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Wilton Gets SMART

Technology and the classroom have become inextricable entities, and in Wilton, this is particularly true for SMARTBoard technology.

In Wilton, have captured the excitement and attention of teachers and students alike.

A new - if perhaps costly - technology SMARTBoards have become such an integrated part of technology that the Chair of Wilton’s Public Facilities Council said that architectural aspects of the school’s renovation should be for classroom technology. They’ve also been deemed important enough that every classroom at (MD) is equipped with one, thanks in part to fundraising done by the MD PTA and the n and the Wilton taxpayer. 

Yet SMARTBoards go beyond being a fancy whiteboard. They integrate touch-screen technology with the projection of a computer screen, allowing for a number of incredible educational teaching opportunities. For example, in this video you can see a SMARTBoard user swoop down on snowy mountain peaks and investigate the specifics of a city skyscraper while using Google Earth.

From candlelight to lightbulb

, who teaches in the World Languages Department of , was one of the first teachers in his department to get a SMARTBoard four years ago. He said that the new technology has become an “integral part” of his routine and are well-received by the students.

 “Kids love it and recognize its advantages. They’re happy to use it in the classroom,” he said.

Gabrielson believes that this technology has completely phased out the need for an overhead printer, and that SMARTBoards provide a more intuitive, fluid classroom experience. He can go to the board and make marks, or switch slides, and “still face the students,” promoting classroom engagement.

The SMARTBoard also allows for notes, or notations on a file, to be saved as a PDF file, which can then be uploaded directly to the Edline website for students looking for more study materials or for those who may have missed class. The SMARTBoard eliminates the need for Xeroxing class notes, lectures, and some study materials because it just lets the teacher upload a massive amount of data, to be used by students as they wish. Using a Document Camera, the SMARTBoard allows users to snap a picture and then integrate that photo into a presentation, where it can be modified, inserted into a slideshow/PowerPoint, and marked to the user’s desire.

“It’s a tremendous labor-saving device,” said Gabrielson.  “I can mark the text with an electronic marker, then save an extensively long file—20, 30, 40 frames—and I can save dozens of these in one click of my mouse, and then save the presentation as a PDF document and put it on Edline for students.”

And perhaps coming soon, Gabrielson can give students a first-person, 3-D view of the ruins of Pompeii on Google Maps (albeit with tourists, which you apparently can’t even escape in the virtual realm). The possibilities appear to be limited only by the amount of virtual software available and ease of compatibility; actual museums from all over the world can be virtually toured in Google Art Project, something an art department would probably find useful.

Matt Hepfer, the Director of Technology for Wilton schools, is also proponent of SMARTBoards. He said the new technology has a plethora of uses which “reaches all different types of learners,” by allowing a hands-on “engagement” and offers students the ability to “relieve the class discussion with audio” and real-time note-taking . This could be especially beneficial for students in special education, who may require more time on certain subjects.

“We’re visual learners,” said Hepfer. During a focus group study in Wilton, “so many students talked about how the SMARTBoards helped them learn.”

Even well-established teachers, such as some “veteran” kindergarten instructors, are adapting to the new technology because it is so well-received by pupils, said Hepfer.

When it’s used for the first time “immediately all the faces in the classroom light up” said Hepfer. Hepfer suggested that even if a teacher isn’t technologically inclined or even a luddite, the enthusiasm shown from the students was enough to win over the skeptics.

Some teachers love it just as much: “For me to go back to an overhead projector would be like using candles instead of electricity,” wrote Gabrielson in an email advocating the importance of SMART technology.

Budgeting and buying

As innovative and exciting that this new technology may be for teachers and students, it comes with a price.

If the proposed Board of Ed budget passes, Cider Mill would have all class rooms equipped with SMARTBoards, said Hepfer. Right now, Cider Mill is at “about 87 percent” of its 100 percent goal, he said.

According to the proposed budget, $40,294 is allocated for Cider Mill SMARTBoard purchases and technology training, which includes the purchase of 11 new SMARTBoards. The aforementioned Document Cameras come at an additional cost. Cider Mill is requesting an additional $7,392 for Document Cameras, which are add-ons to the SMARTBoard, with the “implementation” defined as “equip[ping] two classrooms at each grade level per house” with the cameras, according to the Board of Ed’s budget proposal.

Middlebrook, which has SMARTBoards in about half of its classrooms according to Hepfer, is asking for $29,085 for its “Team SMARTBoard Upgrade” project. This includes rail-mounted SMARTBoards to be “mounted on each academic team to double the number of these devices on each team,” “ceiling-mounted projectors” and training costs, according to the Board of Ed’s budget proposal.

Miller-Driscoll is requesting $11,399 for SMARTBoard purchases and training. An additional $7,392 is asked to “equip five classrooms at each grade level” with Document Cameras.

Wilton High School is asking for several SMARTBoards, including a  SMARTBoard and projector in two science rooms ($4,069) and the implementation of SMARTBoards and LCD projectors in the “remaining four world language rooms that currently do not have them” as well as equipping existing SMARTBoards with “Bluetooth connectors” ($13,608). Other areas of the WHS budget also ask for Bluetooth connectivity, which would eliminate stray wires which may pose a safety hazard. (Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of all SMARTBoard technology asked for by WHS).

The Wilton Education Foundation (WEF) has donated to Wilton schools “$86,000 to SMARTBoards” and “$5,000 to SMARTBoard training” out of “$160,000” over the past three academic school years, said WEF Chair Christopher Smith in an email to Patch. “Our goal is to donate at least $75,000 again this year, with at least $40,000 more going to SMARTBoards,” he wrote.

Wilton PTAs also contribute to SMARTBoard funding through a variety of fundraising activities, such as this past weekend’s Winter Carnival.

Before Wilton votes on the education budget, voters can head over to the 3.0, which is to be held at on March 29 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. 

Sue Donem March 14, 2012 at 04:37 PM
One thing this article doesn't talk enough about is the need for training. I've seen Smartboards being used by well trained teachers who have adapted their curriculum accordingly and it is truly impressive. Unfortunately this has been a line item that has faced repeated and substantial budget cuts. I applaud the WEF for alllocating some of their donations towards training, but more is needed. Total fees under various "pay-to-play" scenarios are always derided as being too small to matter. I would suggest that those fees would be a welcome addition to the Smartboard training budget.

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