Reaching for a million

Maryville City Schools Foundation kicks off 21st Century Classroom Partnership

Friday afternoon adults from throughout the community squeezed into desks in Ginni Jabbour’s classroom at Maryville High School to see the future in teaching.

It was a technological dream.

As Jabbour demonstrated, visitors learned that new technology can give teachers instant feedback and make learning fun for students. What they also saw was this technology doesn’t come cheap.

The Maryville City Schools foundation, the school board and the city council joined to announce an initiative to raise $1 million for new technology in Maryville City Schools. The effort was dubbed The 21st Century Classroom Partnership.

Maryville City Schools Director Stephanie Thompson said that it was only a few years ago when school officials looked at technology in the classroom and found they had very little.

Now technology is not looked upon as a luxury, she said. “It’s an invaluable tool,” she said. “It requires embedding technology across the learning environment. Our aim should be a customized learning environment.”

Thompson said the system has to invest in professional development of teachers so they will be able to use new technology. “We are ready, willing and able to realize this vision,” she said.

The technologies showcased at the April 11 press conference were the Promethean Activboard, an interactive whiteboard, the Activote handsets that allow students to give immediate feedback to teachers and the Activslates that allow the teachers to walk around the room and control what is seen on the Activboard.

Jabbour demonstrated for those at the press conference the capabilities of the Promethean system. Asking a question with a multiple choice answer, everyone with an Activote handset pushed a button and gave an answer. The results were shown on the Activboard, showing the teacher instantly whether her “students” had learned the lesson or concept.

“These voters are the best thing Promethean offers,” Jabbour said.

Jabbour said students typically “buy into” new technology quickly. “They’re having fun learning,” she said.

Because of the instant feedback, she can tell who is understanding the lesson and who isn’t. Then she can pair up students who aren’t comprehending the lesson with other individuals who are and learning happens. “I can pair them up with someone to help them, and I didn’t have to grade a paper,” she said. “If only about one-third are getting it, then I have to reteach.”

The Promethean Activslate also allows teachers to get out among students while doing work on the board. This keeps some students on task because the teacher’s back isn’t turned to them. “Proximity is everything,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about them doing something behind my back,” she said, with a laugh.

Jabbour said that using the Promethian system, she can log onto the company’s website to access templates for different lessons. “I hardly have to make anything from scratch. The resources with Promethean are awesome,” she said. “I get excited thinking about it. Just the possibilities are infinite.”

Clayton Homes, Inc., was the lead business sponsor with a $25,000 donation and was represented at the press conference by Clayton Homes Corporate Controller David Jordan. CEO Kevin Clayton wasn’t at the press conference but issued a statement.

“We feel blessed and honored helping provide what teaches and students believe is needed to keep our schools competitive in the 21st century,” Clayton said in a press release. The days of asking students and teachers to use chalk boards are over. This technology is the best step to providing a more relevant education of what is needed in today’s workforce. It also provides a more individualized learning method with real time testing to ensure learning. By providing funding to the 21st Century Classroom Partnership, we are furthering this community in a necessary direction and I encourage all local businesses to step up and follow our lead.”

Barbara Jenkins, executive director with Maryville City Schools Foundation, said the foundation also received $20,500 from community enhancement grants based on recommendations from State Rep. Doug Overbey and State Rep. Joe McCord and State Sen. Raymond Finney and $13,000 of it will be used for the partnership’s goals of buying new technology.

To date, the foundation has received more than $400,000 in donation commitments and has spent nearly $132,000 for the 21st Century Partnership. “The MCSF board of directors is excited about this new initiative,” Jenkins said. “Part of our mission is to involve the entire community in a partnership for excellence in our school system. The 21st Century Classroom Partnership allows individuals, parents, grandparents, families, alumni and businesses the opportunity to invest in educational excellence for Maryville City Schools.”

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