows for hands-on learning,” said Lisa Gruber, who teaches fourth grade at St. John the Baptist. “The interactive part for the students makes it more engaging for them. They just seem to want to pay attention better.”

Smart Board technology operates with the use of an interactive whiteboard, computer, projector and software. A projector connected to the computer displays the desktop image on the whiteboard. DViT (Digital Vision Touch) technology detects and responds to touch interactions.

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Fifth grader Sam Schmitz uses a Smart Board for a math assignment at St. John the Baptist School in Howard. St. John is one of numerous Catholic schools in the diocese using the interactive whiteboard. (Rick Evans | For The Compass)

“The neatest thing is that you are the mouse,” said JulieSchmitz, a fifth grade teacher at St. John the Baptist. “The kids go up thereand just have to touch it to solve a problem or answer a question.”

The Smart Boards work well in conjunction with many textbooks, added Schmitz. If a text has a Web site, it can be displayed on the interactive whiteboard. She also utilizes other Web sites to enhance learning. Her students stay informed on current events by watching CNN Student News on the Smart Board each day after lunch. The commercial-free news is appropriate for elementary age students. Schmitz recently used pbskids.org to help teach persuasive writing. The site offers an entire lesson on persuasive advertising.

“It has clips of commercials and different graphics and ads that you can take apart and look at,” she said. “It was really helpful. In the past, I’ve had them bring in magazines. Some of the magazines aren’t appropriate for every age. It’s easier to find things right at their level onthe Internet and share them with the whole group.”

Another benefit of the technology is the ability to monitor the progress of the students, said Gruber. St. John the Baptist has a classroom set of clickers for use with the Smart Boards.

“They use their clickers between lesson pages,” she said.”That tells me if we are ready to move on or if we have to go over the conceptmore. On my computer, I can see exactly which kids didn’t answer correctly.”

Calling all Smart Board users

The Compass is asking Catholic school teachers who use SmartBoards in their classrooms to help us help you. Our Compass in theClassroom program wants to provide new and exciting ways for classrooms to utilize the diocesan newspaper and its online companion.

Teachers are asked to review The Compass Web site, as well as our “Compass in the Classroom” column on  and let us know how we can make our resources more useful for you.

Submit your ideas, suggestions and comments via e-mail to: [email protected], subject: Compass in the Classroom.

In addition, all teachers are encouraged to share suggestions on how the Compass Web site can serve your classroom needs. What features do you wish to see online? All comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Not only is the Smart Board taking the place of the chalkboard, but also the overhead projector.

“You can save everything,” said Gruber. “I can call up thesame notes, which you can do on an overhead, but I don’t have to set up a projector and I never really did for math. You usually write all over the board and you erase and it’s gone at the end of the day.”

Saving notes is beneficial when a student is absent and for students who struggle to take good notes. The technology is also helpful when the teacher is gone.

“If we had a substitute teacher, they could set this whole thing up,” said Schmitz.

“We were talking about having a tech helper (student) who would be responsible for helping a sub if we were sick. The student would be able to set it up.”

The teachers completed training on the use of the Smart Board technology. Both Gruber and Schmitz said they are using the interactive whiteboards more efficiently following their experience last year. One of their goals is to facilitate training sessions for other staff members. The technology can be quickly implemented into lessons, said Gruber.

“There are a lot of simple things you can do,” she said. “I know a lot of people are using Spelling City (www.spellingcity.com). You put your (spelling) words on their Web site. Then when you use the Smart Board, the kids can be interactive. The kids can come right up and play the games.”

Schmitz points to the use of Google Earth as a simple application of the technology in teaching a lesson.

“In the book it may say that something is in Italy,” she said. “Then we go to Italy (on the Smart Board). I think that has really helped their global awareness by just reading maps.”

The Smart Board also features pen tools with a control panel for various functions including animation. The drawing tools are an asset to both the students and teachers, said Gruber.

“I used that a lot for geometry last year,” she said. “I can never draw a perfect triangle. It does it for you. You can move it, change it,flip it.”

“One of the things we did was frequency tables,” said Schmitz, who also teaches a middle school technology course. “It was so easy to just hit that table and make one. It saves so much of that teaching time thatis just wasted with putting things on the board or making an overhead.”

Gruber and Schmitz use the technology for all subjects. A Smart Exchange is part of the software. Teachers are able to post their lessons for other educators.

“You can take bits and pieces of other people’s lessons and work that into yours,” said Gruber. “For a new person, when you are just starting, it gives you ides if nothing else.”

“Once you’ve used them for a couple years, you have a pretty good background of everything to pull from,” said Schmitz. “You stop wasting all of that transition time. You can pull up the lesson you are going to do and you don’t have to dig through filing cabinets.”

It’s also fun, said both teachers.

“When you take it home, you don’t mind doing this stuff,”said Gruber. “It’s more fun than grading papers.”