James explained that it’s a wall you can draw on, but added, “I’ve never had it in a classroom.”
The 7-year-olds in Germantown are part of a generation of students who could graduate from high school without ever using a traditional chalkboard. Instead, netbooks, digital tablets and interactive whiteboards will drive their learning.
Every Montgomery County elementary school classroom could have digital whiteboards and every campus could have wireless Internet access by this time next year, according to a school system plan for increasing educational technology.
The Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday approved plans for $14.5 million in technology upgrades across the district, including interactive whiteboards for 2,000 elementary classrooms that don’t have them. The plan doesn’t include secondary schools, which received funding in 2008-09 to outfit 65 percent of secondary classrooms with interactive whiteboards.
The plan also will equip 101 elementary schools and 14 high schools with wireless technology. All middle schools and 11 of 25 county high schools already have wireless networks. The plan will now go before the County Council.
Interactive whiteboards and wireless Internet have changed classroom routines. Instead of saying “here” or “present” as a teacher reads names during morning roll call, students check in online using the boards. Students wired to headphones cluster around laptops as they play educational math games. And, along with checking out books from the library, they’re checking out netbooks.
Montgomery elementary schools that don’t have interactive whiteboards are clamoring for the technology. Several PTAs have sponsored fundraisers to pay for the boards, while others haven’t, creating a perception of inequality.
“We need to make sure we have a level playing field for all of our kids,” said Patricia O’Neill, a school board member. “The boards can’t just be for kids in schools that have affluent PTAs.”
Officials say the technology improvements will also help schools meet “Common Core State Curriculum Standards” for English, language arts and mathematics that Maryland adopted in June 2010. The curriculum, which is expected to be fully implemented by 2013-14, includes online courses for students, multimedia and other elements that will require an investment in tech infrastructure. It will also help schools meet new county curriculum guidelines for elementary schools called Curriculum 2.0.
The percentage of schools equipped with interactive whiteboards and wireless varies for each district in the Washington area. In Loudoun County, every classroom has an interactive whiteboard and every campus has wireless. All Fairfax County Public Schools have wireless, but not all have interactive whiteboards, and there are no specific district plans to put them in every classroom.