SMART Board utilized for students' benefit

Cheryl Arnett clasps her hands together and smiles.

"This is a fabulous tool," she said, standing in her second-grade classroom at Sunset Elementary School.

The tool she's talking about doesn't seem like something that would elicit excitement. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary dry erase board one would find in most classrooms.

But, when Arnett turns off the lights and fires up her classroom computer, it becomes apparent that this isn't any ordinary white board.

The tool is called a SMART Board, and it allows Arnett to show movie clips, play music and teach lessons using her computer.

Here's how it works: The SMART Board is connected to the computer. An overhead projector displays Arnett's computer screen onto the board.

The board is touch sensitive and allows students to use their hands in place of a computer mouse. Arnett and her students use computer programs by gently poking the board in certain places.

Using the SMART Board, Arnett can use any application on her computer, including her video and music players.

But that's not all. With special tools that look like white board pens, students can write on the board, and their markings appear both on the board and the computer screen. Another tool erases the markings.

Students can write and erase, and it's all registered electronically. The board itself doesn't retain a single mark when the projector is turned off.

Arnett believes the SMART Board works especially for younger students who have been raised around computer technology.

"Technology is their world," Arnett said.

Arnett pulled up an online game students play on the SMART Board called, "Give the dog a bone."

A grid appears on the screen containing 10 columns and 10 rows of blank squares. The number 47 also appears on the screen. The goal is to find the square that represents the number.

A student would count down four rows, then move seven columns to the right. The number 47 would then appear in the square. The sound of a barking dog will tell the student when he or she has found the right square.

The game teaches place value in a way that makes students want to learn.

"They're totally engaged in this lesson," she said. "They want to learn, and they want to do it right because they want to touch that screen."

Arnett has had her SMART Board for at least six years. The tool cost about $2,000 and, in Arnett's estimation, it was worth the money.

Sunset Elementary currently has about five interactive white boards on rolling carts that can travel from room to room. But, that setup will change later this year. Using dollars raised through a fundraiser last year, the school purchased five new SMART Boards that should be installed and ready for use within a month.

But, Sunset Elementary principal Zack Allen ultimately wants to see more SMART Boards installed in the school.

"Eventually, we'd like to get to a point where it's not a resource allocation issue, and everybody has one," he said, adding that "it's more of an issue of how can everybody use this to the benefit of their instruction."

Other schools in the Moffat County School District have adopted the interactive whiteboard technology.

Schools have collected money through various fundraisers, including those involving Parent Accountability Committees.

Most schools have interactive white boards. East Elementary School has 16, or nearly one for each classroom. Ridgeview Elementary School has two, Craig Intermediate School has two, and Craig Middle School has none. Moffat County High School has about five interactive boards.

Although interactive white boards haven't reached all school district classrooms yet, Arnett is confident that students, especially those in elementary school, are benefiting from the technology.

"It's their way of learning," she said.

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