Fourth graders in Daniela Roumou’s class at Lockhart Elementary School spent Thursday morning dissecting a virtual frog, taking turns with kids in Florida and England.
It appears the days of watching the teacher’s back as she scribbles on the chalkboard and drones on about nematodes are fast becoming a thing of the past. That old green chalkboard, located at the front of the classroom in days gone by, has been replaced in 32 of Lockhart’s classrooms by a Promethean Interactive Whiteboard, which works with a laptop and software that enables the students to play an active role in their learning.
Eluminate, a technology available to users of the Promethean program, allows a virtual classroom connection between multiple schools via the interactive whiteboard. Thus the Lockhart kids were working with fellow student dissectors from Rock Island Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Fosters Primary in Welling, outside London in the U.K., discussing their findings via webcam.
The Rock Island school contacted Roumou last week to ask if she would be interested in connecting the classrooms. Rock Island had already been working with the class from the UK and was interested in meeting and working with students from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
With tools such as surgical knives, pins, magnifying glass and tweezers at their disposal, students raised their hands high, hoping for the chance to use them. Aaliyah Babrow made the first virtual cut across the frog’s midsection after introducing herself to her virtual classmates.
Next up was a student from Rosheika Rolle’s third grade class at Rock Island, who peeled back the layers of the frog’s skin.
The dissection proceeded as students from all three schools talked to each other through the webcam and speaker system. They plan to work on another project together in three weeks.
Roumou expressed her gratitude for the Promethean boards and the support she has received from Principal Carla Sarauew, who recognized the educational value of the boards and recently ordered 22 more to add to the ten the school had.
The enthusiasm for learning was evident in Roumou’s class, with every child paying attention to the lesson and waiting for their turn to interact with the board. Interactivity is the main focus of the program and has changed the attitude her children have about classwork.
“When the students are able to participate, they are actually excited about learning,” said Roumou.
She has also seen marked improvements in test scores. “Use of the Promethean board,” said Roumou, “has helped me tremendously in reaching the learning goals we have for the students.”
According to Roumou, many teachers are intimidated by the boards and reluctant to use them. Roumou has been conducting training for teachers, an eight-week course involving two two-hour sessions each week, and is now halfway through her second group of teachers’ training.
Roumou said that one of the Lockhart teachers was initially resistant to using the Promethean board but is now one of its biggest fans. And her students are reaping the benefits of the interactive system.