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High-tech tools proving worth in Batavia classrooms

Updated: March 24, 2012 11:26PM

BATAVIA — High-tech devices that make sure every teacher and student is heard, and every classroom display is seen, have proven successful in a pilot program at Batavia schools.

Now, the School District plans to expand the use of the high-tech classroom tools, which were tested in seven lower-grade classrooms last fall.

Officials intend to ask parent-teacher groups to help pay for further expansions, said chief information officer Anton Inglese.

“One teacher at each elementary school and the middle school had exclusive access to these devices,” Inglese said. “What we realized was that they are really great. They get children excited about learning and they’re very engaging.”

The FrontRow Pro Digital Classroom Audio System helps students hear their teacher’s voice clearly anywhere in the classroom, Inglese said. Teachers also can pass the device around the room to help students contribute to classroom discussions.

The lightweight combined microphone/amplifier hangs around the teacher’s neck and uses sound monitoring to boost amplification of the teacher’s voice to “dead spots” in the room without raising the volume elsewhere.

“If students hear better, they learn better. It’s really that simple,” Inglese said. “Children’s cognitive auditory capabilities are not fully developed until age 15. The average classroom is an unfavorable listening environment and a barrier to learning.”

The MimioView document camera and projector lets teachers display pictures and small objects magnified on a whiteboard rather than holding them up or having students pass them around the class. The MimioPad wireless tablet lets teachers present slide shows or other projected lessons from anywhere in the room, allowing them to watch students and offer help to individual students who need it.

Board members expressed the most enthusiasm for the MimioTeach device, which turns a whiteboard into a touchscreen for any computer hooked to a standard projector. Inglese led the board through a reading comprehension lesson using the device, showing how students can go up to the whiteboard and touch the projected icons to change the screen. Students can even write on the projection using a stylus.

“Where was this technology when I was in school?” joked board member Cathy Dremel.

“Particularly in kindergarten classrooms, kids would be literally on the edge of their seats, eager to get their hands on this,” Inglese said.

The classroom aids in the pilot program cost $999 for each FrontRow audio system; $599 for the MimioView document camera; $299 for the MimioPad; and $799 for the MimioTeach.

While the district will buy more of these items as its budget permits, school PTOs have already purchased or offered to purchase some units for their buildings, and district officials hope they will buy more of them, Inglese said — particularly the FrontRow audio systems.

“We want audio in every classroom because we understand the benefits of that,” he said.

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