Think of them as one part projector, one part computer and one part touch screen. They are big, flexible, interactive, colorful, intuitive, and fun. And, they are changing the way that students with intellectual disabilities are learning and the ways their teachers are teaching.

Five feet across and four feet high, SMARTBoards are appearing in classrooms across the country. Students can move, manipulate, and sort items with their fingers. And, SMARTBoards can display Internet pages, video, photos, and documents and save what students have done on the board. At the SMART Exchange, teachers can download lessons, activities and other resources for every ability level.

The possibilities, says teacher Lynn Campbell-Reed, are endless. Campbell-Reed has six students in her classroom at the Roanoke campus of the Lutheran Family Services Minnick School. Her students range in age from 13 to 21, and all are boys with high needs.

“Many of my students can’t use a pen or pencil, but they can use their fingers and ‘write,’” says Campbell-Reed. “SMARTBoards are engaging,” she adds, “so much so that students who are unable to pay attention in a group setting are really enjoying working one-on-one at the SMARTBoard.” Campbell-Reed uses the SMARTBoard to show short videos that reinforce social skills and dancing programs that help with movement. “You can see the smiles,” she says.

She is helping her students learn vocational basics that they can use in a community setting and the SMARTBoard helps her break down the tasks into easy parts. Her class also uses the school’s PAES lab, which is a vocational curriculum where students learn the basics of the workaday world. She then uses the SMARTBoard to reinforce what her students have learned in the lab.

Parents are thrilled to see how engaged and excited their children are to use the SMARTBoards, says Campbell-Reed. An adoptive parent of four children with special needs, she is well aware of how valuable technology can be to students with learning challenges.

Reed’s youngest son is on the autism spectrum and her experience with his teachers telling her what he wasn’t capable of convinced her that she wanted to give her students every opportunity and tool to achieve. “My students are kids first and kids with a disability second.”

Lutheran Family Services is beginning a campaign to put SMARTBoards in every classroom in five Minnick schools. That’s 35 SMARTBoards at $2,500 each!
If you are interested in bringing this exciting and adaptable technology to our Minnick Schools, please contact Ellen Bushman at 757.722.4707, ext. 1302, or email ebushman@lfsva.org.