Part 2: Connecting curriculum and technology in Shelton schools

A key is to the successful use of Promethean boards in Shelton classrooms is emphasizing the curriculum, according to Tim Gilson, a science teacher at Shelton Intermediate School (SIS).

Gilson said learning how to best use the boards is a process for teachers. Because of his experience, he works with other teachers who are learning how to use the boards.




On a recent day, when discussing the solar system, students in Gilson’s class could go to the board and move the planets around through the touch-screen feature.

Gilson’s students said from a learning standpoint, they definitely prefer the Promethean board to having a teacher draw on a blackboard or work from print handouts.

What are these Promethean boards?

The interactive whiteboards are essentially large computer screens in the front of the classroom, allowing for everything from Internet videos to touch-screen movement.

With individual responders (like TV remotes) held by every student, there can be real-time discussion of the answers the students give during class. Graphs immediately show the percentage of correct answers.

Students can play Jeopardy-type educational games on the boards, enabling students to learn while also having fun.

A teacher oversees what is on the board through a remote device that resembles a pen, which also can be used to write or draw. Most of the classroom boards are 5.25 feet wide by 4 feet deep.

Teachers get training and guidance

Teachers receive training when they first get the boards, and also receive informal guidance from their teaching peers who have more experience with the boards.

Jenna Nuzzo, a Perry Hill School fifth grade teacher, said the learning curve for most youngsters on how to interact with the Promethean board in the classroom is minimal or non-existent. “They pick up on it real quickly,” Nuzzo said.

Promethean is a brand name, with Smart Board being another company that makes a similar product.

‘Visual models’ are helpful

Shane Morse, SIS math teacher, began using the digital boards four years ago as part of a pilot program. “We can come up with different activities to get the kids involved,” Morse said.

The boards allow for the use of three-dimensional models and of more applications where math can be used, according to Morse. “We’re able to represent visual models for kids,” he said.

Morse said being able to interact visually is particularly helpful to students with special needs.

Promote student collaboration

Perry Hill fifth grade teacher Ron Gydus said the boards make it easier for students to collaborate with one another. “They work together more,” Gydus said. “It’s a great way to review things together.”

Students might be given an assignment in class and then work in small groups, putting answers up on the board with their responders as they read and discuss a textbook chapter.

Shelton High School Principal Beth Smith said the boards encourage participation by students. “The students are getting out of their seats more in the classroom lessons that I’ve observed,” she said. “They get up and use the Promethean technology by controlling the pen to write their answers on the board.”

From stocks to editing skills

Sue DiMauro, SIS business and technology teacher, was looking at newspaper headlines to discuss economic issues with students in her class. They discussed commodity prices and factory order levels.

When stock market prices came up, she was able to switch to real-time prices on the Wall Street stock exchanges.

“Does it have the potential to break the record?” she asked of the Dow Jones Industrial average. Most of her students responded by indicating they expected a record to be set soon (Editor’s note: Their prediction was correct).

Sara Peters, a sixth grade language arts and writing teacher, used the board to show students how to edit and revise when writing.

Today’s students are ‘wired’ differently

Erica McNeil, a science teacher at SIS, said the boards allow teachers to use the technological tools that young people expect — and essentially use all the time outside of school.

“We have to evolve with technology as educators, and can’t stand up there with chalk and a blackboard,” McNeil said.

Morse agreed. “They aren’t wired like students were 50 years ago,” he said.

This is the second of a two-part series.