Tonto Basin Goes Global In Classroom


The large white board in Annetta Carpenter's room at Tonto Basin School might look like a dry erase board at first glance, but it's not.

The interactive white board is called a "SMART" board.


Amanda Hartnell uses her finger as a mouse to place Europe on a Smartboard map of the world. In this particular exercise, after identifying the country selected, while still at the board, the student had to push a spot that told the board to choose the next student participant at random.

"Most of the kids seem to like it," said Carpenter. The board hangs on the wall and shows exactly what is on the teacher's computer screen.

Once connected to a computer and a projector, the board is used for everything from math warm-up problems to lunch counts, quizzes and geography lessons.

The board is accessed by the mouse at Carpenter's computer, each student's remote or by someone manually touching the board with either their finger or a special inkless pen.

There are no papers to copy, pass out and grade, and the computer keeps the scores.

Carpenter's sixth and seventh graders are reading the book "Everest" by Gordon Norman. She puts the test questions for each chapter up on the screen, then each student answers, using an assigned remote.

Although Carpenter says she does not have the system working at its full capacity yet, by using the Connections program through the Smarter Kids Foundation her students are learning about the world.

They have had live connections with other classrooms in Jalisco, Mexico and British Columbia, Canada. Traditional pen pal letters and online projects are meant to give all the students involved a global view of other cultures and ways of life, said Carpenter.

"The class does projects related to our particular area and then we (post) those articles and information to the Connections Web site," Carpenter said.

Other classes from around the globe do the same.

"We do geography. We do literature studies because we have to do book reviews. We have to do a local news story. We have to compare and contrast between weather and climate, so there is a bit of science," said Carpenter.

The program will culminate with Carpenter taking eight of her students to Canada for a week at the end of the school year to meet other lucky students from the Connections program.

Each child will submit an application. They will be chosen based on completion of class work, school service and having no behavioral issues. A committee of a teacher other than Carpenter, principal John Ketchem, a teacher's aide and a parent will interview each applicant.

Last Wednesday, the class tried to connect with Canadian teacher Stacey Soffel and all her online sixth-grade students. The plan was to continue their study of the novel "Because of Winn-Dixie" and ask when their pen pals had mailed their letters.

They wound up participating in a completely different discussion -- social studies and politics.

Soffel came online from her home, only to show how the Connections program might work if more than 38,000 teachers were not on strike in British Columbia.

She hoped there would be no repercussions since she was not communicating with the students she is paid to teach.

Carpenter's students seemed curious about what a strike was and why teachers would stop teaching.

They thought it was strange that students didn't have to go to school.

"Up here (teachers) have been wanting class sizes to be limited," Soffel, said. "For example they don't want to have 48 students in one grade ninth math class. They haven't had enough books for each student to have their own textbook. Some schools have students sharing desks. There are not enough supplies.

"If you have a student in your class who needs some extra help, there are no aides available because of the way things have gone with the government. Teachers have taken a stand and said, ‘We want things to change.'

"Until the legislation or the bills that we need are passed through our government (the teachers) have walked out."

"So basically they are not mad at the schools or children -- they are mad at the government for not giving the schools the things that you need?" asked seventh grade Morgan Mueller.

"To put it in simple terms," Soffel said.

Another student questioned whether or not teachers are paid?

The government has ordered the teachers back to work, but the union says "no," according to Soffel. None of the teachers who are on strike have received any kind of pay for two-and-a-half weeks because the government's position is that the strike is illegal, according to Soffel.

"I hope that it is all over very soon," Soffel said.

As of yesterday, 600,000 students returned to classes after a majority of teachers voted to end the strike, so Soffel will once again be moderating her part of the Connections program.

Carpenter said Soffel is trying to get it set up so that all the other teachers in New York, Alberta, Iowa, Mexico and elsewhere are connected as well.

The two teachers plan to continue creating lesson plans so their students can interact in the 2006-2007 school year, even though no trip is offered at the end.

Connections is a special program this year only.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.