The first SMART Board was installed in St. Anthony’s computer lab in fall 2008 when the school received a grant. Additional units were added to classrooms as funds became available, and this past fall all regular classrooms were wired into the technology.
Two organizations – St. Anthony’s Home and School committee and the Elizabeth A. Brinn Foundation – provided a large portion of the funding. A year ago, the Brinn Foundation gave the school a $10,000 grant, with an additional $5,000 in matching funds for the technology, which sometimes are referred to as white boards. The home and school committee not only met, but exceeded the matching funds.
Erik Richardson, St. Anthony librarian who teaches computers and advanced math, was instrumental in the fundraising efforts.
“Information was put in handouts in bulletins, and we talked about it at Mass,” Richardson said. “I gave an appeal and explained how this will help us remain competitive as a school. As people of all ages saw the (SMART Boards), they started to light up. They were very responsive.”
Student enthusiasm was evident during a reporter’s recent visit to the school. One classroom was doing an interactive activity on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Another class was using the SMART Boards to roll dice as part of a math exercise.
Fourth-graders in Cindy Clarke’s classroom were using the SMART Boards to determine whether a word was a proper or common noun through an activity that involved moving images into a particular column.
“This has been a great way for me to assess how the students are doing,” Clarke said. “I use it for math, language arts, reading and other subjects. It’s really being used throughout the day, and it works well with the content standards we have.”
The technology also has changed how students can do their homework. Some textbooks can be accessed online with passwords that are provided to the students.
“(SMART Boards) have definitely made learning more fun for me,” seventh-grader Haley Shepherd said. “I was just doing a protractor game for math, and I liked figuring out the different angles.”
Fellow seventh-grader Joe Drees noted how a classroom task he once did – cleaning chalkboards – is no longer needed.
“I like everything about the SMART Boards,” he said. “It’s great to be able to watch some of the videos because it helps me understand what’s being talked about in textbooks.”
Sixth-grade teacher Nick Fedie said the SMART Board in his classroom has transformed how he delivers instruction to his students.
“(It) has almost completely replaced my chalkboard,” said Fedie, who has been using tools within the menu of offerings from SMART Technologies to create custom Web sites.
As with any new technology, there are bugs that have to be worked out. All St. Anthony faculty members went through a training course, and continue to learn as they adapt the white boards into their classrooms.
“It’s got endless possibilities,” seventh-grade teacher Sue Blazek said. “The kids are digital natives, so they’re right at home with it. Us teachers are digital pioneers.”
Richardson said the SMART Boards are particularly beneficial to students with specific learning styles.
“It’s great for students who are visual learners,” he said. “It can help us teachers diversify so we can teach to all types of learning styles.”
While the SMART Boards are changing the way classroom instruction is being delivered, St. Anthony principal Anne Schramka said traditional styles of teaching remain a focal point of the curriculum. Schramka said she views the technology as supplementary.
“This is not to take the place of such activities as handwriting,” she said. “It’s a resource, and the kids are loving it.”