Here's what happens when teaching goes high-tech
Teacher Edita Tahirovic wears a high-powered microphone around her neck shaped like a Cleopatra-style collar, complete with a light that blinks red and green. “Grab a SMART response pad and sit on the carpet,” she tells her students. “Key in your responses. There’s nothing to be scared about. Try your best!”
The interactive whiteboard (commonly referred to as a SMART board) has a place of honour at the front of the room. It’s connected to Tahirovic’s laptop and she’s projecting pages on it, touching the SMART board to make it respond. But it does far more than that. As Tahirovic navigates through multiple-choice questions about Kenneth Oppel’s novel Silverwing, the kids click their answers on their response pads (which look like TV remotes). The SMART board can tell who has answered, who has not, and who’s answered what. It marks the answers and instantaneously delivers graphs that tell Tahirovic what the children need more instruction on. Over the course of the year, the kids will learn how to make their own interactive projects to share with the class.
This is the grade four and five classroom at École Sir Adam Beck Junior School in Toronto, one of the most highly digitized classrooms in Canada. Most of the 28 pupils also have a Netbook — a small, lightweight laptop — that connects wirelessly to the Toronto District School Board’s private server. The Netbooks are in bright, kid-friendly hues of blue, green, yellow and red. The classroom also has a handful of traditional wired computers off to the side.
These pupils are part of a research project on how mobile computing affects narrative writing. It came about when Tahirovic tested her grade five pupils last year and realized that many were having trouble getting their thoughts down using pen and paper (especially the boys). She and Timothy Gard, the school’s media literacy teacher, went to the computer company Dell with a proposal and ended up with 24 Netbooks, a wireless printer, an interactive whiteboard and a number of compatible devices to add to nearly a dozen SMART boards already in the school.