Bench SMARTly steps beyond the blackboard

Grade 2 student Bria Grounds demonstrates math equations solving on the SMART board during the SMART Collaborative Classroom program event at Bench Elementary School Feb. 12. - Andrew Leong
Grade 2 student Bria Grounds demonstrates math equations solving on the SMART board during the SMART Collaborative Classroom program event at Bench Elementary School Feb. 12.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

Bench Elementary Grade 2 teacher Ruth Bowman calls it a “fancy pencil.”

But what it really is, is the world’s first interactive whiteboard.

And as part of the SMART Collaborative Classroom program, Bench students now have one of these boards installed in every classroom.

Students have been testing the new equipment, which was installed during the Christmas holidays, for about two weeks now, explained Bowman, an official educator and trainer for the SMART program.

“It went really well and we had so many people come out and of course the kids were thrilled to be the centre of attention,” she said of an official unveiling ceremony Tuesday morning. “Bench Elementary is the only school in B.C. and Western Canada to be a part of the (SMART program),” she said.

Bench, now an official SMART Showcase School with the Canadian-based company SMART Technologies Inc. has for the past five years been using SMART education solutions to engage students and improve learning outcomes.

But instead of only a couple whiteboards featured in a few classrooms, the entire school’s jumped on board, with whiteboards in every class and a classroom dedicated as the “Collaborative Classroom.”

The Cowichan Bay school, which serves 323 students from kindergarten through Grade 5, is really pumped about the collaborative classroom that has four whiteboards and uses multiple SMART Boards, SMART Document Cameras and SMART Response systems (clickers) and students can connect to digital content using their laptops, iPads or smartphones, explained Bowman.

“The addition of the SMART Collaborative Classroom will enable teachers and students to continue exploring new ways of teaching and learning, while maintaining a dynamic balance between whole-class, small-group and individual learning,” a press release explains. “As part of the SMART Collaborative Classroom program, Bench Elementary will also be connected to other classrooms around the world in order to share ideas and best practices for collaborative learning.”

“It’s been wonderful for the children, as they learn in various ways,” added Bowman. “Some are visual and some are doers.

“The SMART board meets a lot of their needs. You can bring in movies, film clips, video, pictures and it all interacts, which means you really get the attention of everybody, even if they’re not normally the listener type.”

Bowman's been on a mission to get the boards in Bench classrooms for several years now.

"I've been really keen on SMART boards for the last five years ," she said, noting she applied about three years ago by writing a research paper and won a grant that got Bench its first two boards.

"Right away I knew I needed one in my classroom," she said after seeing for the first time a board used as a rental. "And everyone else was saying, 'We want one too.'"

“We are thrilled to be a SMART Collaborative Classroom site,” said Principal/Administrator Dave Dougan. “Our teachers and students are very much looking forward to exploring how the latest classroom technology can help make learning even more effective.”



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