by Ann Kohler
I know many of you (or most) are familiar with the Promethean interactive whiteboard in your classrooms. If you teach with one of these boards you know how wonderful they are and how they can bring your lessons to life. Take that product two steps further and imagine having a table that looks and works like a giant tablet with interactive apps and activities for varying levels of students AND Internet connectivity all in one 46” diagonal space. Well, that is what Promethean calls an “ActivTable” and when you hear about all you can do in your classroom with one, you are going to be asking “Where can I get one of those?”
The ActivTable (www.activtable.com) comes complete with Wi-Fi internet connectivity, Promethean apps and activities, has multiple USB ports and multiple headphone plugs. It can be easily moved via its locking rolling wheels on each leg and its top is toughened glass. It also has DVI/VGA out so you can connect to a projector or large screen display if you would like to, for full class presentation of materials.
The first thing you notice when you sit down at the table is your ability, as a teacher, to set up each activity for 2, 4, or 6 players. There are multiple sitting arrangements so you can make sure that the number of students working at the table is compatible with the goals of the lesson and that “players” are situated where they are compatible with one another. The table is also high enough that students in wheelchairs can easily work at the table and participate with their classmates in activities.
There is a main menu of activities and once you have set up the number of players you are ready to choose what you are going to do at the table. The activities have been developed so that they challenge a broad range of student ability. The activities are arranged in “folders” which you open and drill down into through the large array of choices. The main folder headings are Math, ELA, Games, Social Studies, Science, and Life Skills. Within each of these folders there are more choices than I can fully describe here but I will elaborate on a few.
In the Math folder you have choices of Measuring, Number Skills, Equivalent Expressions, Angles in the Real World, Fractions and Percentages, and so many more. Within each of these folders there are multiple activities. In the Numbers folder there are Subtraction and Addition with 20 and 100, Count to 20 and 100, Multiplication and Division activities and more folders such as Number Dominos, Race Car Math, Math Monsters, and on and on. Each player has a set of tools such as calculator, spinner for game play, scratch/note paper, and Help information.
In the ELA folder you will see CVC words, Make a Story, Collaborative Story Making, Fry words, Compound words, Alphabet activities, Antonyms, Beginning Sounds, Haiku writing, Phonics, Newspaper Maker, and many more.
I will end this review with the Life Skills activities. This is an area that has been underserved and overlooked and is of incredible importance to the world of special education teachers. Finding interactive, fun, functional, and differentiated activities that actually teach life and social skills is something that I am asked about almost daily by colleagues all over the Unted States. You will find that one of the most useful things about the table is that the activities have different levels of difficulty so that differentiation within the classroom can occur and the teacher is able to better individualize activity assignments.
For example, there are two activities and three levels of learning to “Set the Table.” The most basic has all utensils, plates, cups, napkins outlined. The next level up has only the plate outlined and the hardest level provides all of the items needed to set the table with no guided outlines at all. The students are provided a stack of plates, utensils, cups and napkins and they slide these items into the correct place just like they would on a tablet.
There is also a great activity to teach your students how to make their own lunch. They are provided a box, menu, and all the items needed to complete the menu but they must find the correct items and put them into their box. As they complete this task they can move the “conveyor belt” and new menus, items and boxes will appear.
The ActivTable is not all work. It has some great game activities that could help students learn how to play chess, checkers, and chutes and ladders to name a few. My students love winding down at the end of the day with these games and learning social skills as they play. Some of the other Life Skills activities that will be coming online in the near future are: Managing Personal Finances (money, shopping etc.); Personal Needs (health, nutrition, dress); Safety (signs and procedures); Food; Clothing; and Identifying Emotions.
As mentioned earlier, with differentiation built into the activities, many levels of students can benefit from using the ActivTable, from students in your autism and MOiD (moderate intellectual disability) rooms to MID (mild intellectual disability) and general education students.
Ann Kohler is a special education teacher in Forsyth County, Georgia teaching in a BYOD school. In 2013 she completed her Master’s Degree for Technology in Curriculum and Instruction. She received the 2013 Tools for Life Assistive Technology Innovation Award from www.gatfl.gatech.edu, was an honorable mention in Tech and Learning Leader’s of the Year 2013 for Innovation and was one of the 100 PBS LearningMedia 2014 Digital Innovators in the United States. She is currently working on her blog/website www.edtechnow.com. You can reach her via twitter @MIDAkohler.