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Fourth-grader Louis Sader uses a Smart Board during a recent lesson on common and proper nouns in teacher Carissa Fitzell's classroom at St. Joseph Regional Catholic School. (APRIL GUILMET)

St. Joseph Regional Catholic School puts fresh spin on old lessons in Salem

SALEM - While some of the lessons remain the same, the teaching methods used at St. Joseph Regional Catholic School are in keeping with changing times.

And that's a great thing, technology teacher Lynne Tabiatnejad said during a recent visit to the Salem parochial school.

"Technology has, of course, become integral in the high school and college levels," Tabiatnejad said. "And as a K-8 grade school, we're well aware that we need to prepare our students for the high-tech high schools they'll be attending."

Right now, around 150 students are enrolled at the local private school.

Principal Sam Scuderi said the school began taking initial steps into the virtual world several years ago, when staff gradually began adding Smart Boards to each classroom.

"We started with the eighth grade and began working our way down," Scuderi said. "The boards are just one of many tools we use to teach kids."

Plans are in the works to place Smart Boards in all classrooms by year's end.

As part of a school-wide initiative encouraging technological skills, Tabiatnejad said the children "aren't just being taught things like Word and Power Point, but they're learning how to use all the tools as well."

That means children in older grades are building their own websites and posting their own blogs during creative writing classes.

"They're expressing themselves through their writing and also establishing their own digital citizenship as opposed to writing things down in a notebook," said Tabiatnejad. "This allows their parents to get a peak into the classroom as well, since their parents can go online and read what their kids are writing."

During one recent school day, fourth-grade teacher Carissa Fitzell engaged students in a lesson on common and proper nouns by playing a tried-and-true "Schoolhouse Rock" video on her Smart Board screen. Bringing the popular 1970s educational cartoons into this century, of course, means students can answer questions by placing their fingers on the screen and selecting the correct answer. Having each student's desk equipped with a small, remote control allows for further interaction, she said.

"Some of the lessons themselves don't change, but the idea is to encourage a more interactive way of learning," Tabiatnejad said.

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