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Zeigler-Royalton goes high-tech

2/11/2011
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Steve Jahnke Steve Jahnke / The Southern First-grade teacher Martha Weber asks her class for the correct answer to a math question using a program called MegaMath during class Wednesday at Zeigler-Royalton Grade School. The math program is being projected onto a standard dry erase board via a high-performance projector that allows for interactive functionality.

ZEIGLER - Zeigler-Royalton Community Unit School District is using the latest classroom technology to engage students in learning.

The district installed Epson BrightLink projectors in every elementary and junior high school classroom and a few in the high school, Z-R Technology Director Andy Odle said.

The projectors have interactive capabilities built in, unlike similar technologies that require a projector and an expensive board. Instead of the board, the BrightLink can project onto any surface.

"It means any surface can be interactive, be it a chalk board, dry erase bard or wall, virtually any surface can be used," Odle said.

The projectors can be used in a multitude of ways, including lessons, tests and demonstrations, Z-R Principal Chuck Bleyer said.

"Our teachers are on them about 90 percent of the day," Bleyer said.

"The feedback has been extremely positive."

Students love the interactivity of the BrightLink, first-grade teacher Martha Weber said. That interactivity is important to today's students, she said.

"They are very hands-on learners. This is something that keeps their interest. It really brings them into the lesson," she said.

For instance, a recent math lesson was projected onto a wall in Weber's classroom. Students took turns at the board, counting to 100 by using a marker to click on an assortment of virtual coins and dragging them into slots.

"I absolutely love it and so do the kids," she said. "I've seen a huge difference in their interest."

Because of ease of installation - the projectors can be installed in less than an hour and don't require special wiring - if teachers want to change the layouts of their rooms they can do so easily, Weber said.

The projectors, purchased with federal stimulus funds, also saved money for the district, Odle said.

"The cost savings have been substantial. The projector costs more, but when you compare the old setup to the new, we saved roughly $1,000 per classroom, and with 35 classrooms, that is a significant amount of money," Odle said.

Very little training is required to use the projectors, he said.

"It takes 30 to 35 minutes to install a projector and there really isn't a need for training. Once it's installed, it's ready to go," he said.

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