The county school system recently bought enough projectors to equip each of its roughly 600 classrooms with the devices by the end of spring. The new projectors, bought with money from the federal government’s 2009 stimulus package, are being mounted to the ceilings of the 160 classrooms that lacked them just a few months ago.
LCD projectors, like computers, are now a technological staple in the classroom, said Lisa Amerson, the system’s technology director. Newer classroom technologies, such as computerized white boards, depend on the devices, she said.
“It just seemed like we should provide that as a minimum standard,” Amerson said. Teachers, she said, “should be able to concentrate their efforts into new and emerging technology.”
The devices are used on a daily basis by all of Saks Elementary School’s teachers, said Karri Findley, assistant principal.
One of those teachers, fourth-grade teacher Jill Brooks, said the more technology she receives in the classroom, the more her students learn. Students’ academic progress is reflected in assessments conducted with a remote testing system, which operates like an electronic multiple-choice quiz.
Using the testing system and interactive white boards, which operate like giant computer screens, teachers are able to post questions with multiple-choice answers. Then students can select answers from their desks using small remote controls, which are like TV controllers with fewer buttons.
The system enables teachers to see instantly if their students are grasping instruction.
“It enables you to assess their comprehension a lot more frequently,” Brooks said. “When they’re just having to do paper and pencil tests and book work, they get really bored really quick.”
The interactive white board and the remote test system are wirelessly linked to a computer in her classroom. Other forms of emerging classroom technology, such as a device known as a document camera, also work wirelessly with the computer, allowing it to serve as a small command center.
“The more technology, the more improvement we’re seeing,” Brooks said.
Technology in the classroom doesn’t make students learn, but it motivates them to learn, said Janet Bavonese, who teaches reading education courses at Jacksonville State University. She recently said electronic reading devices, such as the Kindle, make readers out of children who are taken with technology.
The same can be true for learning other subjects with different forms of technology, she said.
“It makes the presentation of material so much more engaging for the students and for the teachers, I might add,” Bavonese said. “You can show things in so many more dimensions.”
The new projectors, which come with a five-year warranty, cost about $600 each. They also include costly light bulbs that are essential to the devices and are expected to last about three years, Amerson said.
The school system began buying the projectors a little more than a decade ago. Using grants and classroom funding, teachers and principals were able to buy the devices for the majority of the rooms in the county. But a technology assessment, completed last year, revealed that some classrooms still lacked the devices.
“We just feel like every student ought to have the same opportunity in the classroom,” Amerson said.
Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544.