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They virtually learn

Ninth-grade students of Hanover Area load photos of nature they shot outside into school laptops. From left: Becky Wychock, Kelly Noonan, Ali Zara, Samantha Proctor and Mary Kate Keating. Below: teacher Amy Hummer uses a “Polyvision” interactive white board to point out a Web site for students to visit.


HANOVER TWP. – Amy Hummer admits it: “I love my toys.”

The Hanover Junior-Senior High School science teacher eagerly showed off the motion sensor that hooks up to the laptop that tracks how fast or slow she’s walking.

She touches the “Polyvision” whiteboard – a giant interactive computer screen – and calls up quizzes her students take. She draws on it without ink or chalk, erases without touch.

And her students are learning while she shows off for visitors. They work their latest lesson on a laptop.

They can continue learning at home since Hummer posts her notes online. Students have access to a Web-based program akin to a chat room, allowing them to interact and exchange files, all with Hummer keeping a real eye on their virtual work.

Even textbooks are tied to the Web, including links to virtual labs and sites where students can supplement the printed lessons. There’s so much opportunity to research any topic, Hummer concedes that she has to rein in the urge to explore.

“If I didn’t, I’d spend two months on one subject.”

Hanover Area joined a growing list of local districts showing off all the gizmos bought through the state’s Classrooms for the Future grant program. About $125,000 equipped six science rooms with laptops, interactive white boards, projectors, printers and digital cameras.

The district threw in some extra cash for a wide range of sensors that measure motion, light, temperature and other physical outputs. Coupled with another $30,000 or so in federal cash, teachers received training in how to use the equipment.

John Nealon’s freshman biology students sat at laptops loading photos they had taken of trees, insects and other natural finds outside the school.

They swapped camera memory cards, leafed through field books to find the names of what they had photographed, and pasted it all into a PowerPoint presentation – the equivalent of an old-fashioned term paper.

In 11th-grade chemistry, Ashley Booth strolled in, pushed a stick-drive – a small, electronic data storage device – into the teacher’s computer and called up a presentation on cycloalkanes.

Remote controls allow teachers to operate the computerized white boards while walking around the room to monitor student work and help with problems.

“You still have to do traditional teaching,” Hummer said.

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