The four first-graders at John Haines Elementary School in Chinatown burst out of their seats with grins and ran excitedly to the center of the room when invited to demonstrate their new classroom technology.
Their new tool is a two-foot tall table with a 27-inch digital touch screen that allows up to six children to complete interactive lessons. The table is adaptive for students in pre-school through grade six.
The SMART Table, developed by Canada-based SMART Technologies, allows students to use their fingers to select or drag objects and write or draw on the screen to play educational games, solve problems and work with others. During the demonstration the four eager students dragged names of countries onto a map, selected pictures on the screen and wrote words on a digital notepad. Charlene Dai, the students’ teacher, said the table enables the students to collaborate and encourages conversation and social interaction.
"It's a great tool for the classroom," Dai said. “It is designed as a very open and flexible platform that will work across all curriculum areas,” Nancy Knowlton, CEO of SMART Technologies, said.
Teachers are able to create their own lesson plans and transfer them to the table, from geography to science to spelling. Knowlton said the table is still in the early stages of development, so she wants feedback from teachers and students on how well its teaching tools work and what additional ones they should add.
“We’re in the process of trying to turn all of our classrooms into SMART rooms where the children have immediate access to all the technologies in the classroom,” said Dainn Wright, John Haines principal. A few of the classrooms already have SMART Boards, a touch-sensitive whiteboard made by the same company. “We want technology to be seamlessly interwoven into instructional program so it’s just second nature to the children.”
Wright said she wants to make sure her students are prepared for success in the digital world, so she is glad her school is getting to test the table.
The table is on loan from SMART Technologies for two months as part of their unveiling and product testing. The table costs $8,000, if the school wants to keep it.Wright said she hopes to raise the money from outside, because “purchasing a technology tool at that cost is just prohibited” by her budget. She said she has had success in the past raising money for her school’s needs.
June Coutre, president of the local school council, said the school might reach out to parents and community members.