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April 4, 2011

Get SMART: Clarksville schools use interactive technology to engage students

SMART Boards have also been installed in other area schools

CLARKSVILLE — Instead of raising their hands when their names were called, the preschoolers in Julie Seigle’s class at Clarksville Elementary School popped a balloon to let her know they were present in Monday’s class.

No needles were involved, just a computer touch screen in the front of the classroom.

Seigle’s class was using a TAP•it learning station for the first time Monday, just one of the interactive teaching tools purchased by the Clarksville Community School Corp. through federal stimulus money. The money was used to purchase other interactive computerized boards for classrooms throughout the corporation.

Seigle said though it was a simple exercise, she’s excited to use the device in different ways.

“It is interactive and it does different things, so it just keeps them more involved,” Seigle said. “They were so excited when they saw it today.”

Teachers can use learning stations like the ones in Seigle’s class to build custom lessons every day.

Roll call was just a way get the students acclimated to the technology. Seigle said she’ll also use the learning station to teach her students colors, the order of months on a calendar, the alphabet and other lessons.

At Clarksville Middle School, Dixon Romney, a fifth-grade teacher, used a SMART Board in his class to show students how to plot points on a graph Monday. Rather than writing very small and expecting students to squint, he was able to zoom in to various parts of the graph to clearly show students what he was writing.

Though the tools are used in regular classes, they’re also used to help students who have special needs.

Nikki Mullins, a reading intervention teacher at Clarksville Elementary, said the SMART Table in her classroom helps her students get the extra boost they need to catch up in reading.

“Most of the time, we are working on specific skills that they are lacking, so we are able to download lessons that deal with those specific skills,” Mullins said.

She said she uses a SMART Table in her classroom to help students with word exercises, as well as assignments that require students to work together. She added that students seem to learn from it better just because it allows them to interact more with the material they’re being taught.

The TAP•it station in Seigle’s class is not only helpful for the young children in her class, but also for the ones who are in wheelchairs. The station can move up and down easily to adjust for the height of whomever is using it and also is on casters to move to students.

“For my special ed students, it’s more accessible,” Seigle said. “I can move their wheelchair up to it and they can reach it.”

But outside of special education, Janie Grove, a kindergarten teacher, said getting children motivated in the classroom has been easier since she got her SMART Board in January.

“It’s a great tool for every grade,” Grove said. “It’s good for kindergarten because it’s interactive, and you’re always trying to do something interactive with kindergartners.”

Grove said she uses the SMART Board every day. She said she also tries to balance her assignments on paper with the SMART Board so students don’t get bored with them.

She said the leaning curve for her hasn’t been too steep and using tools students are somewhat familiar with seem to help them learn better.

“It’s the technology they’re growing up with; it’s just what they’re used to,” Grove said.

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