By Dave Rosenberg, Third Grade Teacher and Assistant to the Head of School
Last year, in my tenth year of teaching, I began using an ActivBoard, and now I don’t know how I was able to teach without it. Rashi is now in its second year of implementing “ActivClassrooms” with the use of Promethean’s ActivBoard and ActivInspire software.
ActivBoards are Promethean’s brand of interactive whiteboards. I am able to write on the board, using the ActivPen, as I would an ordinary whiteboard. However, I’m also able to use the pen to click through websites and open video clips and other multimedia. The true power of the ActivBoard is its interaction with the ActivInspire software. In this program, I am able to create “flipcharts” using text, pictures, embedded multimedia, and digitized worksheets and textbook pages from existing curriculum. It allows me to project and interact with copies any pages that students have in front of them, from the previous night’s math homework, to the weekly Torah portion.
Using an ActivBoard allows for more time spent on learning, and both teachers and students benefit. Whereas I used to have to spend valuable class time in Jewish Studies walking around to individually help students find a specific word or phrase from a page of Hebrew text, now I am able to project a digital copy of the text, the same page that the students are looking at in their Tanakh, and use the highlighter tool to point out the words. Rather than taking a few minutes to furiously copy down notes from the whiteboard before having to thoroughly erase it in preparation for my next class, I can save notes from the board and then clear it for the next subject in two clicks. The following day, the previous day’s notes can be projected for students instantly, as opposed to having to spend transition time reconstructing what had been on the board the day before. Notes can even be printed and given to students who were absent or to those who require copies of the notes as an accommodation for a learning disability.
This fall we implemented Promethean’s Learning Response Systems. In grades K-2, students are using ActiVotes, a handheld voting device that allows students to respond to prepared or spontaneous multiple choice, yes/no, or true false questions. In grades 3-8, students are using ActivExpressions, a more sophisticated handheld device that can sort items in order, respond to likert scales, or text in open responses, both written and numeric.
My students love using the devices.They add a gameshow like element to lessons and allow all students to participate simultaneously. This is especially helpful for those students who do not frequently raise their hands or who are uncomfortable sharing in front of the whole class.
The Learning Response Systems give me immediate feedback from all students and allow me to check frequently for understanding and follow up to assist children who may be having difficulty. For example, as I was using the ActivExpresssions as the introduction to a math concept, I was surprised to note that two of my students, who were new to Rashi this year, were consistently getting the questions wrong. The data let me know I needed to follow up with them individually. I learned that although the students understood the math, they were confused by the formatting of Everyday Math, which they hadn’t seen before. It allowed me to review the format with them so that they were better able to demonstrate their understanding of the mathematical concepts.
ActivExpressions also enable me and other teachers to create self-paced assessments where students answer a series of questions directly on the device. Teachers can track responses during the assessments and export the results to Excel. This technology provides hard data instantly available to help teachers plan and differentiate instruction on the fly.
The possibilities of what we can achieve are very exciting. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring!