Forget old-school chalkboards, pull-down maps and overhead projectors: Tomorrow's classrooms will have something smarter on the wall.
Edwardsville District 7 is conducting a $1 million fundraising campaign to put a PolyVision interactive whiteboard in all 370 classrooms. Rather than use district money, school leaders have been soliciting private donations. About $600,000 has been raised so far -- including $100,000 from entrepreneur Mannie Jackson, an Edwardsville graduate.
Another $200,000 came from the EGHM Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed years ago to help raise money for District 7 schools. And elementary parent-teacher organizations have been raising money to buy the projectors for the interactive whiteboards.
Fifth-grade teacher Matt Maddox wrote a grant proposal a few years ago to get an interactive whiteboard. He said it is useful to get kids interacting with each other and with the program, and the best way to approach teaching a tech-savvy generation.
"Half my class has a smartphone," Maddox said. "They have Internet access in the palms of their hands. Pencil and paper doesn't work with today's learners; they're wired differently."
With the whiteboards, the students take control of what they're doing and they are more engaged, Maddox said. In the old days, Maddox would have to walk around a classroom and show 25 students how to use a protractor. Now he can put one interactive protractor up on the screen and the students can manipulate it to see how it works.
Calling it "a giant iPad," Maddox said it allows students to drag a country to its proper place on a map, to demonstrate punctuation in use, to display an episode of the TV show "Mythbusters" as an example of the scientific process in action, and more.
The lesson also can be saved, posted to the Internet and accessed from home, allowing a student who missed the class to catch up or a struggling student to review the lesson.
"I had a student ask me today what it cost, because he wanted one for his house," Maddox said.
Parents probably don't want one: the PolyVision setup costs about $3,000, including the board itself, a projector, license for the software and educational tools and the assorted hardware.
The district began a pilot program with interactive whiteboards in select classrooms for the last 18 months, as well as experimenting with other brands. PolyVision was chosen because it has a more open architecture, allowing them to use non-proprietary software, according to curriculum director Lynda Andre.
It's a big improvement over 30-inch TV monitors hanging in the corner, Andre said.
"It opens up a very broad range of educational experiences that bring learning to life and give teachers access to more in-depth resources than they could before," Andre said. "It helps bring the classroom into the home, a whole new territory to help students review and relearn that we didn't have in a traditional classroom."
Andre said the interactive whiteboards allow them to understand concepts better by exploring them directly.
"I think our kids are growing up in a world where they need to be tech-savvy," she said. "We are teaching them to be seekers of information. Textbooks cannot hold all the information there is to know."
Maddox said he believes this kind of interactive, electronically based work is the future of teaching.
"Today's jobs did not exist 10 years ago, and most of them deal with technology," Maddox said. "By using this technology, students will be better prepared for jobs that don't even exist yet."
Andre said more fundraising will take place this spring, with the hopes of furnishing all classrooms with PolyVision boards by the 2013-14 school year. Donations of any amount are being accepted by the EGHM Foundation in care of any District 7 school.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.