Technology Is Making Blackboards a Thing of the Past

(Sunday, November 5, 2006 10:40 AM EST)
Squinting at a blackboard and the squeak of chalk seem to be relics of the past.

As technology has integrated itself into schools, students can have their lessons projected in full color on a 20-foot-by-20-foot screen, and one school in Arlington is jumping on the bandwagon. By the end of this school year Williamsburg Middle School will offer this capability in every classroom.

For the past three years, principal Kathleen Francis has made it her mission to install approximately 65 liquid-crystal display (LCD) projectors at the middle school.

At close to $2,200 per projector, this has not been a small task. But thanks to a devoted PTA that raised about $14,000 for the effort last year, the school is about 85 percent of the way to achieving its goal.

Steve Holmes, president of the PTA last year, was very pleased with the parental response to the effort.

“I was heartened that parents in North Arlington, whether they were well-to-do or not, were generous with their money,” he said. “We got broad participation.”

Teachers primarily use the projectors for PowerPoint presentations and Internet research. Francis said she believes that adding a visual component to lectures makes students much more attentive. Using only pen and paper creates a disconnect in learning for students who use technology regularly, she said.

“These kids are born in a generation where technology is part of their life,” Francis said. “We are really tapping into what they are already doing at home.”

The projectors also are used for inter-school communication. Morning announcements are streamed live into all classrooms with the projectors, giving students the chance to see their news-anchor peers.

The projectors are not beneficial only to the students.

As teachers learn more about the projector's capabilities, they are likely to take more imaginative teaching risks, said Francis. Some teachers have incorporated educational video clips from the Internet into their PowerPoint presentations, allowing students to see war reenactments or science processes with the click of a button.

“It has transformed teaching,” said Francis. “We're very excited.”

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