Williamsburg-James Schools Case Study

Williamsburg-James Schools

Hundreds of students in kindergarten through grade 12 use Serif DrawPlus to illustrate the concepts they are learning in a variety of classes ranging from U.S. history to chemistry to Spanish. By seeing words and ideas animated with the drawing software students have become more engaged and excited about their lessons and they have retained the information better than previously.

About 25 fifth-grade students in Virginia watched pulsing computer screens closely as atoms became animated with bulbous electrons and neutrons swirling around them. The students were virtually unaware that an industry-leading desktop publishing program was helping them more clearly understand the periodic table of elements.

The fifth-graders in the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools used Serif’s DrawPlus X2, a vector drawing software solution with powerful and intuitive graphic tools, as part of the science lesson. DrawPlus made the elements burst into life for the Williamsburg-James students by making it easier for students and educators to create, enhance and animate any graphics project.

Once the teachers saw the students’ reaction – their smiles, their excited chatter, their fingers pointing at computer monitors – they were hooked on DrawPlus.

— Robb Ponton,
Technology Resource Teacher

“The kids were engaged and learned more,” said teacher Robb Ponton. “It was easy for them to draw an atom and animate it. Once the teachers saw the students’ reaction – their smiles, their excited chatter, their fingers pointing at computer monitors – they were hooked on DrawPlus. The students’ projects impressed their parents, and the kids were really proud of their work. Some families purchased Serif products for their home use.”

As an instructional technology resource teacher in the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, Ponton helps teachers incorporate technology into their instructional practices and often leads lessons in the classroom. Ponton, an educator who has taught all over the world over the past three decades, said kids retain more information from any given lesson when they are engaged in their own learning experience. DrawPlus adds an invaluable “hands-on” aspect to any class, he said.

In one lesson with elementary-aged students, Ponton begins by showing students a drawing from a professional artist. He then uses DrawPlus to show them how the image can be broken down into its basic shapes. He next has the students put the shapes back together. Ponton also gives them a picture of an animal and starts them off by showing them how to begin creating the animal’s face. With DrawPlus, students began to see how they could “construct” or “build” their own dog or cat.

“When students see that the artwork really is mostly made out of common shapes they are amazed. Using the shapes in DrawPlus, they can learn about dimensions and proportions. They catch on quickly,” said Ponton. “Because the program offer pre-defined shapes, DrawPlus is particularly good for kids who can’t draw well themselves. Before using DrawPlus, the kids who couldn’t draw a cat or a dog, for example, would get disinterested.”

Ponton began rolling out DrawPlus into classes in 1995 after searching for an alternative to more cost-prohibitive products. In Serif products, Ponton found professional-grade features that kids could learn to use quickly and at a reasonable price for the budget conscious school district. Currently, all 13 schools in the district are using Serif software across multiple disciplines, including:

  • All fourth-grade classes created animated images of the amendments to the Constitution. While teachers say the amendments are often a hard concept for fourth-graders to grasp, DrawPlus enabled students to bring to life particular amendments.
  • Seventh- and eighth-grade Spanish classes who had trouble with verbs used the program to set in motion words including “dance,” “surf,” “skate” and “sing.” The visual effects helped the students to not just translate, but to truly understand the meaning of the Spanish words. Ponton collected the students’ responses to the question, “What do I like to do?” in a presentation.
  • A high-school chemistry class used DrawPlus to animate compounds, bringing to life the chemical equation and concepts behind reactions. As part of an illustration of laughing gas one student sent the words “nitrous oxide” bouncing around the computer screen and set the words “ha, ha” popping up against a blue background.

“Using DrawPlus, the students are so much more creative,” said Ponton. “Clip art basically teaches nothing. Students learn more when they draw something for themselves. The software gives teachers a crucial ‘hands-on’ component to their lessons.”

Students who speak English as a second language, including a student from Peru and one from China, have used DrawPlus to create logos for school plays. The students gained a sense of pride in themselves for a job well-done and a sense of camaraderie with their classmates because they could communicate through DrawPlus, Ponton said.

The software also works well with some of the district’s special education population. Children whose physical or mental disabilities might have prevented them from creating images are now tapping into their ideas more readily because they can more easily express themselves with technology.

“DrawPlus is something anyone, regardless of their abilities, can use,” said Ponton. “We can see the improvement DrawPlus has made in our classrooms in terms of how interested and active the students are during their lessons. The program has helped them think more deeply about their subjects – from scientific equations to foreign vocabulary. The projects that used DrawPlus were more engaging, and therefore more meaningful, to the students, and the lessons will stay with them longer.”

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