It was in a middle school classroom that I recently saw the writing on the wall … literally. Energetic history teacher Brandi Thomas, at Yucca Middle School, carried a wireless digital tablet (about the size of a clipboard) around her classroom, and as she wrote on it, the writing appeared on the large screen at the front of the classroom for all her students to see. Then, she’d hand the same tablet to one of her students to respond, and their writing would also be shared on the same screen. Thomas often ties in the SMART board, an interactive whiteboard upon which students write with their fingers, and “virtual” ink appears in a variety of colors. When asked, Ms. Thomas maintains that technology engages her students so well and she believes it “brings history to life.”
Down the hall is Kristina Roehrig, math teacher at Yucca, who teaches daily with her SMART board. Her students love the variety of interactive tools of the SMART board and remained fully engaged throughout the lesson I saw. Mrs. Roehrig can also digitally record a lesson or activity through her interactive whiteboard and play it later. I saw an example of this when I dropped by her classroom on another day and saw a substitute teacher was present, but there was that magic writing on the wall. Though Mrs. Roehrig was absent, it was her voice explaining and drawing a demonstration of a math concept through a digitally recorded lesson on the SMART board screen. Mrs. Roehrig strongly believes “kids relate to technology, so the more I am speaking their language, the better they’ll listen.”
Dana Horne, Cameo Elementary’s speech therapist, also integrates a variety of technologies to serve the needs of her students. She’s used built-in video-recording software on her laptop with innovative activities and found that, as students hear and see themselves, they are more apt to self-correct, and it’s the students themselves who insist on repeating exercises to perfect their work.
Recently dropping by her classroom again, I found the ever-enthusiastic Mrs. Horne using the amazing iPad from Apple, with phonics and literacy applications on the interactive touch-screen. She finds technology is a constant motivator and highly enhances her activities with students. When one of her students had a birthday, Mrs. Horne even used the iPad to celebrate. With the iPad screen filled with a crystal-clear image of a birthday cupcake with a “virtual” candle burning, she let the child “blow out” the virtual candle (through a tiny microphone detecting the breath). All clapped in delight as only the curling wisp of smoke remained on the screen candle.
Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century won’t be those who can’t read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn.” I do believe he, too, saw the writing on the wall.