With the aid of what looks like a 22nd century version of a chalkboard, Adam West easily holds the attention of his fifth-grade students at Mackey Elementary School.
West leads his students on a digital, interactive lesson using the Promethean ACTIVboard, a high-tech board that has all the capabilities of a computer.
The machine allows teachers to conduct lessons using digital images, audio exercises and the Internet.
The North Las Vegas school is the first in Nevada to equip all of its classrooms with the board.
Since the February launch in the school's 34 classrooms, West has noticed a difference in his students.
"One of the most incredible things I've seen is their eagerness and the way they shoot their hands up when there is a question," West said.
On Wednesday, West prepared a lesson for his students based on Washington and the government's three branches.
Fifth-grade students at Mackey are preparing for a five-day field trip there in May.
West displayed an aerial map of the nation's capital on the 78-inch screen. With an electromagnetic pen, he dragged a square over a portion of the map, revealing street names inside.
West also proceeded to use his pen to draw long lines that served as measuring points to chart city streets.
With the pen, West produced a computerized image of a protractor by reaching into a tool box that contained basic computer drawing functions such as erasers and paintbrushes.
He used the protractor to show students how to measure the angles of streets in relation to each other.
Fifth-grade student Henry Bradley said the ACTIVboard use of computerized images makes learning easy.
"We used to just read books," Bradley said. "It's more fun to do this."
West said teachers can make their lessons as complicated or simple as they want using the ACTIVboard.
Because of that, the machine should not produce more work for teachers.
West said it took him about an hour's worth of practice a day for two weeks to become comfortable with the software.
The system is not cheap. One board along with software, which connects to a computer or laptop, costs about $1,500. The board along with its full package of gadgets can cost up to $4,500 with installation.
Other tools include a wireless slate that allows users to control what appears on the board without the electromagnetic pen.
Another device that resembles a mouse enables students to answer questions given to them by teachers.
Students can also use the device to take tests and quizzes, and the scores go into a teacher's computerized grading book.
Mackey used federal grants to pay for the technology, and it cost the school about $80,000 to equip all 34 classrooms.
The ACTIVboard is produced by Promethean North America Inc., based in Atlanta. The company only sells its products to school systems that serve kindergarten through 12th grade students.
About 30 other schools in the district use the ACTIVboard on a more limited scale than Mackey.
Other companies in the district have similar products.
Jeff Nowakowski, a sales manager for Promethean, said about 80 percent of the classrooms in Great Britain use some type of digital board, but the product is still relatively new in America.
Nowakowski said his company is working with U.S. school districts to determine whether there is a correlation between using the ACTIVboard and improved student achievement.
A report by the not-for-profit European Schoolnet, a consortium of 28 ministries of education in Europe created in 1997, found that interactive digital boards improve student performance in subjects of science, math and English.
The report detailed the results of 17 studies in Great Britain and other European countries that focused on the use of technology in the classroom. It found the boards create a faster pace in the classroom as interaction increases between teachers and students.
With interactive machinery, teacher follow-up questions are directed at the entire class and not individual students, and the report concludes the use of the machines helps students become more engaged in class lessons.
Mackey Principal Kemala Washington said improved student performance is the ultimate goal of the machines.
"We believe the boards make students more attentive," Washington said. "If students are more engaged, they will learn more."
Fifth-grader Lynda Brunner rebuffed any notion that the system has spoiled her and her classmates. But she conceded that she wouldn't want to learn at another elementary school that doesn't have the board.
"We are learning more," Brunner said. "It's more than just sitting down and doing work."