High-tech teaching

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 13, 2001

The days of dusty blackboards and slide projectors are long gone in the Albert Lea public schools.

Friday, April 13, 2001

The days of dusty blackboards and slide projectors are long gone in the Albert Lea public schools.

Email newsletter signup

Nothing demonstrates that more clearly than the district’s investment in Internet projection technology, said Butch Harves, technology director for District 241.

At the price of nearly $2,650 apiece, the teachers and students in Albert Lea’s public schools now have access to Internet projection units. In fact, said Harves, every elementary classroom grades 2-6 has a unit installed in the ceiling. Add those to a handful of units at Southwest Middle School and Albert Lea High School, and the investment approaches $200,000, he said.

&uot;It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, in my opinion,&uot; Harves said. &uot;Those units are a good cost-effective solution for improved classroom presentation.&uot;

Harves said Albert Lea is one of the first districts in the state to make the investment on a large scale. Now other schools are jumping on the Internet projection bandwagon, he said.

The units enable teachers to project PowerPoint presentations, surf the Web, and play tapes and DVDs on a huge projection screen. Harves said the technology does a lot to captivate students and keep them involved in classes.

&uot;Everything is big, and it’s all right there in front of them,&uot; Harves said.

Tom Gaudreau has seen firsthand the advantages of the projection units. With nearly 30 kids in his classroom for social studies, Gaudreau can keep the whole class involved.

&uot;We’re taking virtual tours. The units allow me to take my kids out of the classroom to another place or time,&uot; Gaudreau said.

With the aid of a remote mouse, Gaudreau can walk around the class while controlling the Internet presentation. Occasionally, he blackens the screen to refocus the kids on his words.

&uot;It’s amazing. This is not the way we did things when I started teaching in 1982,&uot; Gaudreau said. &uot;Lecture is a thing of the past. Now it’s just show and tell.&uot;

The projection units are an amazing technology, Gaudreau said, but using them effectively requires time. Each PowerPoint presentation with Internet graphics and illustrations takes hours to assemble. Luckily, modifying them is much easier than building them, he said.

&uot;Once we get some of these established, we can update the lessons as we come across new information or new photographs and graphics,&uot; Gaudreau said. &uot;That should be a snap compared to developing entirely new presentations.&uot;

Gaudreau was one of the first teachers to experiment with Internet projection. He said he had no special knack, just the willingness to spend the time and explore possibilities.

Gaudreau said he sees no reluctance in his colleagues who have just been introduced to the technology. Through classes and workshops, more instructors are learning how to incorporate the units into their classrooms every day.

&uot;We have an exceptional district when it comes to technology. I realized just how exceptional when a few of us went to a Connected Classroom workshop this week,&uot; Gaudreau said. &uot;We have better technology than the presenters at the conference.&uot;

Gaudreau thinks the projection units are amazing tools. But he says no technology can replace a good teacher.

&uot;You still need to love to teach. If I had to teach in a garage with nothing but an Etch-a-Sketch, I would still love it,&uot; he said.