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Shelby Township

October 3, 2012

Interactive whiteboards a big hit in UCS classrooms

By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Fifth-grade students at Monfort Elementary raise their hands Sept. 27 to volunteer to help lead the class in a lesson about the U.S. Constitution on the room’s interactive whiteboard.

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — As Andrea Knoth discussed the United States Constitution with her fifth-grade class at Monfort Elementary in Shelby Township, her students got a glimpse into the future.

While the class brushed up on the nation’s founding document, they used tools that will serve them as students and beyond for years to come, thanks to the interactive lessons on the classroom’s multimedia whiteboard.

“It’s changed the way I taught,” Knoth said of getting the whiteboard technology last spring. “The kids are so excited about it. My students last year couldn’t wait to use it, and they were even helping me use it before I received my training.”

In the lessons on the Constitution, the students watch videos, learn vocabulary, complete group activities, discuss and answer questions, and then work as a class to take a comprehensive quiz.

“I usually don’t teach (the Constitution) until the spring when the kids have a little more background knowledge,” Knoth said. “But, doing this, the kids definitely got it even though they hadn’t had a lot of prior knowledge on why the Constitution was written.”

And all of these lessons flow seamlessly as Knoth uses the whiteboards to play the videos, explain activities with the Elmo projector technology that accompanies the board, utilizes the Internet to help with question-and-answer sessions, and follows up with software, like TrueFlix, for the interactive quizzes.

“I use it all day,” Knoth said of the boards’ versatility, noting that it takes the place of a television, DVD player, overhead projector and chalkboard.

“The great thing about this board is that it gets them engaged in their learning,” Knoth added. “And I can switch mediums while I’m teaching, so they could be using an interactive website, then go to the Elmo, and I could switch to showing a quick little video. I can switch, and it’s just a click of the button.”

Monfort Principal Karen Zimmerman said the success of the boards in classrooms like Knoth’s has the school working to have them placed in all classrooms.

“Our kindergarten and sixth-grade classrooms received the projection systems with bond money,” Zimmerman said in an email, referring to the funds raised by a 2009 technology bond.

“The Monfort PTO purchased an additional 12 projection systems for the building through their fundraising efforts. The staff and PTO’s goal is to have a projection system in every classroom by the end of the school year.”

But none of the whiteboards’ bells and whistles are effective if students aren’t interested in the lessons, which is why the most telling evidence of the board’s effectiveness may be Knoth’s class’s reaction when she asks for a volunteer to come to the board.

“We’re going to have to draw sticks, because I can’t decide,” Knoth said after the class erupted into shouts of “me” and hands soared when she asked who wanted to come up front.

And the reasons the lessons are popular extend beyond the opportunity to use the digital stylus and software.

“It makes learning a lot more fun, because it’s interactive,” Howard McCollom, one of Knoth’s students, said prior to a question-and-answer session using TrueFlix, which the students continue using from home.

But it’s not just lessons into how their nation was birthed that Knoth’s students pick up though the work with the whiteboards:  Such features as access to the Internet and multimedia platforms set the stage for how they will learn through their academic careers.

“I’m hoping it will make them more aware of how to use the software or the websites,” Knoth said. “When we’re doing a Google assignment, when they have questions, we can quickly go to a kid-friendly website to show them real quick.

“It’s super quick, and we can talk about what’s a good website and what’s a reputable website for them to get information from.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brad D. Bates at bbates@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1029.