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Judy Grissom column: Interactive tools promote student involvement

Educators constantly search for ideas, strategies and teaching tools that positively impact student achievement.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System provides teachers with many professional development sessions, strategies for classroom activities, and a variety of teaching tools every year. One particular technology tool that has made the biggest difference in student engagement and has changed our classrooms more than any other idea or resource is the “interactive whiteboard.” This is especially evident in the elementary schools, where students are continually involved in the learning process at a higher level than ever before. Students have become participants in their own learning and are able to communicate and collaborate with other students.
Along with the interactive boards, students are using response “clickers” to register answers to questions where the results are displayed on a large screen or the computer screen. The clickers allow the teachers a means for monitoring and constantly assessing whether students understand the information being presented to them. Teachers are provided with instant feedback and students are using the kinds of technology tools that they are exposed to every day outside of school.
The Robert Marzano Research Laboratory completed an evaluation study this past year examining the effects of the interactive boards on student achievement throughout the country at various grade levels and various school sites with different demographics. Robert Marzano, one of the most well-known educational researchers, wanted to know what impact this type of technology can have on student achievement. The results mirror what we are seeing in the classrooms across our school system:
– More student interest.
– Less student discipline problems.
– More student involvement.
– More student excitement.
– Even an increase in student attendance has been noticed.
The results of the Marzano Research Study indicated that the average percentile increase in academic achievement between the class that used the interactive board and the class that did not use the board was 17. The 17-percentile point increase is representative of a true change in student achievement and student learning. This is a phenomenal gain in achievement. Furthermore, if the teacher had been using the technology for at least two years, had 10 or more years of teaching experience, had received sufficient training to feel confident in the use of the board and used it as much as 75 percent of the instructional time, the gain in academic achievement between the class with the board and the class without the board was an average 29-percentile gain in scores. What an impact on student learning from just one technology tool!
Four years ago, the Rowan-Salisbury School System had only six interactive boards across the school system. Presently, we have a total of 354 classrooms with the interactive boards. At the elementary schools, 51 percent of all classrooms now have the interactive board. Several schools have managed to place one in every classroom. As I visit classrooms across the system, students and teachers using the boards always tell me how much they enjoy them, and teachers have often told me that they do not know how they could teach without them.
Because of the inadequacy of funding for technology, most of the interactive boards have been purchased through matching funds, foundation and corporate grants, fundraising activities and Title I funds. It would be wonderful to provide this type of technology for every student in the school system, but with the gloomy economic outlook and the drastic slash of state technology funds, the increases will be slow to come.
The proposed state budget for technology leaves very few funds even to continue what is presently being done. Our middle schools and high schools need to increase the number of boards to be ready for the technology savvy students as they leave their elementary grades. We are so fortunate in our county to have foundations and businesses that have assisted us in providing such a great 21st century tool for our students or we would not have nearly the tools that are needed for our students.
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Dr. Judy S. Grissom is superintendent for the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

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