Case Studies - Ransom Everglades
Greater Than the Sum of its Parts
"Our students were absolutely awestruck when we turned on the ActivBoard for the first time. And since that day, our classrooms have come alive with the sounds and sights of accelerated learning."
Jean Duty, Department Head
Challenges and Goals
Steeped in a rich tradition of academic excellence, Ransom Everglades School celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2003. And while still embracing the traditions and mission of its founders, its current teaching staff was resolute on acquiring contemporary technology that would place the school and the students squarely on the cutting-edge for the next century of learning.
“Don’t misunderstand, we had embraced the use of technology at Ransom Everglades. We had computers, projectors, overheads, VCRs and even whiteboards,” said Jean Duty, department head of mathematics at Ransom Everglades. “But they didn’t work together. It was just a collection of disparate tools – all effective on their own but very piecemeal.”
To that end, several teachers began to seek new tools, a system if you will, that was, in math terms, “greater than the sum of its parts.”
Duty added, “We needed a SYSTEM that would take all the individual technologies and turn them into an integrated system that would help our teachers improve upon the more traditional methods of delivering instruction being used.”
Challenges and Goals cont...
Their first priority was to find a multi-dimensional tool for enhancing presentations in mathematics classes.
“We have always believed that technology should be an integral part of the study of mathematics,” said Duty. “As a result, we use a myriad of indispensable yet separate equipment and programs to support our teaching efforts.”
Today, teachers at Ransom Everglades regularly use the Texas Instruments graphing calculators in many of their courses and each student is required to own one. Additionally, the Geometer’s Sketchpad program is used to dynamically discover geometric relationships. The statistics courses use the Mini-tab program to analyze and graph statistical data. Finally, the calculus courses use Excel to discover and graph differential and integral relationships.
“The goal of the Mathematics Department of Ransom Everglades is to equip each student with the skills, knowledge and understanding of mathematics to succeed in all fields of study at the college level and beyond,” said Duty.
To accomplish the teaching of fundamental math concepts as well as the critical thinking skills necessary to use that knowledge wisely, teachers at Ransom Everglades incorporate a variety of methodologies into their daily instruction: class discussions, discovery and cooperative learning, technology and hand-on application projects.
And while it is important to note that each of the hardware and software tools currently being used at Ransom Everglades has been designed with a specific function in mind, Duty and others in the math department were looking for a new technology that would create a more interactive learning environment.
Challenges and Goals cont...
“I was first exposed to interactive whiteboard technology about five years ago,” said Duty. “It was exciting to see it in action but it was not financially prudent, so we kept using our basic non-integrated teaching tools – blackboards, whiteboards, projectors and computers.”
Even though it was financially out of reach then, Duty was persistent in persuading others at Ransom Everglades, and especially those on the technology committee at the school, to keep an open mind.
The committee did their homework. They felt an interactive whiteboard was the key to creating a teaching system, rather than the piecemeal approach they had used before. They researched, interviewed and evaluated several interactive whiteboard companies. And, while similar in nature, none of the interactive whiteboards they reviewed met their list of criteria: a teaching solution that would integrate with existing equipment, be easy for teachers to use, and be a true change-agent for helping students to excel in math as well as their other coursework.
In 2002 things changed. The committee’s due diligence paid off. Duty attended the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC), going from booth to booth looking for the preeminent interactive whiteboard. Enter, the ActivClassroom System.
“I stopped by Promethean’s booth, the makers of the ActivBoard system, and watched a demonstration,” said Duty. “I was absolutely fascinated. It wasn’t just an interactive whiteboard – it was a new way of teaching and truly the solution we had been waiting for. We could integrate all of our existing technology and take the art of teaching and learning to a whole new level.”
Challenges and Goals cont...
A proposal was submitted and approved, and Ransom Everglades purchased two boards – one for the Middle School and one for the Upper School . But that didn’t last long. Four teachers asked to use it before it was even out of the box.
“When I first witnessed the potential that the ActivBoard system offered our teachers in incorporating technology into their daily curriculum, I knew we would have to have more,” said Ellen Moceri, Ransom Everglades head of school. “So first we ordered four additional ActivBoards and now we have a total of 15 – 12 in the math department, two for our science teachers, and one for our history section!”
The ActivClassroom System is comprised of the ActivBoard interactive whiteboard and the ActivStudio software tools and resources. Peripherals, which can be added on, include the ActivSlate, which allows teachers and students to control the whiteboard from anywhere in the classroom, and the ActiVote, a set of 32 hand-held voting devices that provide teachers with instant student feedback. Additionally, the system includes the ActivTablet, which allows teachers to develop lesson plans and flip charts when away from the board or at home.
“Before we began using the ActivBoard, the math teachers would have to hand-write complex math equations on the board – one at a time,” said Duty. “Now we can have two or three problems displayed at a time. This helps to affect a more effective and efficient use of classroom time. Not to mention, that if a student needs to make a connection between problems one and three it’s as easy as the click of a button.”
Duty believes the real success of the ActivBoard is the ActivStudio software. “It is easy to follow along, it has endless resources, and it really captures students’ imaginations. I’ll never forget the first time our students saw the ActivBoard; they were absolutely awestruck. I downloaded the Texas Instruments calculator from the Internet and displayed it on the ActivBoard. I could physically hit the keys. They watched and learned with excitement. And since that day, our classrooms have come alive with the sounds and sights of accelerated learning.”
While they industriously enjoy the many features of the Activstudio software – the multiple font colors, the functionality and ease of use of the Activpen, and the hundreds of subject-appropriate backgrounds – Duty and other teachers at Ransom Everglades have big plans for the future use of this technology.
“This year, the priority will be to rapidly develop more curricula that successfully integrate the Activboard system with our current textbooks. Next, teachers will begin to create animation films of word problems. After that, the plan is for students to eventually be able to download the day’s lesson notes as presented in class to their computers. This will extend and enhance their learning to revisit classroom examples at home,” said Duty.
Ransom Everglades School , located in Coconut Grove , Fla. , a suburb of Miami , is an independent, nonsectarian, co-educational day school serving grades six to 12 . The combined enrollment of the Middle School and High School is approximately 940. Recognized as an outstanding college preparatory institution, the school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the National Association of Independent Schools, and by the Florida Council of Independent Schools.