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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Computer usage changing the classroom
Technology is ‘integral’ to education
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Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston: Karen Shively, a kindergarten teacher at Sontag Elementary, uses an Activboard during math lessons.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Blackboards are a thing of the distant past in Franklin County public schools as the use of Activboards and Smartboards have taken over in the classroom.

Tools used to assist in the total education of Franklin County students have changed greatly over the years, according to Director of Technology George Washington.

"There has been a worldwide shift in computer usage," said Washington. "The change in tools used is far from the allegation by some that educators are looking for new toys to play with in the classroom. The change in tools represents the changes in society in terms of the tools used to complete jobs formerly accomplished in other ways."

More individuals, institutions, organizations, businesses and corporations have embraced the use of computer technology solutions in their daily operations. As a result of this trend, there is a major need for computer skills in today's workforce.

This shift in computer usage has prompted the school division to step up its game in the area of technology, including the use of Activboards and Smartboard in the classroom, Washington said. Schools went from decades of blackboard use with dusty erasers to a few years of dry erase whiteboards.

"Whiteboards were short lived in many classrooms before the Smartboards and Activboards became regular instructional tools," said Washington.

In 2003, Franklin County schools had about five Smartboards and no Activboards. The first Activboard was won by a teacher at a Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE) conference.

After much research and many presentations, the school division became convinced that the Activboards were a "phenomenal instructional tool that enabled students and teachers to interact with each other in several ways in the classroom," Washington said.

So began the growth and implementation of Activboards throughout the district.

During the 2004-2005 school year, 15 active boards were added to classrooms in the local school division with over 50 added each year through 2008.

"We had 192 Activboards and 27 Smartboards in our district in January 2009," Washington said.

That number has steadily increased over the years with county teachers currently using 401 Activboards and 29 Smartboards in 550 instructional areas.

In Franklin County, 89 percent of elementary classrooms and 65 percent of secondary classrooms have either an Activboard or a Smartboard, thanks to collaboration among district personnel, special education, Title I, schools and their respective PTOs, Washington said.

"Activboards and Smartboards take the classroom student-teacher interactivity to a whole new level," said Washington.

In addition to electronically writing on the boards as you would on a dry erase board, the boards offer many other tools, including annotation over desktop and features like polling, screen snapshot, recording, sound recording, revealer, spotlight and more.

"Because Activboards and Smartboards are connected to a computer in the classroom, anything that is displayed on the computer is displayed on the board," Washington said. "The pens work as digital mice and allow users to interact on the board as you would interact with your desktop."

Use of a wireless slate allows students to make comments or resolve problems on the board from their desks, and the use of votes or clickers allows all students to respond to questions that the teacher generates on the board, Washington added.

"The transformation from ActiVote to ActivExpressions to ActivEngage has significantly increased the ability of students to interact with the teacher from their desktops," said Washington.

ActiVotes allows simple "ABCDE" answers. ActivExpressions allows the same with the addition of short descriptive answers via text. ActivEngage allows students to use laptops from their desks to interact on the board with the teacher.

"Technology in the classroom has grown from something that was a supplement to instruction to something that is an integral part of instruction," Washington said. "The classroom, as we remember it in 1990, will not remotely resemble the classroom of the future. The classroom of the future will be designed to inundate our children even more to the 21st century in which they live."

To learn more about Activboards and Smartboards and their role in the classroom, visit or

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