Touch Screens

Sometime in the first year I was working at PSA, all the classrooms were given document projectors. These were used to take a snapshot of a book, which could then be projected onto the touch screen so that the students could all see what page was being taught at the moment. It really simplified teaching and, in an educational environment where there were entirely too many pages to cover at once, it doubled the number of pages that could be taught in a period while also increasing their retention of what was being taught. 

Roughly 12 months later, we were all given large touch screen TVs for the classroom. One of my coworkers was instructed by our boss to conduct a simple PD Seminar on how to use the touch screens effectively. I immediately recognized a huge opportunity to increase student participation and learning in my classroom. I began incorporating the touch screens into the lessons right away and saw huge benefits, as did most of my coworkers. But few of them recognized the broader opportunities afforded by a large touch screen in the classroom. Using the touch screen, I was able to make several review games used by all the teachers far more interactive because the students could click on the question and the answer in the game, rather than simply telling the teacher. The biggest benefit for my students, however, came in the form of Show and Tell.

At my level (the oldest students in the school, preparing for elementary school), our students were expected to do a Show and Tell presentation about the theme every month. In the first years, students would bring in elaborate poster boards for their displays. These displays were very tactile, and they might have helped the students develop better motor skills had they made them, but they were largely prepared by the parents. In my last year there, my co-teacher and I asked the parents to prepare PowerPoint presentations instead. While this further removed the children from the creation of the "show" part of Show and Tell, it freed them (and us as teachers) to take their "Tells" to the next level. Our students became far more comfortable presenting in front of each other and in front of adults. When we hosted the mothers for Open Class day or the fathers for Father's Night, our students were excellent on stage, speaking comfortably and naturally because they had become accustomed to talking about what was on the screen.

The technology had allowed us to refocus from something the students weren't learning anyway (how to make an arts and crafts poster for their presentation) to something they could benefit from (how to be comfortable in front of people).