By COLLIN BROOKS
The kids at Ridgeview have only been in school for a few hours, but it’s easy to tell whose class everyone wants to be in. That distinction belongs to 3rd grade teacher Alana Street. While there is no doubt that Street is a top-notch teacher, that is not her biggest draw.
This year, her classroom will be the first technology demonstration classroom in Washington County, which will display the Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton’s vision for the future of technology in the district.
Street was all smiles as she demonstrated what her 70-inch ClearTouch panel is capable of, mechanically tilting the large-touch screen to sit as a table top and demonstrating just a few of the applications that she now has available for her students.
“It is such a motivator for students, while they are still engaged in quality activities,” Street said. “They think they are playing games, but they are actually engaging in rigorous activities that help them learn.”
The new device is linked to her computer so she can create specific activities to match her curriculum or she can use one of the hundreds of apps or internet tools at her fingertips. The operating system is infused with Android OS and is updated daily with its live internet access.
Street and Ridgeview Principal Kelly Harrell took time to show off the multitude of apps, which range from coloring activities to interactive maps, anatomy and some of the highest maths. The interactive screen also has a science section, where you can pour beakers full of liquid from one to the other and, if you don’t stop, they will overflow. And when recreation isn’t an option outside, the screen can be turned into table mode and children can play air hockey.
This is one of two ClearTouch Interactive panels in Washington County. The other is housed inside of the boardroom at the Washington County Board of Education office. The two panels are just an example of new Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton’s technology vision for the county. She took office on July 1 and is already making strides to mold the school system.
Setting up a technology demonstration classroom is a big step forward for the system.
“That is how you get your community excited; you have to really give them a visual for it,” Halliburton said. “You can talk about it, but unless they put their hands on it, see it, touch it and hear it in action, it’s just not going to take root. So you have to have a place for your funding body to go to.”
The classroom has been set up for less than two weeks, but already multiple commissioners and school board members have stopped by to see the new tool in action.
“They’re very impressed and very excited about what this can bring to Washington County for our students,” Street said.
Those two tools are just the beginning. A perfect technology classroom would be filled with at least five iPads, a laptop for each student, audio equipment, ClearTouch Panel and a camera.
The school system is in the process of testing out different laptops including a Chromebook, a Chromebook with a touchscreen and a Dell laptop which they will test over the next month.
“We just want to be sure that we are spending the taxpayers dollars wisely,” Halliburton said.
The ClearTouch Panels and their automated stands are $7,200 per screen, which is well under their retail price of $10,000, Halliburton noted.
While the visual technology is important, Halliburton said that she has had teachers tell her that their most vital piece of technology are the microphones.
“(Teachers) go home less fatigued everyday, especially in the younger grades,” Halliburton said. “It really helps with the phonic phases in the early grades, because it helps students clearly hear the correct pronunciation.”
All of the new technology is a welcome commodity for Street and her classroom and it’s also a big step up. As a second-grade teacher at Boones Creek Elementary, Street just received a projector and a Smartboard to use last year.
Taking quick steps forward in the technology realm are a welcomed progression for Harrell and her staff.
“To think about where we have been technology wise in Washington County to where we want to be, that is what is so impressive,” Harrell said. “You know Mrs. Halliburton’s vision for our system is amazing and integrating things like this is only going to help us move forward in a faster manner.”