Smart boards taking education to the future

The days of chalk and blackboards are long gone in the Cayman Islands as education officials embrace increased use of technology in the classroom. 

A bid went out this month for 69 new interactive whiteboards, multimedia devices similar to large iPads that can be used for lesson presentations. 

The contract, when completed, will mean nearly 80 percent of primary school classrooms will have interactive whiteboards. 

Mark Ray, Information and Communications Technology integration specialist for the Department of Education Services, said teachers have been receiving training on how to use the whiteboards, which are still considered fairly new technology in education. 

He said the touchscreen boards, which come with software and resources to help plan lessons, are an important new tool for teachers. He said the latest contract would make them available in most regular classrooms, not just in IT labs. 

“The technology isn’t in place to force teachers to use it for every lesson,” Mr. Ray said. “It complements what is already there and gives them another option for delivering information and instruction. 

“We have found it helps teachers give engaging, engrossing lessons and allows students to work collaboratively.” 

Steve Durksen, ICT manager for the Ministry of Education, said the additional smart boards would help integrate technology across the curriculum. He said, “Interactive whiteboards, through their software, which allows for the fast creation of interactive activities using templates, provide the opportunity for teachers to show, and have their students demonstrate, aspects of their learning.  

“The software brings an additional element into the teaching and learning dynamic, and that is allowing students to create content for use by other students. This is not only another strategy to demonstrate learning, but a good way to teach students not to just be consumers of information, but creators of content as well.” 

He said they could be used, for example, for storytelling or demonstrating the impact of different variables on a graph. 

“Interactive whiteboards have become more commonplace in the modern classroom and are, in fact, requested more often by educators who wish to produce and utilize engaging content with their students,” he added. He said they are particularly useful in the core areas of literacy, numeracy and science, where educators have developed content and software to aid lessons. 

“In addition to adding collaboratively and interactively to lessons, the ministry has purchased software that will allow collaboration between classes and schools using interactive whiteboards as a video conferencing tool,” he added. 

Kera Smith, a teacher at George Town Primary School, said the boards have been used at the school for the last two years. She said they are useful for keeping children engaged and interested in lessons. 

Kera Smith, a teacher at George Town Primary School, uses the interactive whiteboard in her classroom. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER