New technology helps Pine-Richland teachers take learning to the next level

| Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

When Chris Turner, fifth-grade teacher at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School, wanted to show his students a baby snail discovered in one of the class's ecosystems projects, he could have gathered them around to get a peek at the tiny creature.

And in past years, that's what he likely would have done.

Instead, with the help of one of the newest classroom tools available to elementary teachers in the Pine-Richland School District, he was able to project a magnified view of the new snail onto a screen in the classroom, allowing students to view it easily from their seats.

That was just one use Turner has found for the new document cameras that, with the help of the school's parent teacher organization, have been made available to teachers this year.

The devices resemble reading lamps, with a digital camera mounted on the end of a flexible arm.

They serve in part as a high-tech variation of the old overhead projectors that once were prevalent in classrooms.

Instead of using transparencies, the cameras can project virtually any document. But they offer much more.

“The cameras give us so much more flexibility,” Turner said. “We can adapt lessons to students' specific questions, and we have the capability to record and post the images or documents online to be reviewed later.”

Turner said he uses the cameras to review tests with the classroom, quickly focusing on specific questions that might have given students trouble.

He can even use them to lighten the mood in the classroom, turning the cameras on the students so they can see themselves on the big screen.

Tyler Fritz, a student in Turner's class, said the cameras bring a lot to the classroom.

“It makes it easier to see things as they are in real life,” Tyler said. “It helps us see a lot more detail.”

The cameras now are available in all of the district's elementary schools, thanks in large part to their respective PTOs.

The Eden Hall Upper Elementary PTO purchased 46 of the cameras earlier this year at a cost of $6,500.

“We had a few teachers come to us about the possibility,” said Colleen Schirato, president of the Eden Hall PTO. “As we researched it, it was clear these cameras are a great way to bring technology to the classroom. They allow teachers to add a real personal touch to education.”

The Richland Elementary PTO most recently purchased 20 additional cameras for the school.

“We are always looking for ways to help our teachers in any way we can,” said Susan Hong-Bang, a spokesperson for the Richland Elementary PTO. “If we can make their jobs even a little easier, it is well worth it.”

The PTOs of Hance and Wexford Elementary schools have in recent months made similar donations, not just document cameras but other high-tech classroom accessories.

Vince Townley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6364 or vtownley@tribweb.com.

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