As the opening weeks have unfolded, I have met so many talented students, and I have come to look forward to our Community Meetings, Community Lunches, and Formal Dinners. Students who might have arrived somewhat reticent to speak to teachers outside of class as freshmen or new students in early September now happily engage in discussions as they stride down Long Walk or join faculty at lunch, or hang out in Aldrich or the Wildcat Den.
Truly, Vermont Academy is “Vermont’s School,” and from the advent of its existence, and the original vision of its founders, the school was meant to embrace Vermont values: character, independence, resilience, invention, compromise, simplicity, and experiential learning—letting nature be our teacher. My aim is to give our students the best immersion in these values, weaving together our curriculum, skill development, outdoor life, and personal responsibility into a program that will prepare them well for their college and university years. As educators with high standards and ideals, we hope to help our students to become the very best citizens and to live and craft a life of purpose.
Each time that I write to you, I hope to take up a subject that might be of interest to you, and my first topic concerns Smartboards. You may have younger children who are in schools with Smartboards, or you may just have an understanding that these classroom teaching aids offer the best way to use technology in teaching, save class notes, or approach learning in different modalities. In fact, Smartboards were all the rage a decades ago, but they tend to slow us down now. Why? Their software often is not updated to sync with Microsoft or to be Mac-compatible. They are also cumbersome as they sit on top of the classroom whiteboard, and they do not allow for the fluidity of projecting, writing on the board, and maximizing the use of board space. What is best, in my opinion, and after years of teaching myself in the classroom, is to use the whiteboard itself as a surface for projection. We have, in our classrooms at Vermont Academy, projection capabilities that work wirelessly with a laptop or iPad. Teachers can send students class notes, write directly on the whiteboard as they use the projected PowerPoint or other resource, and create a more fluid learning environment for students to come to the board, collaborate, and show what they have learned. A step up would be the Epson Brightlinks boards that have a digital mouse with a pen, but they are not necessary to achieve our aims.
Every teacher has his or her own style and ways of incorporating technology in the classroom. Some teachers love the interactive possibilities of the projection capabilities we have, and others like to have students reflect and read, and even put pen to paper, which has been proven to improve memory and skill development. Ask your students how many different ways teachers use technology or create transitions in the classroom plan for the day. You will find our faculty well versed in how to teach to different types of learners. Using technology appropriately in the classroom environment is just one way to engage our students in the process of learning.
Dr. Jennifer L. Zaccara