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— DECATUR - On Monday morning a group of eager students in Debra Weingar's pre-kindergarten class sat on a colorful rug in front of a new SMART Board.

The computer asks the children to make a group of five bugs on the grass.

Weingar uses her finger to drag the bugs across the giant SMART Board screen that covers the wall.

"Did I do it right?" she asks the children.

"No, there are six," a chorus of little voices answer. "Put one back!"

The students were using a new TeachSmart system, with the latest cutting edge technology, for the interactive lesson. The new system makes it possible to bring thousands of interactive learning activities, pictures and videos into the classroom.

Northside Elementary School is one of only four elementary schools in Arkansas to have a TeachSmart Learning System in its classrooms.

The TeachSmart Learning Systems is the first comprehensive interactive white board and software package developed specifically for early childhood education.

They system includes a SMART Board, or interactive white board, a projector that works with the white board, and software and activities specifically designed to support social and emotional development for children in a playful way.

"The TeachSmart system is a phenomenal addition to our preschool curriculum. It will allow the teachers to bring stateof-the-art learning to our students aligned to best-practice standards for early childhood. Decatur pre-kindergarten is extremely fortunate to have support from the Care Foundationof Northwest Arkansas, which provided the funds for the purchase of the TeachSmart systems," principal Leslie Sharp said.

During the lessons on Monday, Weingar projected pictures of animals from sea turtles to giraffes on the giant screen, as well as videos. The interactive screen makes it easy to use the pictures and videos in the children's lessons, and Weingar is even able to use it to access resources on the Internet.

She is able to write on the pictures with "Mr. Magic Pen." The board is also capable of turning hand-written letters into print.

Weingar said she is looking forward to letting the children practice writing their letters on the board. The board only recognizes letters that arewritten correctly, so it will help children to learn to write properly.

"I will be able to tell them 'Mr. Smart Board really likes the way you write your letters,' or 'Mr. Smart Board couldn't read that, you better try writing it again,'" she explained.

The system also allows Weingar to record the students doing individual activities on the board and save them in a virtual portfolio. She will be able to record both the students' voices and the electronic activities they do on the screen.

"By the end of the year we will be able to see all the progress they have made," Weingar said.

"With the addition of the TeachSmart system, teachers will be able to not only match instructional practice with standards for early childhood education, but also video the performance of the student meeting objectives on the board and then record theirperformance on a virtual portfolio," Sharp said.

The TeachSmart System is correlated to meet national and state pre-kindergarten standards such as Head Start, Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale, and National Association for the Education of Young Children.

"That makes me happy," Weingar said, explaining that it is the teachers goal in planning lesson to meet those standards.

"It helps us, it makes it easier," she said.

The TeachSmart System is excellent for students with a language barrier, Sharp said.

"There is nothing like a wallsized video to get the point across," Sharp said.

The new system also gives children the opportunity to get familiar with technology, all though they still do plenty of hands-on activities in the classroom.

"I really like it," Weingar said.

Technology is the future you know."

News, Pages 1, 2 on 09/23/2009

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