By COLLIN BROOKS
The “oohs” and “ahhs” of youthful amazement have become a common sound in the third grade wings of Boones Creek Elementary and Jonesborough Elementary Schools over the last few weeks as the students get accustomed to their newest learning tool.
“I remember them wheeling the ClearTouch Panels in and those kids’ eyes were just huge,” Jonesborough Elementary School Principal Matt Combs said. “The excitement level is much higher than it has been and students are now more excited to study and learn.”
The devices that have caused the animation are the 32 new ClearTouch Panels that have been integrated into 3rd grade classrooms across the county since their arrival on Aug. 30.
“The response and interest from the students have been great and it has really helped the teachers in doing some higher order skills in their classrooms,” Boones Creek Elementary Principal J.W. McKinney said.
The audible glee from the students has curbed a bit, but their interest in learning has been reinvigorated by the new 72-inch touch screen devices.
Having the devices in the classroom has also been an exciting time for the teachers, as Candie Wright, a Boones Creek 3rd grade teacher and self-proclaimed “tech nerd” noted.
“This for me, is amazing,” Wright said. “It is a technology that is not only benefitting themselves, but it is benefitting the teachers. It has been amazing, because where in the past with the Smart Boards, that was more of a ‘let me show you’. But now the students are more involved in the learning and it is a great motivator and it engages them more.”
Wright is one of five third grade teachers at Boones Creek with the panel and she said that she uses the device for every subject during the day. The technology also gives the children the opportunity to create their own learning activities, which the kids were demonstrating as they matched irregular verbs during a Friday visit.
“That is not something that we had the capabilities to do in the past,” Wright said.
With 32 classrooms in the county using the technology, there is an online community of Washington County teachers that are able to share lessons which they have created. They also use that portal to share advice and tips about the panels.
Jonesborough 3rd grade teacher Joleene Broyles said that the kids are right at home with the new technology.
“The kids love it,” Broyles said through a smile. “They have grown up with technology and they are more comfortable when they have that technology in their hands because they are so use to it. It eases their mind.”
Broyles has also been able to incorporate the 45 Chromebooks that Jonesborough has — which they share with all the other classrooms — in learning activities with the touch panel and she said that it has made her assessment process easier.
“I get instant feedback and if they are having trouble with something then we can address it immediately,” Broyles said. “We always do our main lesson and then I always try to find a way to incorporate the technology into the learning, as a reinforcement or sometimes as a formative assessment.”
On Monday and Tuesday, former teachers under Kimber Halliburton from Nashville’s Waverly-Belmont made the trip to teach the county teachers some tricks about the Cleartouch Panels.
That should introduce even more capabilities of the technology that Washington County teachers now have at their fingertips.
Parents of third graders at Jonesborough had the opportunity to see the technology first hand during their Sept. 20 Parent Night, while Boones Creek parents will soon have the opportunity in Oct.
Wright said that she is excited for the parents to see the new technology the kids have the opportunity to use. And while it is only one device, Wright said that the benefits that she is seeing are immeasurable.