A new type of blackboard

Montevallo Middle School teacher Raquel Stevenson explains how she uses an Interwrite board in her classroom each day Oct. 28 at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center in Alabaster. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Teachers and administrators gathered around boards in a trio of classrooms Oct. 28 at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center, but there was not a piece of chalk or eraser to be found.

The instructors were not using dry erase markers, and chalk dust did not fill the air. These were a new generation of teaching boards, designed to give students more interactivity than they have ever possessed.

About 90 principals and teachers gathered at the services center as part of the i am21 initiative, during which the administrators got a closer look at technology already installed in classrooms throughout the county.

Administrators learned more in particular about how teachers use Interwrite interactive boards in their classrooms every day.

“We have at least a few of the boards in every school in the county,” said Shelby County Schools Technology Coordinator Susan Poling. “The technology we have is only as good as the teachers using it. Our end goal is to have all of our teachers and administrators familiar with the tools we have in our classrooms.”

The boards allow teachers to visually demonstrate a lesson while obtaining instant feedback from the students.

While the teachers are at the board, students can answer questions and solve problems with a handheld remote device. After the lesson, the teachers can display the answers to the questions, along with the class’ results, on the board.

The students can also use an electronic tablet to draw directly onto the board, which allows them to make proofreading marks on incorrect sentences during English class, among other things.

“We do teacher development for our teachers, so it’s important that we also do leadership development for our administrators,” said Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller. “Today, we have some of our best and brightest teachers here demonstrating some of the best practices for these boards to our leaders.

“Continual development of our leaders is one of the key components of the success of our system,” Fuller added.

The boards are user-friendly and easy to understand, Audra Edwards, a teacher at Montevallo Middle School, said as she demonstrated the equipment to a room of her colleagues.

“As a teacher, I want to know what is practical without having to spend a whole lot of time learning the equipment, because we teachers don’t always have a whole lot of time,” Edwards said.

Because all the lessons taught on the board are in digital format, they can easily be saved for later use, sent to others or loaded to blogs. The teachers can also download lesson templates and quizzes and display them directly on the board.

“Last year, almost none of my students asked me about my blog,” said Montevallo Middle School teacher Raquel Stevenson. “Now, almost everything I do, kids will ask me if they can find it on my blog.”