Educational technology travels at lightning speed. Interactive whiteboards, which took classrooms by storm just a decade ago, have gone the way of the blackboard. The latest teaching tool is the LED touch screen.
The third-grade class at St. Joseph University School in Buffalo began using one of these state-of-the-art boards made by Triumph over the past year, fully replacing their old whiteboard.
"It's a fantastic piece of equipment," said Jack Hausman, information, communication and technology consultant for St. Joe's.
The board is the next generation of technology. Students can draw and write, import and move photos, watch videos, and create their own animation. The screens allow for 10 touch points, meaning 10 students can work on one board at the same time, using fingers or a stylus in any color and have their handwriting sharpened to be more readable.
Unlike the whiteboards, these units are self-contained and rear projected. So, a student standing in front of the board will not block the entire image from the screen. Bulbs do not have to be replaced as often.
The screens work with a laptop and a document camera, so material from the Internet or standard books can be displayed for all the class to see. Digital tools like rulers, protractors and compasses are included. Third-grade teacher Kathleen Buckley demonstrated by drawing a perfect circle and allowing a student to measure the diameter.
When the students need to take a brain break they can watch a video. "We like to watch Bill Nye," Buckley said. She also uses videos for physical activity or meditation.
"It does everything the interactive whiteboards do, 150-200 percent better," said Hausman, who plans to replace all of the school's current interactive whiteboards, which are in every classroom, with the new Triumph boards.
"What we were looking to do was, as funding became available, taking the older interactive whiteboards and replacing them with newer models, which have more capability," Hausman explained. "Instead of just being able to have a single person up at the whiteboards, the newer ones allow for multiple students to be up at the board working at the same time. The projectors are much better. The bulbs have a longer life. The screens are much brighter. They've developed over the years that we had them. I had to make sure we kept our classrooms up with the latest technology."
The new boards are more expensive, $1,000-$2,000 over the whiteboard price, but over the long run, the lower repair and replacement bills are expected to save the school money. The boards also automatically update their own software, so there is no add on purchase.
Hausman bought the board through the Syracuse-based Presentation Concepts Corporation. After seeing a demonstration that included throwing a rubber ball against the screen, he got a quote on the top of the line 70-inch model, then went to parish business manager to ask for funding. By the end of the week the finance committee said, "If the school needs it, order it," Hausman said.
St. Joseph University School has also been testing out a 3-D printer, which it has on a six-month trial, and had a demonstration on virtual reality at the school.