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Text Box: Interactive classrooms in a visionary school

It is inspiring to see a school invest its budget wisely. Rather than spending on the cosmetics of roof tiles and a coat of paint, Northcliff Primary School has purchased 29 ActivBoard interactive whiteboards and ActiVote Learner Response Systems over the past four years.

Every single classroom in the section 21 school, from Grade 1 to Grade 7, is fitted with the interactive
classroom technology supplied by Promethean and implemented locally by Imaging Innovations.
Northcliff Primary School Principal, Jeanine Kerr, is quick to point out, “All credit must go to the previous principal, Mrs Rina Botha, and her visionary views about the quality of education we at Northcliff can provide.” She said the teaching technology was a worthwhile investment and not just a tool for the rich.
Sharing Jeanine Kerr’s excitement is Harry Culling, Institutional Development and Support Officer for the
Johannesburg North District. Culling made it very clear that “teachers need to be exposed to the technology and sponsorship of these products should take place on a broad scale”. He was also impressed by the fact that teachers can now collaborate and share lesson information on a memory stick. This minimises the paperwork that teachers commonly go through, and allows them more time with the learners.

The ActivBoard interactive whiteboards provide learners with a visual lesson that encourages involvement with the content and the teacher, rather than the traditional “chalk ‘n talk” classroom experience. The technology motivates learners to think critically about information and they become involved in the process of searching for, and verifying, content. This also provides the opportunity for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to be exposed to technology and computers. The ActiVote learner response system is a valuable assessment tool facilitating the continuous and immediate evaluation of learners. Every learner in a class will have the remote control-size “clicker” that allows them to provide the teacher with immediate feedback, anonymously, individually, or as a group. In a Grade 1 class, 30 learners are seated on the carpet around an electronic whiteboard. The teacher adds photoquality images of animals on the board and the children giggle as the built-in speakers make the corresponding animal sound. Individual learners then use an electronic “wand” to click and drag the correct animal name to its relevant picture. A Grade 2 teacher at Northcliff says, “Animation, sound, colour and highlighting important information enhances my lessons with the juniors. Learning and teaching becomes fun and stimulating, and it’s great to be able to download information and build my teaching resources.” Syllabus content is constantly updated and in a South African context; and teachers are also able to upload their own content.

The initiative has the full support of parents who said they have “a great sense of pride” when telling others
about “our whiteboard system in the classroom”. As one parent points out: “My two children have been at Northcliff for the past three years and they are actually excited to go to class every day, and their marks have improved dramatically.” The only challenge the teachers identified is the problem of electricity power cuts, and they all agreed that the interactive classroom technology provides valuable support for the learning process.

Published in Education Southern Africa May 2010

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