Whitney White-Ashley

“PowerPoint on Steroids” is how Lorraine Harbor, area manager for Promethean Boards, described the ActivBoard system now used in every Glen Rose schoolroom. And I’d have to say that I agree.

When I was going to school, the ActivBoard was a slate board and a piece of chalk my fifth grade math teacher made us use to work out problems. She could then immediately gauge our success by making us raise the boards over our heads when we were done - revealing our answer to the classroom.

Now, students type their answers in on an ActivVote - a little egg-shaped remote that looks like a Ped-Egg on late night television.

The teacher can check student answers on a grid that pops up on the ActivBoard screen. Not bad - but there’s more.

When my teacher wanted to give us a quiz, she would have to use an overhead projector and cover up portions of the test with a piece of paper. Watching her delicately balance the paper while avoiding the exhaust fan was usually good for a couple of laughs. But now, teachers can blur out the quiz on the ActivBoard - revealing only parts of the quiz at a time.

And when I was in school - the only time we got to use the big classroom chalkboard was to play the occasional round of Hangman when recess was rained out.

When I toured the Glen Rose Junior High campus last Thursday with administrators from other area schools, students spent more time working out problems on the ActivBoard than the teacher. And not just math problems, but history and English, too. They even looked like they were having fun.

I couldn’t help to think how much and how quickly things have changed - I mean, it hasn’t been that long since I was in school. But I think it was well into my college career before I ever saw a PowerPoint presentation in class. They weren’t even using whiteboards yet in most of my college classes.

The ActivBoards are definitely a sign of the times and perhaps a good way to use less paper in our schools. And anything that gets students interested in learning is a plus.

But there is just something to be said for those old dusty slate boards and crumbly pieces of yellow chalk. And I was always so excited to get to take the erasers outside to bang the chalk out, secretly hoping that the cute boy across the aisle would be asked to help me.

I suppose now students hope secret crushes will pass the “torch of knowledge” on to them - at least signaling the crush is aware they exist.