- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) - The fictional superhero Iron Man, also known as Tony Stark, along with the science fiction thriller Minority Report and crime shows such as NCIS often use scenes in which technology projects information and images into the air that are manipulated with fingertips.

But it’s not just the stuff of fiction. At Loyalsock Township High School in Williamsport, that type of technology has become a reality.

In early October, Loyalsock Township became the first school district in the country to receive a SPAN “ideation” system from Nureva. At no cost to the district, Loyalsock is one of only 13 schools in the United States and Canada to receive the $13,000 interactive projector as part of the company’s testing phase.

The district became involved with Nureva last year, when it tried out a digital portfolio system to help students prepare for college.

Brooke Beiter, assistant high school principal, told the Sun-Gazette how she got involved with Nureva.

“Over the summer, I was invited out to be a part of their education advisory board,” she said, noting there were a dozen others from assorted schools. “So with the group of 12 educators, they launched this new product.”

The ideation system launches onto a flat surface, making it appear like a giant screen. About one eighth of an inch thick from that surface is a touch sensory area, where it can register user touch as users just hover over it.

At Loyalsock, two projections are set up, spanning 20 feet of visible area at a time, with 40 feet of digital space available. That means images can be stored off screen and retrieved later, simply by scrolling back to it.

There can be up to 20 different hands at a time touching the projection, so multiple students can move up to write notes, draw or decorate it all at the same time.

“One of the most incredible things about this technology is that you can have multiple users engaged simultaneously during the learning process,” said Charles Greevy IV, middle school principal.

And it connects with multiple iPads used by students through an app client. A student can log in and see the screen from home, out of state or even out of the country. Students may contribute from their seats without getting up to the projection screen.

At the end of the day, everyone may receive a copy of notes, links or images used in the lesson to reference later.

Classes have been using the system together. For example, seventh- and eighth-grade social studies classes recently got together to learn about a South African guest speaker coming to visit the district. They brought up images to create a timeline of events in South Africa and then brainstormed questions for the guest speaker.

“It’s an awesome collaboration for the kids … for them to be able to share their ideas, formulate all of them together has just been phenomenal,” said Eric Gerber, eighth-grade social studies teacher.

“The amount of work they’ve been able to do has been insane. By the time they leave, they have the entire list of questions created by seventh and eighth grade that they can look back on tomorrow,” he said.

Andrew Cook, seventh-grade social studies teacher, said the best part is all of the interaction.

“Kids get valuable feedback from what they put up there. Their work isn’t just sitting on a piece of paper no one sees. Everything that goes up there, all the kids talk about. They have a real world audience, and they see each other’s ideas,” Cook said.

Because the students want to contribute to the digital discussion, both teachers agreed the students seemed more engaged and willing to offer relevant ideas.

“World and history classes could be so much cooler with this. You can interact between putting up pictures of the places you want to go, places you’re studying, put up historical figures. It would make learning a lot less textbook, making learning a lot more creative,” said Hayli Springer, a 12th-grade student.

Alicia Carner, high school special education teacher, said she can let her special-needs students work more independently but log in with her laptop to provide hints and information when they need help. It even allows teachers who are not in the same room to be able to interact with students.

“My proximity doesn’t have to be right there, and I think that’s huge. When you’re working with kids to build integrity, they can show that when teachers are there, but behind closed doors, it’s different. This gives them the opportunity to practice, ‘I can do this myself” without the teacher sitting right there,” Carner said.

Nureva was founded in 2014 by David Martin and Nancy Knowlton, who also founded SMART Board in 1991, the world’s first interactive whiteboard.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1XpWWgN

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Information from: Williamsport Sun-Gazette, http://www.sungazette.com

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