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Arts and science: Teacher's prize helps classroom go high tech

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

LILBURN -- Ruth Okuo had a little trouble in art class this week, but she wasn't complaining about the minor difficulty.

In fact, she said the object that was "sometimes hard using" made the class more fun.

"I've never seen it before," she said. "I wish more classes had it."

Okuo and some other sixth-grade students at Trickum Middle School got some practice using handheld computerized devices that their award-winning art teacher recently won.

Aimee Burgamy, a former Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year, won $20,000 in interactive classroom technology for her art room when she was named the first Great American Teacher of the Year in October. She said the installation of the technology is 75 percent complete.

"This is a dream come true," Burgamy said of the technology, which comes from four companies. "It's over-the-top amazing."

One piece of equipment installed in her room, an interactive whiteboard, is becoming more common in classrooms, but Burgamy said the one in her room has additional features, including the ability to record activities completed on the board.

The handheld devices, sometimes called student response systems, also allow students to do more than select A, B, C or D. With the system in Burgamy's classroom, students can text their answers to her computer.

It was the texting feature that Ruth, the student, said was a little difficult.

"I'm used to the keyboard type" of texting device, she said.

Burgamy said when students use the equipment to answer questions she can see who answered the question correctly and how long it took each student to submit an answer.

"It's not so much (about) grading," she said. "But I know with certainly who got it. ... I know whether or not we can move on."

Burgamy, who minored in instructional technology in college, said there's a learning curve that comes with using this technology, but she knows it has great potential.

"We're doing things that are not typical," she said. "It's unique that we have a system like this, but we'll see more technology like this in the years to come."