by Caitlin Huston
Crowding the classroom SMART board, three juvenile corrections students vied to get a chance at solving the giant Sudoko puzzle.
The SMART boards, or interactive white boards, were introduced to the Juvenile Corrections classrooms about a month ago, and are now used in almost every classroom. Teachers and counselors say that the boards have helped make students, especially those who were typically withdrawn, more engaged.
Mark Harmon, Public Information Officer at the Juvenile Correctional Facility, said the classrooms originally had four SMART boards given to them from another juvenile correctional facility, but they recently acquired the boards for all classrooms but one, through a state-funded great.
The reason they sought to introduce the SMART boards, according to Stuart Barney, special education coordinator, was to make the classroom setting more interactive.
“It certainly is engaging for the students when they get to use technology,” Barney said.
In John Morphew’s class, he said the board has helped support his philosophy that learning should be fun.
“It’s just a way to get them to play with math,” Morphew said.
Morphew has his students solve math puzzles taken from online education sites and also pulls up interactive Powerpoints during his lesson plans.
In Thursday’s lesson, several students took turns going up to the board to solve inequality equations. Morphew also used the boards “flip charts” to drag equations on and off of the screen.
Morphew pointed out that the board could also easily be used in geography classes, as interactive maps can be taken off the Internet and used in lesson plans.
And as Morphew makes some technological mistakes, which are quickly pointed out and corrected by the students, he said they can all learn and learn the technology together.
“It allows us to be human together,” Morphew said.
The SMART board also brings the Internet, which is typically restricted for the students, into the classroom.
Morphew said most game sites and YouTube videos are still blocked, but he’s able to show parody videos of math classrooms.
Most of the classrooms at the facility are what Harmon calls the “technologically advanced version of a one-room schoolhouse” because of the varying levels of student ability.
While that means that a lot of the work has to be individualized, Morphew says the board has also been helping with their “focus lessons,” which teach one skill to all the students.
A lot of the taught skills are designed to be used on the GED, Morphew said.
SMART boards have also been introduced into group-counseling sessions called “Why Try.”
Instead of filling out worksheets at their desks, Counselor Andrew Rodeghero said the students are now banding together and becoming more interactive as each student takes their chance filling in the electronic worksheet on the board.
“It’s amazing how it’s completely changed the group dynamic,” Rodeghero said.
Though the students in counseling have only been working with the SMART boards for two weeks, Rodeghero said they may consider using them in other counseling programs.
Barney said the board is also a hit with most teachers in the school.
“The teachers like it because it’s so versatile,” Barney said.
“It’s just a dream,” he said.
Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.