Chicago elementary thrives with interactive technology

The Norman Bridge Elementary School, once a low performing school, has risen to be a star in the Chicago schools under the leadership of its principal, Dr. Christopher Brake. Today, Norman Bridge Elementary is an award winning school at the local, state and national level. Over the last eight years the school has been recognized with multiple awards, including the Illinois State Honor Roll of Schools Academic Improvement Award, Chicago School of Distinction, and the Chicago Exemplary Achievement Award.

Currently, the school is undergoing the installation and integration of Hitachi StarBoards and projectors in all classrooms. A veteran teacher turned administrator, Dr. Brake was the driving force behind the decision to bring interactive whiteboard technology to the school.

“The StarBoard is dynamic and it allows our teachers to bring learning to life,” said Dr. Brake. “Our teachers are learning to do more with the board each day and they have become educational explorers as a result.”

Fourth grade teacher Juan Cardona, one of the school’s earliest users of the StarBoard, speaks about the multiple ways in which the dynamic of his classroom has changed since he began using the technology every day.

“My students’ attention span has certainly widened, they are more engaged and more focused. I’m finding that the desire use to the board has made all of my students more likely to participate – and to ask for help,” said Cardona.

Cardona uses the StarBoard in all subject areas. His students can manipulate representations of concrete objects and see the connection between the concrete, the representational, and the symbolic. Cardona models angles of any size to help his students visualize how angles are measured - then he has his students measure the angles usng the digital protractor.

“Math now comes alive for students, whether they are studying 3-dimensional shapes long division,” said Cardona. “With multi-touch students can demonstrate their capabilities with long division, and play competitive games.”

For other teachers at Bridge Elementary, the StarBoard hasn’t just aided in their lessons, it’s changed the way they teach and conduct their classes. Mary Louise, a 2nd grade teacher explained how using the StarBoard has allowed her teaching style to evolve.

“I find I’m speaking less and my classroom has become much more interactive. I’m using it for lessons in geography, vocabulary, and math. Concepts can now be developed visually for all students, especially English Language Learners,” said Louise.

Heather Madden, a pre-school teacher at Bridge Elementary, has found the StarBoard to be a boon to her young students, who can manipulate the board with their fingers - no stylus or pen needed. “At the pre-school level, we want the students to learn with their hands and through their own experiences,” commented Madden. “The StarBoard is making an enormous difference by providing a multi-sensory approach that enables even the youngest of students to better understand concepts.”

Third grade teacher Eileen Schmeisser believes the StarBoard is a major asset that empowers her to make conceptual and abstract concepts more concrete for her students. The board gives her the capability to navigate between a lesson and the Internet with a few clicks.

“At the third grade level there are multiple subject areas where we are dealing with topics that can be challenging for students to conceptualize,” said Schmeisser. “At any time I can go to the Internet and bring visual representations into the lesson to help students understand new concepts.”

Kindergarten teacher Jackie Grimaldi enjoys using the board during reading and writing time, when she uses the Intellipen, a feature that gives the user ‘one click’ ability to convert their handwriting to text. “In class we will do shared writing exercises where we all brainstorm a topic and then put together sentences about that topic. Students are able to first write and practice in their journal, and then we are able to transfer their work to the board."

For Dr. Brake, the StarBoard is a tool that will aid Bridge Elementary in its continued quest for educational excellence. “This is a tool that allows us to bring learning to life."