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Madison Elementary School shows off technology obtained through Alcoa Foundation

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MASSENA - Company representatives had an opportunity Monday morning to see how some of their Alcoa Foundation grant money was being used.

In the case of Madison Elementary School, Principal Alan C. Oliver said the $51,000 grant has allowed them to outfit 20 classrooms with Smart Boards and other technology. Prior to receiving the grant funding in August, he said seven or eight classrooms were hooked up with Smart Boards thanks to a donation from the Madison WHO Club, the school’s parent group.

Mr. Oliver took several Alcoa representatives to different classrooms Monday morning, showing them how the technology was being put to good use. In addition to the Smart Boards, they were also able to purchase LCD projectors and document cameras, as well as pay for the infrastructure needed to install the technology.

“We have 20 Smart Boards with all the technology and materials needed to support it, and 10 document cameras. The document cameras give us the ability to show any document in real time,” he said.

Kindergarten teacher Lisa Burlingame said she didn’t know anything about Smart Boards and their associated technology when they were installed in her classroom, but she couldn’t do without them now.

“We do everything on there. The kids love it. It’s interactive. They’re able to touch things,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be without it. I can’t imagine being without it. It changes the way you teach.”

“It’s been a huge change in our operation. We haven’t even had training yet,” Mr. Oliver said, noting teachers were self-training themselves on the new equipment.

“The best way is to just start using it and creating things,” Ms. Burlingame said.

Students lend a helping hand in getting teachers adapted to the new technology, according to Mr. Oliver.

“You put it in the classrooms, and it’s the kids that show the teachers. It’s the world they’re used to,” he said.

In Kelli Grewell’s third-grade classroom, students were actively participating in an animated song called the “Counting By Nines Song” on their Smart Board as they studied math. And students in Jackie Siddon’s first-grade class were enthralled by a beating heart that was displayed on their Smart Board thanks to the document camera.

The technology allowed her to move the heart into various positions so the students could see the different parts.

“We learned about the circulation system earlier this year,” Ms. Siddon said.

Darcie Fregoe’s sixth-grade class had prepared a special presentation on their Smart Board for the Alcoa representatives, thanking them for the grant funding.

“Thank you, Alcoa. We love our Smart Boards,” they said.

Their presentation told of the different ways they were using the technology.

“We can explore the world. We are mastering new concepts. We participated in a live webcast. We saw where earthquakes were in the world today. We draw snowmen and practice our shapes. We can talk to scientists. We learned how volcanoes erupt. We can find details and highlight text,” they pointed out.

Getting students excited about learning was part of the motivation behind the technology, Alcoa Information Technology Manager Sue Kramer said.

“You know what it is - the engagement of kids,” she said.

Alcoa Communications and Public Affairs Manager Laurie A. Marr said Madison followed in the footsteps of Jefferson Elementary School in receiving grant funding for the technology initiative. Jefferson Elementary Principal Duane L. Richards had successfully applied for an Alcoa Foundation grant last year.

“It’s the same one we did with Jefferson last year. It seemed to be so successful at Jefferson that we decided to do it here,” Ms. Marr said.

Ms. Marr and other Alcoa representatives had also been invited to Jefferson Elementary School to see how teachers and students were using it. They also talked with teachers at the end of the year to find out how the new technology had assisted them in their classrooms.

When the grant was reopened for application for in the spring, a team of Madison teachers - Ms. Fregoe, Ms. Siddon, Ms. Burlingame, Suzanne Thibault, William Webb, Adrienne Hartman and Kim Vallentgoed - worked to obtain the grant for Madison Elementary, according to Mr. Oliver, who presented Ms. Marr with a plaque thanking them on behalf of the school for the funding.

“We’re still working. We’ve got training left to go,” he said.

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