October 27, 2012, Story and slideshow By Abby Ebelherr, Schools have changed quite a bit in the last two decades. With new technology like tablets becoming commonplace, many districts are looking at ways to meet their students’ needs for both now and in the future. But sometimes all these advancements can leave parents wondering just what and how their children are learning. Last night, Central Elementary hoped to help a few parents better understand the role of the school’s Promethean boards with a Tech Night.
From 5:30-6:30, four teachers gave presentations on a specific use of the Promethean technology in their classrooms. The presentations were given in the teacher’s classroom and lasted for ten minutes before guests were asked to visit a different room. Once a new group came in, the teacher started her presentation over.
The first room down the hall belonged to 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Birnbaum. She told parents about the new Illinois common core standards for school and how their math lessons were adjusting to meet those standards through the GO Math program. Since GO Math has several online resources, Mrs. Birnbaum could pull up different worksheets and problems on the Promethean Board.
Several students in the audience volunteered to solve problems, writing their answers on the interactive boards. Mrs. Birnbaum felt it was really important that other students could see the work being done by their peers. “It’s really important for them to hear one another,” she said. While students’ parents may have been used to a lecture style class where the teacher delivered all the information to the students, many current educational practices promote group work with the teacher acting as a guide. This way the students learn not only the answers, but the many ways they can go about solving a problem.
Across the hall, teacher’s aide Ms. Hunter went through a typical day for the 1st grade class she assists. Students helped their teacher create monthly calendars by tapping on colors to represent the weather for that day. Since the boards are hooked to the internet, Ms. Hunter could then go to an online weather page and show students the exact temperature. She then pulled up pre-made sentences with words missing. Students could guess the words and then tap the blank space on the board to see if they were right.
Upstairs, Mrs. Tippett showed parents how her 4th grade class uses ActiVote software in the classroom. Students can vote on multiple choice answers in real time by pressing buttons on a small remote. The votes are anonymous, which Mrs. Tippett thinks helps students get the confidence to at least try an answer. Raising your hand in a class can lead to embarrassment. “Everyone in the classroom knows you got the answer wrong,” she explained. “That’s intimidating to some students.”
In the final room stood the other 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Arnold. She gave parents a quick overview of the basic functions of a Promethean Board and then allowed them to play around with it. She gave several examples of techniques the teachers had been using throughout the night, explaining them in more detail. “It’s a great tool,” she said about the boards, “because it adds a little more ‘oomph’ to our lesson.” One of her students standing in the front of the room nodded enthusiastically.
At the end of the night, parents and students could purchase reading materials at the Scholastic Book Fair held in the library or get a quick bite from the cookies and milk offered in the cafeteria. Hopefully the Tech Night helped more Central parents understand their children’s education so they can better assist their child outside the classroom.