Editor’s Note: This is the first of a multi-week series on innovation at Stanton Community Schools.
After 24 years in education, Karla Renn knows she can teach without an interactive smartboard. She just doesn’t want to — not after seeing her students more engaged and hungry to learn.
“I’m probably considered one of the older teachers. It’s really amazing just how far technology has advanced over the years,” said Renn, who teaches a combination of technology, finance and marketing classes at Stanton Community School. “I love being a guinea pig because I can’t imagine teaching now without this technology.”
Renn, who is a graduate of Orchard High School, is in her sixth year at Stanton. After teaching at larger Class A schools, she returned to Northeast Nebraska to raise her family in a similar environment to where she was raised.
She knows first hand that a smaller school doesn’t mean a lesser education, and her students agree.
“If schools don’t have these, they’re missing out,” said eighth-grader Mia McNutt. “We got our first (interactive smartboard) in December of sixth grade. It was instantly awesome.”
Stanton students are 1:1 with a ThinkPad computers and have technology at their fingertips every day. That’s one of many reasons administration pushed the interactive smartboards several years ago, which are a step ahead of Promethium boards and other devices because the screen is actually a computer and can be updated without replacing the machine.
Jenn Davies, who teaches fifth grade, said the brainpower of the smartboard has actually increased efficiency for both students and herself. The smartboard is also touchscreen and has access to the Internet, Google Drive and everything a computer would. It just happens to be 72 inches.
“Everything on my computer is accessible on this smartboard. It would slow me and my class down if I had to get on my computer and go back and forth,” Davies said. “The students are engaged and seeing exactly what I’m seeing, and I don’t have to walk around and show them.”
Stanton Principal David Cunningham said the school has an interactive board in all but 12 classrooms. The Stanton Board of Education has approved adding four to five boards each year and was able to get an additional eight thanks to the generosity of the Stanton Education Foundation.
Board of Education President John Mandl said technology advances, especially the interactive boards, are key to Stanton preparing students for the future.
“When they first showed them to us and how they worked, I was immediately on board,” Mandl said. “The teachers loved them so much that they argued who could get them. At Stanton, we work hard to stay up with technology and the kids as much as we can, and this is one of many ways we’re doing that.”
Eighth-grader Garret Hansen said the boards are also used when watching football film.
“We can play back the plays and see what we can improve on,” he said. “Coach can mark on the board what we could have done differently. Instead of using a white board and drawing it, we can see it on the play. It’s actually really handy for football, too.”
Of all the uses, McNutt said she’s most surprised by agriculture classes.
McNutt said she appreciates teachers using the boards because then they don’t have to explain everything.
“She can show us because it’s what we have on our computers,” McNutt said. “It’s helpful in my perspective because it’s easy to use, and there’s no confusion.”
Morgan Schwartz, who has taught ag at Stanton for six years, said she uses the boards in every class and sees her students more engaged because of them.
“I was the first teacher to get one, and I love it,” Schwartz said. “The students are more engaged in education with them. I could teach without it, but that would be boring.”