Clicking around

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Wendy Soriano works during Gayle Magee and Dawn Willie's classroom at Empire Elementary School on Friday.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Wendy Soriano works during Gayle Magee and Dawn Willie's classroom at Empire Elementary School on Friday.

The instruction on the Smartboard for second-graders at Empire Elementary School was to select the month they learned about Constitution Day.

The answers were A) January B) September C) December or D) July.

The students in Gayle Magee and Dawn Wille's class picked up their blue clickers, pointed toward the white board and punched in their answers.

"They clickers are fun because you get to click and point," said student Alex Rodriguez, 7.

"The correct response was September," Magee said.

Eighty-eight percent of her students were right. She went through two charts to show them their data - a pie chart revealed that 21 of them selected B, three of them selected A and none of them selected C or D. She then showed them what that looked like on a bar graph.

The next item was to choose A) Constitution or B) liberty to complete the sentence: American leaders did not want a king to rule the new nation so they wrote a new plan called the ...."

Click, click, click.

"Four people forgot it's called the Constitution," Magee said after the answers were punched in. "Nineteen people - 83 percent - answered correctly."

There was no problem for student to define the word liberty. All of them picked A) Freedom over B) Slavery.

Magee has been using the classroom performance system, CPS, clickers along with the Smartboard for three years.

"There's all kinds of assessments with it," she said. "I can tell how each student answered. I can tell the most missed answers. I can print out a study guide for student based on their answers. I can do all kinds of assessment and there is lots and lots of feedback."

The clickers came to the school through money from a technology grant called "The Plan for Social Excellence" given to Empire three years ago from a private foundation in Tampa, Fla.

"The Smartboard makes it more fun for the kids and for us," said Magee. "It's easy. Instead of drawing coins on the board, for example, or using an overhead projector with actual coins, on the Smartboard you can write over the coins or move them around. It does everything."

"Because of the grant, all of this is possible."

Fifty thousands dollars over each of the past three years has brought 17 Smartboards to the school - whiteboards that run computer software. The boards allows students to play language-arts games and work on their phonics, comprehension and compound word skills. Nearly any software can be used.

"It makes learning more fun," Magee said. "Instead of drilling in reading and ABCs and basics, we can look at in a differ way through technology. I would say most of the kids here have limited access to the world, but with these technologies we can go anywhere in the world."

Case in point, a recent virtual trip to Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

As LeAnn Morris, computer teacher and technology coordinator, demonstrated to first-graders Friday, the Smartboard is great for building word association circles. She typed in the letters USA on her keyboard, built a a red star with a blue edge around the word and then pulled icons of the Statue of Liberty, George Washington and the U.S. flag from the side of the screen.

She talked into an audio enhancer, the first in the school, that made her voice come through four speakers. Six more units are on their way for other teachers.

"We want to teach new technology as a tool, not as a separate subject," Morris said. "It's like how kids know how to use pencil and paper as a tool. We want it to be just like that."

Carson High School is the only other school in the district to have a technology grant from The Plan for Social Excellence. It is at the end of it's second three-year grant.

Morris wants to re-apply for a second grant at Empire, but the curriculum innovation team there is still working out their ideas - possibly Palm Pilots for every teacher and student.

"We're waiting to figure out the next innovative idea to write the new grant," Morris said.

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.


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