Future classrooms ease their way into Deerfield, Highland Park – Chicago Sun


May 11, 2012 5:10PM

Deerfield High School English teacher Beth Ahlgrim uses one of the school’s new prototype classrooms May 1, instructing students with the help of a smart board. | Charles Berman~Sun-Times Media

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Highland Park High School junior Alen Kamysz and his Deerfield High School counterpart Jake Porento both left District 113’s new technology-infused prototype classrooms last week with the same thought.

They hope Promethean smart boards, wall-to-wall white board space and flexible furniture is part of the standard classroom experience in District 113, not a testing ground.

“I’d like to see this become the traditional classroom,” Porento said.

Two classrooms at both schools recently underwent the 21st Century remodel. The Promethean smart boards turn wall space into an interactive computer screen. The wall-to-wall white boards allow for nonstop and participatory note taking, and the flexible furniture quickly shifts the classroom into multiple configurations.

District 113 administrators plan to analyze the educational benefits of the four technology-infused settings before deciding what type of equipment the district should purchase.

“I think it’s better because this creates more of a collaborative environment,” said Kamysz last week after his English class utilized one of the new rooms at HPHS. “It’s a working environment, and the fact that we have the advanced technology, too, helps students be more active and motivated to participate.”

Deerfield High School teacher Beth Ahlgrim used the smart board May 1 in DHS Room E101 to annotate a poem for Porento and his classmates.

A document imager displayed the poem on the wall, similar to the old fashioned projector, but the smart board technology allowed Ahlgrim to add notes onto the virtual screen. The technology allows the notes to be saved to the file, giving students the ability to review the entire lesson on the Internet.

Porento also pointed to the variety of furniture in the prototype classroom, which made it easy for the students to forms groups to discuss the lesson.

“Every little bit helps and I believe it provides more motivation to students,” Porento said.

The technology also comes with remote controls so every student can answer questions related to the lesson. That ability provides both the teacher and student real-time feedback about individual comprehension.

Ahlgrim said the handheld devices also work to trick the students into having more fun while learning.

“I’ve learned that the minute you put a clicker in a kid’s hands, they’re engaged,” Ahlgrim explained.

Coming from Stevenson High School where this technology is in most classrooms, Ahlgrim is a natural engaging students with all the smart board features. The rooms are available to teachers to sign out and Ahlgrim has made sure to reserve one of the rooms everyday.

“I think this room appeals to all different learning modalities: visual learners, auditory learners, kinesthetic learners,” she said. “The kids have given me great feedback on the furniture and on the technology. I just think there is an energy in here and it helps create a student-centered learning environment, which is what we want. When students are active and engaged, they take ownership of their learning.”

Larson Equipment and Furniture Co., Lowery McDonnell Co. and Frank Cooney Co. donated the furniture and some of the equipment for the pilot program.

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