Technology is like a white elephant gift exchange; as soon as you feel satisfied with your gift, someone else opens an item you want more.
This constant game of chasing the latest and greatest phones, laptops and Kindles can be pricey and frustrating for some, but through wise investments and a deliberate approach, people can save money and avoid purchasing devices that will quickly become obsolete – at least that is what the Northfield School District believes it has found.
Over the past few years SMART Boards – interactive whiteboards with computer-like capabilities – have become popular in schools around the country. But instead of purchasing one for every classroom in the district, school technology committees took a more tailored approach to technology spending.
“All of the elementary schools really wanted SMART Boards but secondary schools didn’t have as many requests for the technology,” said Matt Hillmann, director of administrative services for the district.
In an effort to be consistent across schools and provide all elementary teachers with access to an interactive learning tool, the district purchased a SMART Board for every classroom in the elementary schools. But as students progress academically and their interests and paths diverge, so do the technological needs of their teachers.
As soon as the technology came to the district, the technology committees at the high school and middle school saw a number of requests from math and science teachers who immediately saw utility and potential for this teaching tool. Responding to this enthusiasm, the district provided SMART Boards for teachers who could use the technology in an effective and valuable way – something the math department has fully embraced.
“They are making amazing use of [the SMART Boards],” said Rebecca Messer, a physics teacher at the high school.
But while math teachers are finding lots of ways to incorporate the technology with graphing calculators and geometry lessons and Messer herself frequently uses her SMART Board for vector addition and interactive graphs, she admits that the interactive white board may not be as useful for other teachers in the building.
“It’s so dependent on the curriculum and your teaching style,” said Messer.
With the recent iPad implementation, not only do students have the freedom to use them as much or as little as they like, teachers whose classrooms remain without SMART Boards now have the capabilities to do similar interactive activities, if they so desire.
Using a program called Reflector, the iPad can transfer documents, images or videos to a projector screen in the front of the classroom, creating an effect similar to the SMART Board.
Though Hillmann notes that the iPad and SMART Board are different tools designed for different purposes, the individualized approach to SMART Board installations has been beneficial to students, staff and the technology spending budget.
“I think we will see much more limited installations of SMART Boards moving forward,” said Hillmann.
Reach reporter Erin O’Neill at 645-1115, or follow her on Twitter.com @reporterONeill.
Reach reporter Erin O'Neill at 645-1115, or follow her on Twitter.com @reporterONeill.