New high-tech classroom lauded

Those in attendance at the Rainy River District School Board’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday night got a glimpse into the future during a tour of the board’s new high-tech classroom at Robert Moore School.
Stephen Danielson, the board’s manager of information services, delivered a presentation on the use of technology in classrooms.
The current ratio of students to computers in the board’s elementary schools is 5:1.
But it is not possible to increase the number of computers in schools now because “either we cannot feasibly physically fit any more computers, or the school’s electrical systems can’t handle any more,” Danielson explained.
“So it is not enough anymore to just think about how many desktops or laptops should be brought into the classroom,” he noted. “We need to ask broader questions.
“Why and when should technologies be integrated into the curriculum? How can children and teachers share what they know using technology?” he asked.
The Hi-Tech Classroom Pilot Project at Robert Moore School was created to help answer those questions.
Over the summer, the board invested about $18,000 in the needed equipment to build the high-tech classroom, including a computer, an interactive whiteboard, a document camera, a projector, and a sound system.
That room now is being used by Grade 6 teacher Dana Kosowick and her students.
The board, which usually meets every month in the school, walked upstairs during their meeting Tuesday night to see the new room.
Kosowick, equipped with a hands-free microphone, showed how the interactive whiteboard responded to touch—either with a finger or a special pen.
She also demonstrated a geography and a math lesson, and even presented a message from her students which said, “We love our classroom. Thank you.”
The document camera functions like an overhead projector, but rather than having to use transparencies, the teacher can put any text under the camera and project it on the large whiteboard.
She then can make notations on the text on the whiteboard, save the screen, and print out a copy for every child in class.
Kosowick said she is never short of volunteers now to come to the board to answer a question.
“It really captures their interest. It engages all learners,” she enthused. “It’s exciting for the teacher, too. I’m learning new things every day.
“I don’t know how I taught without it.”
And the sound system means every student in the class, whether in the front row or at the back, can hear her talking at all times—even if she’s facing the board.
Board chair Dan Belluz said he was impressed with the presentation, and that the board perhaps would consider expanding the project to other classrooms.
While classes at J.W. Walker and Crossroads Schools are using different styles of interactive whiteboards, they do not have the full-room redesign that exists in the high-tech classroom at Robert Moore.
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, the public board passed a motion to enter into a credit agreement with the National Bank of Canada for temporary financing of $1,072,658 for the Ministry of Education’s “Good Places to Learn” initiative.
The initiative provides funding for boards to cover the interest on loans for school maintenance and improvements.
The board passed a motion to reduce its operating overdraft from $4 million to $3 million, and to increase its rate of travel reimbursement to $.45 per km on the first 5,000 km, and $.39 per km thereafter, effective as of yesterday.
A motion also was passed authorizing Belluz, new Education Director Jack McMaster, and Superintendent of Business Laura Mills as the signing officers for the board.
Another was passed appointing BDO Dunwoody as auditors.
The board also reported a surplus in the 2005 Manulife benefit plan, and agreed to recognize the $343,330 refund as revenue for 2004-05.
Also Tuesday night, the board:
•recognized all elementary, secondary, and occasional teachers through its monthly R.E.A.C.H. program (Oct. 5 is World Teachers’ Day);
•awarded its “Recognition of Excellence” to the Fort Frances High School Council for its efforts in bringing renowned speaker and author Barbara Coloroso to town last month; and,
•reviewed its system planning report for 2004-05, and looked towards carrying over those successes into the new school year.
The board’s next regular meeting will be held Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. at Rainy River High School.