SMART Board campaign begins

Marianne Gillespie
South School third-grade student Emma Ferguson finds Disney World using the Microsoft Surface Globe program with a SMART board with little help from IVC Curriculum Director Jennie Hawkey. Both children and adults were able to see the many programs the SMART board offers and its classroom functions.

Anyone interested in the newest technology at Illinois Valley Central District 321 had the opportunity to see it for themselves Monday.

Children took the opportunity to experiment with the SMART boards at two locations. Their parents also watched a presentation in the IVC auditorium about the project.

Students in the district have worn buttons since last week about the endeavor, and South School PTA President Carie McIntyre said 1,500 buttons were circulated.

“It worked. When the kids get excited, the parents get excited,” said McIntyre.

The journey from brainstorming with South’s PTA that blossomed into a project for the entire district even surprised McIntyre.

“If you had asked me in November if we’d be here today, I would have said, ‘No way.’”

IVC?Superintendent Dr. Nick Polyak said there are two keys about the fundraising campaign that people should know.

First, the district will purchase new SMART?boards that virtually no one has in central or southern Illinois, Polyak said.

Second, District 321 could not afford to do the project without the SMART?committee, PTAs, IVC?Educational Foundation and donations from businesses and community members.

SMART?boards themselves are not something new. The company created the interactive white boards in 1991.

The district began experimenting with interactive white boards on what works best for students with older SMART?boards, Promethean, Eno and Mimio boards.

The older models work on a hard surface with a layer of gas, which becomes disrupted when the pen hits it, Polyak said. If a teacher’s elbow hits the surface too, that also will make a mark.

When a sales representative came to the district, Pollyak said officials found themselves in an “interesting bargaining position.”

If the district purchased the equipment, then the company could point to them as using the product.

“You guys need us as much as we need you,” Polyak said he told them.

With that in mind, they bargained on a price, around $3,500 per board including installation, not a huge difference between what they paid for the older technology.

How it works

The new SMART technology utilizes four cameras, one in each corner, that controls the board, with the projector above the board. Unless a teacher gets very close to the board, the image will not be disrupted by their body like an overhead projector can be.

The teacher can use his finger, a pen, erase with his arm and more.

Programs also help showcase the technology, such as Smart Notebook.

The teacher can put up lines for children to practice their handwriting, dissect a frog, practice fractions, find the correct pitch on a keyboard and more.

The 87-inch board with side-mounted speakers could be mounted to an existing board in a classroom, but Polyak said personnel will not be doing that. The classrooms all present different challenges for installation, but Polyak said he wanted the existing board to be removed, the wall repainted and then the SMART?board installed.

SMART?exchange offers 50,000 peer-reviewed lesson plans for various grade levels that teachers could use.

Additionally, there are 47 SMART?Response lesson plans, in which students use hand-held units to answer by pushing a button.

That information goes directly to the teacher so he knows how many students understand what they are being taught.

Polyak said he plans initially to have enough of those for one set per grade level per building.

Microsoft Surface Globe allows a teacher to find a place on the globe, possibly the most useful for geography or current events.

Whatever the teacher shows on the board also can be saved for future reference, shared with others or can be made to a PowerPoint presentation.

“What we’re really going to have to do is dig into professional development,”?said Polyak.

He is planning some sort of summer SMART board boot camp, and said teachers are excited about the new technology.

“It’s only limited by your imagination as to what you want to do,” said Polyak about the teacher’s lessons.

It may take teachers a little extra time initially to either adapt their current lessons to include using the SMART?boards, creating new lessons or searching the system for already made lessons.

Buying roughly 110 boards to outfit all the classrooms in the district except for some at the high school, Polyak said the purchase will bolster continuity in the classrooms.

While having the latest technology is always exciting, Polyak said it puts the district and area as an appealing place for residents to live and for teachers to work.

District 321 is shifting its focus from the last few years of construction to instruction.

It also comes at a good time when the teachers’ computers, which are the oldest in the district, need to be replaced.

This summer they will receive laptops they can take home with them to use, which will have Windows 7 on them, needed for the new SMART?boards.

“Once we started talking about this, people have been coming out of the woodwork ... This is revolutionary technology and we wouldn’t be able to do this except for the community’s support,” said Polyak.