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Administrator Magazine: Technology
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Which whiteboard system is right for your school?

Best In Tech 2010: Whiteboard Solutions

Which whiteboard system is right for your school or district? It’s a big purchase and the pressure’s on to make the right decision! In this quick guide, educators from all over the country share their interactive choices and some fascinating results.

1. DYMO/Mimio
"We Constantly Collaborate"
Reviewers: Kim Taylor, principal; Cheryl Pennie, fourth-grade teacher; Jae Goodwin, fifth-grade teacher
School: Charlotte A. Dunning Elementary School, Framingham, Massachusetts
Number of students: 479
The products we use: MimioClassroom, which includes MimioTeach, MimioView, MimioVote, MimioCapture, MimioPad, and MimioConnect
Goals: "We wanted to add a strongly visual, hands-on, and interactive method for students," says Taylor. "It's important that technology actually improves learning," adds Pennie.
Response: "Our school community is overwhelmingly supportive of MimioClassroom," says Pennie. "Colleagues constantly share content and ideas, and collaborate." For Taylor, "There is a feeling of hopefulness as we take stock of our materials and work with our PTO to bring additional technology to our students."
Learning curve: Pennie completed two Mimio Masters training courses online and one training course in person to learn how to better make use of the DYMO/Mimio ITT system.
How we use it: "I can download lessons from MimioConnect," says Pennie, while MimioTeach allows movement and interaction. "I easily incorporate songs and videos, too."

"A Tool for Teaching"
Reviewers: Christine Coleman, director of technology for City School District in New Rochelle, New York (12,000 students); John Just, asst. superintendent for Pinellas County Schools in Clearwater, Florida (102,000 students)
The products we use: SMART Boards, SMART Response systems, SMART tablets, SMART Table, SMART math software, SMART Notebook software, SMART USB bracelets
Goals: For Coleman, "We needed to integrate technology into classrooms and develop a strategic plan for professional development." Just's goals were to "increase engagement, attendance, and access to technology."
Response: "SMART technology has become a transparent tool for teaching and learning," says Coleman.
Learning curve: Coleman offers ongoing 1:1 training, small group sessions, and modeling as part of teachers' professional development. Teachers in Just's district go through integration training online to learn SMART Notebook software, then have hands-on training. "The combination makes teachers confident," he says.
How we use it: For Coleman, "It's used every day to differentiate instruction and as an RTI solution." For Just, "We encourage teachers to work with the interactive learning objects that come with the Notebook software and even create their own."

3. HP
"Students Work Together"
Reviewers: Kyle Berger, executive director of technology services for Alvarado Independent School District in Alvarado, Texas (3,400 students); Janet Herdman, executive director of information and technology services for North Kansas City Schools (18,000 students)
The products we use: HP servers, HP Workstation, HP Mini, HP Compaq notebook PCs, HP Compaq desktop PCs, HP printers, HP digital projectors, document cameras, interactive whiteboards
Goals: "To provide a technology program in which every student is guaranteed access to his/her own computer in the classroom," says Berger. For Herdman, "To give teachers access to technologies that help students solve problems and think critically."
Response: "Teachers say the classroom has become a more collaborative environment, where students work together to answer their own questions," says Berger. "Some teachers have practically done away with their textbooks," agrees Herdman.
Learning curve: HP helped with training teachers in both districts. "We required very minimal support," says Herdman.
How we use it: "Students can complete assignments and turn them in electronically all on the network," Berger cheers. "They're learning in multiple modalities," adds Herman.

4. Promethean
"Seamless Instruction"
Reviewer: Judy Christopher, staff development instructor, Henrico County School District, Richmond, Virginia
Number of students: 48,509
The products we use: ActivBoards, ActiVotes, ActivExpression, ActivWand, dual-user ActivArena, ActiView document camera, ActivSlate, ActivEngage responders, ActivInspire software, Promethean Planet website
Goal: "To use software and various peripherals to help make digital instruction seamless, engaging, effective, and student centered."
Response: "Parents have been very positive about this technology in the classroom. Often, their child would be dragging them into the classroom saying, ‘Look what we can do!' and ‘Wait until you see this!'"
Learning curve: "Teachers typically need to come to several training sessions to feel comfortable with the more advanced features of the ActivInspire software."
How we use it: "We have an art teacher using the document camera to demonstrate lessons. Social studies teachers display original artifacts on the Promethean ActivBoard. Teachers are able to incorporate Discovery Education videos, and students grab images from the video to create their own presentation or answer questions given by the teacher. Teachers can then use the handheld votes or virtual voting to conduct assessments."

5. RM Education
"New Energy and Excitement"
Reviewer: Dr. Terri Stahlman, chief of instructional technology and special services, Duval County Public Schools, Jacksonville, Florida
Number of students: 124,000
The products we use: Total Classroom Project, which includes RM Classcart, Qomo PenPad, RM Classboard Touch, AverMedia CP155 document camera, and RM Easiteach software
Goal: "To establish a prototype classroom in every school with equal resources, to build capacity, and to effectively integrate technology."
Response: "Extremely favorable, because it was done with our schools, rather than to our schools. We're reaching students better, and a perfect example is a self-contained ESE class that had many behavioral challenges. Even though we are in the early phases, we see a new energy and excitement from teachers and students."
Learning curve: "We created a summer training program because we know growth comes from within. This will allow teachers to work collaboratively. They'll go back to school next year with interactive lesson plans already created with their peers."
How we use it: "All tools can be used by themselves or together. I have observed teachers using the whiteboard with RM Easiteach software and the document camera. Teachers annotate and save the images, and one teacher is recording his math class and posting to the school's wiki."

6. Samsung
"Teachers Are More Mobile"
Reviewer: D. J. Wright, principal, Oak Ridge Elementary School, Tallahassee, Florida
Number of students: 530
The products we use: Samsung notebooks, televisions, digital cameras and video cameras; Pearson SuccessMaker, Accelerated Reading, whiteboards
"We wanted to give students regular access to mobile PC use. We also wanted to make teachers more mobile for creating lesson plans, grading, and working at home."
Response: "Students are getting access to technology and our teachers can better manage their workloads."
Learning curve: "Not many of our students have access to technology, so there was a learning curve on the mobile PCs. For teachers, the biggest challenge was how to make the technology meaningful for students."
How we use it: "All third- through fifth-grade students use mobile PCs daily. They run programs like Pearson's SuccessMaker instructional software and Accelerated Reader, and do research online. The cameras are used on field trips and for school events. We can connect the notebooks directly to the whiteboards for presentations."
What's ahead: "We'll continue to update our expectations for the amount of technology used in the classroom each year. I expect to walk into classrooms and see new content on whiteboards."

7. PolyVision
"This Is the Direction"
Reviewer: Rob Lee, director of district technology, New Brighton Area School District, New Brighton, Pennsylvania
Number of students: 1,695
The products we use: PolyVision eno whiteboard, smart Tables (K-1), 3M short throw projectors, Qwizdom Student Response Systems, document cameras, iPod Touch classroom lab, MyVRSpot educational social networking solution, iPad labs, ILS (integrated learning systems), smartphones, netbooks
Goal: "We wanted to create a classroom where students could show their teachers and peers the information that they understand, beyond what's needed to pass a test."
Response: "Tremendously positive. Students, staff, and administrators have really bought into this initiative. They know that this is the direction, and it's vital to provide students with the tools to be successful."
Learning curve: "We know that meaningful professional development is the key and that it's an ongoing process. We have full-time, district-wide technology integration support people."
How we use it: "In the primary grades and with special needs students we use smart Tables in the learning centers. The rest of the elementary classrooms are equipped with PolyVision eno boards and mini slates, 3M short-throw projectors, elmo document cameras, and ‘mini labs' teachers use for a variety of purposes."

8. Epson
"Lessons Can Be Adapted and Shared"
Reviewer: Andy Odle, director of technology, Zeigler-Royalton CUSD #188, Zeigler, Illinois
Number of students: 700
The products we use: Epson Bright-Link 450Wi projector, Samsung SDP-860 document camera, Anchor AN-130 amplified speakers
Goal: "We needed to transition from traditional teaching methods, but at the time we didn't have money in the budget to purchase interactive whiteboards."
Response: "The setup was simple and compatible with most whiteboard software. Lessons can be adapted for different learning styles. Teachers are able to use Discovery Education to stream curriculum needs, including social studies, science, health, and literature activities."
Learning curve: "We had a two-hour staff-led training. Teachers gained confidence quickly. It was really just like using the computer with a whiteboard."
How we use it: "Document cameras capture still and video images, which can then be manipulated on the whiteboard, and then saved and shared."
What's ahead: "We're planning to add more Epson 450Wis for other schools and departments, and add more document cameras and response systems."

9. AVerMedia
"I Am Amazed by My Students"
Reviewer: Carrie Downer, universal pre-kindergarten teacher, Warwood School, Wheeling, West Virginia
Number of students: 5,218
The products we use: AVerVision CP300 document camera, Aver+ software, AVerPen Starter Pack
Goal: "We wanted to use technology through engaging lessons as well as center-based instruction. The goal was to make our students as comfortable as possible with technology at an early age, while providing the tools to interact with the lesson."
Response: "The students were excited and curious. They have shown a lot of growth throughout the year using this system. The community response has been overwhelming. We had the first lady of West Virginia visit our classroom to see the system in use. I am absolutely amazed by my 4- and 5- year-olds learning technology at such an early age and showing advanced learning and thinking skills."
Learning curve: "AVerMedia has provided training in my classroom, as well as training sessions online. It was easy to learn because all of the products in the solution are controlled through one software application."
How we use it: "We used the document camera to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a class. The teacher uses the pen to focus on vocabulary words and certain pictures in the book by highlighting them or making a circle around the picture."

10. eInstruction
"Adoption Has Expanded"
Reviewer: Oliver Martin, educator and technology trainer, Lehigh Senior High School, Lee County School District, Florida
Number of Students: 81,000
The products we use: eInstruction Assessment Suite, MOBIs, Interwrite interactive whiteboard, ExamView Pro, Interwrite Workspace software, Pulse classroom polling system
Goal: "To teach math with dynamic, colorful, and engaging technology, without the technology or the teacher being the center of the lesson."
Response: "Administration was resistant at first, but when I pointed out that the majority of our textbooks came with test banks and worksheets written for ExamView Pro, and all of the equipment I was requesting worked in concert with ExamView Pro, they agreed to give it a try. Adoption of the system by teachers has expanded to 40 classrooms."
Learning Curve: "Most of the teachers I assist are able to work with the basic elements of the system after a few hours of instruction."
How we use it: "The products are used every day in every class. Since the suite of products is from a single manufacturer, they work together seamlessly. I can activate the classroom polling system from within the workspace software. If I assign a question on the board, the information placed in the clicker is transferred to the grade book without setting up or running a separate program."

11. ELMO
"Everyone Loves the Camera"
Reviewers: Laurie Cummings, English department chair, Las Flores Middle School, Capistrano Unified School District, California (1,350 students); Amy Welch, science teacher, Brea Olinda Unified School District, California (2,034 students)
The products we use: elmo document camera, wireless slate/tablet
Goal: "We needed help with teaching reading and writing to a varied group of middle school students," says Cummings. For Welch, "During dissection, I wanted to show the internal anatomy of the specimen."
Response: "Everyone loves the document camera," Cummings raves. "The students were impressed with the technology," Welch agrees.
Learning curve: "It took about an hour to load the software into the computer and do a brief reading of the key features," says Welch.
How we use it: For Cummings, "The document camera makes it possible to project a novel in readable font on the screen, or display a 3-D object. The wireless feature is great for moving around the room and interacting with different students around the room." For Welch, "The document camera helped students take notes on the digestive system. I was able to use the diagram from the lab manual. I also used the wireless slate in conjunction with the document camera."

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