Mimio Global Press

Woburn Patch

Technology Marches into Classrooms at St. Charles School

WOBURN, Mass. - March 20, 2011 - With graphics projected on a large white board at the front of their classroom - a cat, a mouse and a plate of cheese - a class of second-graders was learning vocabulary, using a game like "Hangman."

When a student went up to the board and filled in a letter in the game word, the system told him or her if the letter was in the word. When a student completed a whole word, the system played a few bars of music.

Later, from their own desks, each student simultaneously answered a question about what fractional part of a rectangle was colored in - by using a small, push-button device to choose answer A, B or C. The system let their teacher know graphically how many students had selected the right answer.

In a sixth-grade Spanish classroom, students went up to the same kind of board for a lesson on colors.

"Que color es el sol?" one student read. Translation: What color is the sun?

The student who answered "amarillo" got the chance to go up to the board and pull a Spanish "coin" image over to the yellow circle on the board.  Applause sounded from the system's speakers.

Such is the state of technology at St. Charles Elementary School, which houses students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight, with the introduction of a Mimio system.

A parishioner of St. Charles Church who wishes to remain anonymous has donated system components to the school, in memory of his sister, who was a public elementary school teacher, according to sixth-grade teacher Jennifer Coviello. She is one of two teachers formally trained to use the system. The donation has bought about $50,000 in system components and training, according to school officials. More equipment and training is coming.

Coviello and second-grade teacher Jennifer Barreto, who is also trained to use Mimio, like the system because it gets students involved in learning kinesthetically.

"(It) gets them up and moving," Coviello explained.

The system reaches students in a number of different ways, she continued:  by eye, ear, movement and even, with the appropriate tool, by having them sit in their seats and take notes, she said.

The  technology-based system, similar to video games and cell phones, help keep learning relevant, Coviello said.

"This reaches the kids on their level," she added.

Coviello and Barreto both spent a total of about 40 hours each on an on-line course, and then a day in Boston this past fall learning to use the system. They now teach other teachers how to use it. Coviello described herself as "tech savvy." She uses technology at home, she said, with her own family.  Teachers can earn Professional Development Points for taking the training.

As for students' reactions to the new classroom technology, "It's cool," said a second-grader in Barreto's class.

"You get to interact with it, not just write on a piece of paper," elaborated sixth-grader Theresa Jennings. "You have fun learning."

"It makes classes more fun," agreed sixth-grader Elyse Masandi. "Writing with paper and pen is boring."

"It's the latest technology," enthused sixth-grader Luke Anderson.

Teachers can also incorporate information from other sources into the system, according to Barreto and Coviello. Barreto got a picture from Google to show her students the actual colors of a spider they were coloring, she said. Coviello can input a word into her system so her students can hear its correct pronunciation in Spanish, or do translations instantly.

Other system components include electronic pads that interact with the screen and each other and even a microscope adapter.

The system allows teachers to post students' grades right to their electronic gradebooks, Coviello said.

Back in the second-grade classroom, five dashes came up on the screen, representing a five-letter word from the students' vocabulary lesson.  One student wrote in an "S" on the first line.

"A vowel comes next," Barreto prompted the class, which was focused on the screen. It was an "O." The student who chose "R" as the next letter got two R's. The vocabulary word:  S-O-R-R-Y. 

Students have learned even more vocabulary than the game teaches, as well as the process for using the system.

Before one of the machines was turned on, Barreto said she heard a third-grader using a big vocabulary word:  calibrate. The student was repeating what she had heard her teacher say about having to calibrate - or check and align the machine - before using it.