Students in Education learn mechanics of forthcoming smart boards

With field experiences secure for most education majors, they will have to be prepared to face smart boards in classrooms.

Students in the College of Education will be starting to observe in classrooms within a 60-mile radius of campus. Students will have to learn how to operate smart boards or interactive white-board systems that are becoming more prominent in schools across the country.

Lynn Peisker, community relations coordinator for Champaign Unit 4 school district, said there are 170 smart boards district wide.

“They are of high interest to students,” Peisker said. “Smart boards can be used in culmination to instant clicker response systems. (Teachers can) adjust their teaching depending on feedback that they’re getting from students in the classroom.”

Some education students are worried about how complicated the technology can get.

Brittany Lys, president of Student Education Association, or SEA, and junior in Education, said the technology requires lots of reading from the manual to understand the system’s basic functions. She added the smart boards can get complicated so it is imperative that teachers really know how to use it; learning how to use it will be the hard part.

Smart boards have been around for seven or eight years in the Champaign school district, said Roger Grinnip, Unit 4’s director of information technology. The boards were funded by a grant Ameren seven years ago, he said.

He added there is a clicker system for the smart board technology that allows all the students in the classroom to respond to a question posed by the teacher in a way that students do not have use pen and paper because the answer is instantaneous.

Michael Marassa, Unit 4’s assistant director of information and instructional technology, said in an e-mail that the smart board itself costs $1399. The additional items and services needed to operate the board include the digital projector, other hardware and shipping and installation. The entire system would cost around $2600-$3000 per room, according to Marassa.

Michelle Rawleigh, historian for SEA and junior in Education, said she has never actually used the smart boards, but has seen one in use. Rawleigh said she has no concerns over using the smart boards because she assumes teachers will be trained before operating them.

There is a push for smart boards in each and every classroom, said Dave Tomlinson, Champaign City School Board President.

“I think they’re amazing. We want to invest in technology whenever we can,” Tomlinson said. “(It) makes classrooms more effective and brings the kids up-to-date with technology. They need to be prepared for that.”