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Eagle County’s glowing chalkboards

Matt Terrell
mterrell@vaildaily.com
Eagle County, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyTeacher Jessica Crooks, left, helps first grader David Velasco reach the red block and move it electronically off the hidden letter on the Promethean board Friday at June Creek Elementary School in Edwards, Colorado. The interactive computer board is just one of the ways the new school is incorporating more technology into their classrooms.
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AGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The students in Johnna Williams’ fourth grade class at June Creek Elementary are holding “clickers” ” little contraptions that look like a cross between a cell phone and a mini X-Box controller.

The students are using these little remotes to take a spelling test. They watch questions appear on the large computer screen mounted in the corner, and then they punch in their answers, as if sending text messages to the teacher.

At her computer, Williams can see an instant breakdown of who got what questions right and wrong, which saves her an hour of grading and lets her know immediately if her kids are learning.



Next week, she’ll be giving an interactive math lesson that quizzes kids with true or false questions as they go along, letting her know if they get it, or if she needs to explain more. She’s not 100 percent sure it will work well ” but she know she has to try new things for the district’s technology upgrades to make sense.

“If you give something to me, I have to learn how to use it. You got to get in there and get your hands dirty,” Williams said.



A year after the district spent $4 million dollars pumping up classrooms with new technology, teachers in the district are growing more comfortable using computers, taking risks, trying new things and transforming the way they teach.

Classrooms were outfitted with 40-inch flat screen monitors, and “Promethean” boards were placed in computer labs. Internet power was boosted at least 10, and the district’s outdated networks were upgraded to handle large amounts of information, allowing teachers to use those big screens to show streaming Internet videos and sophisticated Internet programs such as Google Earth.

While it does appear that a large number of teachers are using these new toys ” it doesn’t seem that everyone has grasped the true potential of everything at their fingertips.



The challenge for the school district now is figuring out how, on a wide scale, to get every teacher using technology, and using it well.

Jessica Crooks, a first grade teacher at June Creek, is a big fan of the “Promethean Board” in the computer lab. It’s basically a large, glowing chalk board hooked up to a touch-screen computer.

Kids can walk up to it and use a magnetic pen to manipulate whatever images they see on the screen.

They can write and erase words in different colors and click buttons that play sounds. They can move large pictures of coins around on the screen, learning how to make change from a dollar.

Crooks used the board on Friday for a rhyming lesson, and is always looking for new ways to use it in her class. She’s in a constant state of self training.

“I just wanted to use it right away when we got them ” I practice at home and practice at school,” Crooks said. “I could wait for somebody to teach me, but I’d rather figure it out.”

So, there’s a lot to be said for gumption. While a big goal for the district this year is to improve training and do a better job showing teachers how to use technology, it seems teachers are already finding success when they dive in and envelop themselves with the programs.

“I think teachers need a chance to play with the technology and get used to it, and as they get more familiar with it and get more support, they tend to try new things,” said Tracy Barber, principal at June Creek.

Democratic society

Technology use will also improve with leadership and teamwork, Barber said. It will be up to her and other principals to guide teachers and give them ideas, and teachers also need to be sharing ideas with each other in weekly planning meetings.

When teachers push themselves, try new things and work together, it could rub off on the kids, Barber said.

“If teachers are willing to take risks and collaborate with others, the kids will model their behavior after teachers,” Barber said. “What we’re really wanting to do is teach problem solving, working together and being contributing members of a Democratic society.”

Technology use will also improve with leadership and teamwork, Barber said. It will be up to her and other principals to guide teachers and give them ideas, and teachers also need to be sharing ideas with each other in weekly planning meetings.

When teachers push themselves, try new things and work together, it could rub off on the kids, Barber said.

“If teachers are willing to take risks and collaborate with others, the kids will model their behavior after teachers,” Barber said. “What we’re really wanting to do is teach problem solving, working together and being contributing members of a Democratic society.”

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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