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New interactive tables create endless possibilities for student collaboration

When 5th grade teacher Ms. Wyatt ponders who will work on the new Promethean interactive table, her East Campus students eagerly raise their hands and try to get her attention.

There’s room for only six students, so space is at a premium. What makes the ActivTable so popular? It’s like a computer that allows students to touch the surface for displays covering a wide array of subjects, including math, science and seemingly countless others.  The tables are a novelty because they were just introduced to the classrooms. They enable students to work as a team and to literally bring something new and fresh to the table where everyone can learn something and have fun at the same time.

“It’s exciting because it helps us learn about today’s world and electronics,” said David Hernandez, a student in Ms. Wyatt’s class. Another student, Cassius Howard, said he likes the signature hands-on feature. “You can just touch and drag,” he said in explaining the web-based applications that enable the creation of tailor-made activities for different teaching and learning approaches.

The fifth graders are lucky. Each campus has an ActivTable for those students and three were recently added for special education students, one for each campus. Just recently, advisers for the Promethean World education company in Chicago were in Houston for intensive teacher training.

While the fifth graders are using the tables primarily for science and math enhancement, the special education students will use it for a range of topics.

“Fifth graders can use it for math and virtual science experiments while all the core subjects, such as math, reading and language arts, will be loaded onto the table for the special education students,” said Ms. Alexander, Northeast Campus director and district Special Education Coordinator. Other teachers look at the tables with envy and wonder when they might get them for their students.

Student Melany Reyes said the students use the East Campus table to work on fractions, multiplications, large numbers, prime and composite numbers and more. “I like playing and learning,” she said.

Ms. Wyatt said she has downloaded about 100 games for math alone and about 120 applications all together. And about every two months or so, upgrades are available, just like with Windows, Macs and smart phones.

'A huge leap forward in education'
The Promethean company promotes the idea that collaboration skills are “increasingly recognized as critical for success in later study, adult life and in work.” Users of the table can work collaboratively on a single activity -- such as sorting shapes, building sentences, and creating and solving their own math problems. But they also have the option of engaging in project-based learning tasks that emphasize individual skills to achieve a common group objective.

For example, students can navigate maps and roam the world’s oceans in geography or share and spend virtual money in a math lesson or even investigate creatures in science, according to the company’s website.   The possibilities are endless.

Mr. Rhone, who teaches fifth-graders at Northeast, called the tables “a huge leap forward in education.”

“This allows me to enhance science research,” he said. “The students experience the joy of researching scientists and completing biographies of the scientists. A student can drag a picture onto the internet and information about the scientists appears. You can transcribe the information onto the ActivTable and it can be saved. It’s phenomenal.”

The tables are the latest in a series of technological advances in teaching and learning at Varnett. All students already have access to Promethean boards, All students already have access to Promethean boards,interactive learning whiteboards that connect to a computer and allow students to have hands on practice and personal involvement with their learning.  And soon, 300 Kindle Fire tablets –  the mini-tablet computer version of Amazon.com’s Kindle e-book reader - will be allotted to Kindergarten and 1st grade students for classroom use. These students will join the 2nd through 5th graders who already use laptops in school.

“It’s crucial for our students to have access to the latest technology so they will be better-equipped to thrive in whatever endeavor they choose,” said Dr. M. Annette Cluff, Varnett’s superintendent.

For information on expanding the use of the ActivTable, click here.


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