Saturday, September 10, 2011

Go Ahead - Convince Me on SmartBoards

This summer all of the elementary classrooms in my whole district were given SmartBoards. Now mind you, I already had a projector and document camera in my room which I used to no end and absolutely love. I even had a remote that I could use to click on stuff. But no, we were given SmartBoards anyway.

I am positive person and I try to keep an open mind but for the past couple of years I have not really been excited about IWB's in general. I think they lead to a teacher centric classroom and truly are not all that engaging for the students once the novelty wears off. And yet I know there are many of you out there that swear by your IWB. So for this student-centered classroom teacher, show me why. Share with me why you love them so much. Share great student-centered, inquiry based lessons that works so well on your IWB. Please convince me because this tool is in my classroom and I would love to be persuaded of its value as more than something that I can click as the teacher.  I already know of Smart Exchange and all of those sites, I don't need sites, I need actual tested real-life lessons and stories.

28 comments:

Lyn said...

Please post what meaningful resources you find. Would love to share with my teachers, as our tech department put IWBs in all 3-6 classrooms (without asking principals if this is how they'd prefer their technology monies be spent). Most are mounted in the front of the room... and the majority (not all) of the time, that's where I see teachers when the boards are in use: traditional classroom roles intact. An easy fix for that is to rearrange the space and make that area a small group work area. But then if your projector is mounted, you're kind of stuck/need to reconfigure again when wishing to use the doc cam or something else for demonstration purposes. I guess it's a matter of finding that flow of classroom design and making it work, not letting the tech placement force your classroom space/teaching techniques. I'm done rambling now!

Katie Hellerman said...

P,

Glad you are asking this question. I still haven't figured out how to get my school's money's worth out of the SmartBoard. I know that many of the teachers in my school use it in conjunction with Dyno; which is a (paid) slide sharing program. In general, I feel guilty for having such an expensive tool in my room and underusing it.

Lyn, I feel your pain on the fact that the projectors are mounted. One of my favorite things about regular projectors was that we could make a screen out of anything.

As far as useful things...I've found that the SmartBoard is good tool for activities where students might be working individually or in pairs on laptops. Certain students will do better when they are able to make large sweeping tactile movements. Others are able to focus better because the screen is so big.

That's as far as I've gotten. Eager to hear from people who have more of a clue.

Denise Rawding said...

I have the same question, so I thank you for asking it publicly. I'm interested in knowing how smartboards can be used to help with higher level thinking skills.

Mrs. Shepherd said...

I have a Promethean board and I and the students use it daily. My ideas are for students to create their own powerpoints or flipcharts to showcase on the board. I also make two flipcharts weekly for students to interact with during Word Work centers. Finally, my board came with activotes which we use at least twice a week to practice test taking skills.

Http://ericashep.blogspot.com

Dr. Joan McGettigan said...

As with any tool, it is what you make of it--for hs there are some programs like Algodoo, that are AMAZING which is made to work with a SMRT board. I love that I can record my work for flipped classrooms, that I can record student work for eportfolios, that I can show a film and stop and annotate a scene (especially good in science and ss) and take a snapshot of it for review, I love that I can have students easily annotate their work or an article or other work so daily and capture (yes, I realize there are other ways to do this). The SB is way to work with and easy to capture things on the fly but your teachers need to be trained in all that it offers-you can have a teacher centric room with a blackboard or you can have a student centered room with a blackboard--it's not the tools that make it so--I am as tired of those who see the SB as the panacea as those who criticize it as a waste if money--again, you need to know how best to implement it--it can be an incredibly powerful tool in a student centered room. Up to you--there is a whole community of teachers willing to share. Good luck!

Kyle said...

What kind of support is in place in your district to insure the boards are used to their maximum benefit? If you were in my district, I would meet with you regularly throughout the entire school year, particularly on how to create (and eventually have students creating) lessons and activities in which the students are at the board the same amount or more than you are. It cannot be used as a glorified presentation station. You said you know about SMART Exchange, which is a great place to start, but I wouldn't be OK with just letting you use premade stuff forever. Let's also take a look at resources you already had in place in your district (textbook,etc.) that will lend themselves well to having students come to the board. Are there other technology pieces you already have (document camera) that would work well or that you could use in new ways in conjunction with the SMART Board? These are the kinds of items we would start collaborating on to help this new tool work best for you and your students. What kind of PD plan is in place for all these SMART Boards that were installed? If it is a "one and done" approach, teachers will never get full benefit and you have been failed. I know there's a lot of debate as to their worth, but they're there so let's get the most out of it possible. That can't happen without continual support.

Josh Stumpenhorst said...

Pernille,

I have often thought about writing a similar post. My district put a Smartboard in every classroom...literally hundreds of them. I would venture to guess that 90% of them are used no differently than a pull down screen was...a method for projecting. It does make presenting lessons easier for the teacher, but that is the extent of its worth in most classrooms.

In my opinion we get wrapped up in the novelty of the tool rather than the true impact on learning. Cool, my kids can move things around on a screen! Wait, can't they do that on their computers, their notebooks, or on their desks? I don't see anything a Smartboard can do that can not already be done with other classroom tools. As many have already stated, if there is something I am missing please let me know. To say a Smartboard is "interactive" is a stretch considering even if you let kids use it, you get one at a time. How is that interactive when one kid is on the board and 29 are sitting down? I might be swayed to think of it is a small group or individual tool but a whole class interactive tool, nope.

I would rather take that money and put it into classroom resources for all kids not just the "chosen one" who gets to go to the (Smart)board.

melanie said...

I teach kindergarten and LOVE my smart board. But like any tool, it's the teacher that can make or break it's effectiveness. You said the tool you had before YOU loved and YOU could click, but not sure how that was student centered. My students use the smart board much more than I do. It is extremely engaging and I have a system set up for equitable use by all students. My students play math games on the SB in pairs where they are rolling dice on the screen and manipulating objects. In reading they use it for all kinds of word work practice, phonics games, etc. They love it and I can make it all self-checking. In writing workshop, we have a planning board where everyone's name is in the planning stage they are currently working. As they move to the next stage, they "move" their name on the board, but this is all I am using it for in WW at this time.

It also can be used like a document camera, bc I can screen capture any web page, word document, scanned student work, etc. and save it in the smart notebook and we can manipulate it on the screen. the students can highlight words and sounds, write on the screen, circle things, etc.

I have a student centered classroom and we have only improved upon that and improved on student engagement since we added the SB last year. I am still learning of all it can do and it is an amazing tool! I hope you learn of all that is possible and find ways to maximize it's potential with your students.

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

I am loving all of these comments, keep them coming.

I was lucky to already have a projector in my room and a document camera before all of this, which I used every day and loved for many reasons. The fact that so much money was spent on the ability to click and move stuff around seems puzling to me and is what is prompting this post.

Kyle, I love your plans and can sadly say that pretty much is not happening in my building at least. yes, there are some PD opportunities but not to really make it student-centered just how to create lessons etc. I have taken the class several times and still leave not wanting to invest a ton of time into creating lessons because I see less value in my time invested there compared to creating really butt kicking hands on lessons for my kids. But I so want to be convinced....

And when I talk student-centered I also mean more than 2 kids rolling a die or playing a game. So my challenge still stands: how can I use this for more than just a work station or a presentation tool? How is the price tag justified when I can do almost all of the same stuff with a projector and document camera (and a remote which I had before). What am I missing here?

@educatoral said...

Gosh, I'm not so good at using an IWB. I got a Webster to use with my MacBook four or five years ago. At the same I also bought a keyspan remote. I found that I used the keyspan remote more often and easily than the IWB. Since I don't have or really use centers I only have kids use the board once or twice each year. I find it nice for having kids enter their data into one place for sharing and comparing, but as some have already said here my students can do that with Google Docs and GD is free.

From all the responses here it does seem like it depends on the teacher. It's like differentiated educating, we are drawn to different techs.

Laura said...

While I am no IWB expert, I do think one of the great things about it is that it's cool and exciting. My students love to come up and write on the board or play games on the board. When we are solving word problems and they get to take turns solving problems at the board, they're more engaged than doing it at a regular white board - because it's cool and new!

Any activity or game that you could do at your computer, you can do on the board. We do a lot of multiplication fact practice and even though it's the same as flashcard, because they're racing penguins, my students think it's awesome.

It's so easy to write on the board (like you would a regular WB) and flip to the next instead of waiting to erase. And you can save your notes!

Last year, I had a few exceptionally high students, so I used SMART Notebook to create videos teaching them how to do 2-digit long division. They watched the videos streaming from edmodo.com while the other students were doing other activities, and when they were done, we discussed, asked questions, and they practiced. I'm sure there are other programs that do this, but it's the easiest ones I found. For my students who struggled with long division, they became experts on one equation and made their own videos. Then I loaded them onto teacher tube and they loved showing the videos to their parents!

I don't know anything about what you used to have, but I love having it and my students love it too. As a side, the brand Eno Board by Polyvision is what my school uses and they're far cheaper, use a regular light bulb (so cheaper to maintain), and indestructible. And you can write on it w regular WB markers! It's the best of both worlds and I never have to worry about my kids breaking it - because they can't! Worked with SMART and Promeathen in the past and this FAR surpasses either! Hope this helps!

Mark Barnes said...

The Smart Board is more of a glorified overhead. I have one and use it daily to show instructional videos and post topics of discussion or other basic directions.

A lot of proponents say it's great for getting students involved by having them go to the board and write on the board. It took me all of one class period a few years ago to learn that this is a huge mistake. Kids don't know how to use it, and their interaction turns into a circus that does nothing more than entertain their friends (not that entertainment is a bad thing). Not to mention that having 20 students scurry up to a board is mostly a waste of learning time.

If a school has tens of thousands to invest in technology, it would be much better served adding computers, laptops or iPads, which truly get students involved.

Sorry if this is disheartening, Pernille, but I don't think an IWB is powerful technology.

Mr. Salsich said...

Hi Pernille,

I love your blog and almost always find myself in agreement with you, but I differ slightly on this topic.

This will be my second full year with a smartboard, and I love it. I personally don't understand why it has become fashionable among some educators to bash IWBs. I consider myself a fairly innovative teacher and I strive to make my classroom as student-centered, inquiry based, and collaborative as I can. I taught this way before I got the smartboard, and getting an IWB didn't suddenly turn me into a lecturing "sage on the stage."

Assuming that an IWB will transform the classroom into a teacher-centered/lecture environment is as silly as assuming that it will transform it into a 21st century, engaged, "interactive" classroom. As many others have already said, it's not about the tool. Teachers aren't automatons that are controlled by a piece of technology. (They might be controlled by curriculum or administrative demands on how to use the technology, but that is a different topic.)

I know you didn't ask for it, but you have been provided with a very expensive piece of equipment (I'll talk about cost in a minute) that will do all of the things you were doing before with your projector and document camera, and some great additional features. What's wrong with having it all in one device?

One of the great advantages over a projector is the dynamic platform for students to share their ideas and explain their thinking. This is what I don't get about the argument that IWBs take the learning out of the hands of the students: Don't classrooms without IWBs have some space - traditional WB, chart paper, chalkboard, etc. - for students to show their thought process to their peers? If not, how student centered can the room be? The IWB simply provides a more dynamic way for them to explain their ideas and learn from each other, and it doesn't have to be erased at the end of the lesson.

Here's an example from the other day in my third grade class. While discussing ways to solve a complex subtraction story problem, students explained their strategies by writing, drawing, and narrating their thinking on the smartboard. Nothing ground-breaking. But I was able to clone the problem onto multiple slides so that as different students shared different strategies they could just click between slides to compare the different approaches without erasing what the others had done. And the slides are saved for when we review the strategies on Monday. Is that just a glorified type of chart paper? Yes, but what's bad about that? In the same lesson we also used it to watch a student made math video tutorial from peers in another state.

Yes, only one student can use it at a time (mine has dual-mode, so two can use it), but how is that worse than having one student at a time show their thinking on a whiteboard or chart paper? Maybe the teachers that complain about this aren't having their students show their thinking with their peers at all? And yes, it takes a while for the students to learn how to use the pens and eraser, but really, we can't take 2 minutes to show them how? This week my students learned the smartboard at the same time they learned math, geography, editing, and blog commenting.

Yes, they are very expensive and that money could be used for other things, but that doesn't make it a bad piece of technology. In terms of your question about real-life uses for the IWB, the cost analysis is a separate topic. You have it, now what are you going to do with it?

Let me be clear, I don't need an IWB (although I could argue that I do need a projector) and I might actually prefer a combination of projector and iPads, but I'm certainly not going to complain about having one. It's all about your attitude and what you do with what you have.

-Jonah

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

I love this conversation because we are all debating thoughtfully.

Jonah, thank you for calling me out on an assumption. Of course if I am student-centered then putting an IWB does not make me change my philosophy. That is so true.

And I will admit my bias against this tool because it is so costly to purchase and time consuming to create all of the fancy "interactive" lessons. i think what I keep stumbling upon is the notion that yes we could do it with chart paper but now we get to do it with the board and I just don't see that as enough of a merit to purchase tools like that when budgets are super super tight to the point of salary freezes. But I am not giving up, keep sharing, it is obvious that there are many out there with the same question that I have.

This is not intended as a bash but rather as a dialogue from someone who really wants to know; how are you integrating it into your classroom? Because moving stuff around on it and clicking things doesn't justify the cost. So there must be more than that.

MeacherTeacher said...

I happen to enjoy finding new ways of using my SmartBoard. My school board used to have 1:1 laptops and then installed SmartBoards in many classrooms. We are now moving to a new model with a mix of laptops, netbooks, and iPads, but the SmartBoards remain. Suffice it to say that we did not give up other technology in the hands of the students in order to have IWBs. In my opinion, many of the SmartBoards that have been installed are being under utilized or used ineffectively, but there isn't much I can do about them. I like to think that I am trying to model a better way in my class.

When I spend time creating lessons, I try to keep in mind that each one can be used several times.  If I create a lesson for a small group of first graders that I work with for extra support in Language Arts, I might make a lesson using some letter sounds. We might explore it together and discuss some of the tricky bits. I often try to make lessons like this self-correcting. Later on, I might send a pair of students to go work through the activity on their own while I work with the rest of the group. If the activity is self-correcting, they can work independently on work that is meaningful for them while I work with the others on what they need. The same activity can be used later in the term as a review if needed. Finally, chances are good that I can save the activity and use it (or easily modify it to fit a new theme) next year. The longer I have my board, the bigger and better my bank of activities gets.

I might put a typed piece of writing on the board while working with a small group or sometimes the whole class for a quick mini-lesson. The students learn to use the markers to annotate and edit the text. Once they have learned this, a student can put up his/her own writing to conference with 1-2  peers. The many suggestions can be captured without altering the original, and without printing a draft. That student can save these notes and decide later which suggestions he/she will follow-up on. This also creates clear documentation about the conference for the teacher to look over later - something which is hard to track on paper for some kids.

The students love taking care of their own attendance, lunch count, and Daily 5 choices on the SmartBoard during homeroom. Sometimes a SmartBoard activity becomes part of a Daily 5 station for the week. The fact that each student or pair of students can work on their own page means info for the teacher later without being there to watch every move.

I have captured handwriting lessons in Notebook. If we choose to do a lesson as a whole class, everyone has a clear sightline without me in the way, and I am free to circulate, see  how the students are doing, and offer guidance. This also allows for lessons to be done more independently if students playback the movie on a personal device (laptop,...). Students who need more than one viewing may watch as many times as they need. Students who were absent can watch the lesson when they return. The movies remain available for review as needed.

This is just a sampling of how I use my board, there are many more. Of course, I do use it for some of those "teacher on the stage" kinds of things too. It is really handy to show the PDF version of the math text and SHOW which examples to do rather than just listing them. Demonstrating counters or base-ten blocks  in the air is painful, but easy to do on the SmartBoard, and easier to see for the kids following with their own counters. Video clips, pictures to discuss, demonstrating where to navigate in a website,... Many of these things could be done with a projector, but if the SmartBoard is there and being used productively, there is nothing wrong with using it for these things as well. I just try to keep the teacher on the stage for mini-lessons, then boot her off again.

So, as somebody said, you've got it, be positive about it. There are many, many ways that you can dream up to use it in a student-centered classroom.

Tracy Brady said...

Thank you for posting this. Here are my views: http://mmetechie.blogspot.com/2011/08/why-im-not-sold-on-iwbs.html
I too would be happy to be convinced, if there are pedagogically sound uses that won't cost me time and are superior to what I already do. I'm glad I'm not alone peeking behind the curtain.

Jeremy M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne said...

I love my SMART board. I believe there are different stages any teacher will progress through on their journey with their SMART board. The first being to use it as a glorified whiteboard. As one comfort level and knowledge of the software increases, our thinking shifts when planning lessons to how can the SMART board enhance my lesson for the students. There are not many lessons that I haven't found a way in which my SMART board made the lesson better.

So my question to you is this- What lesson are you thinking of? Describe it, then let's see how the board can enhance it.

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

Trying to get through all of these thoughtful comments, thank you.

I just want to clear up a couple of things:

- This was indeed a top down decision, no input was asked for by teachers. I went to admin with my concerns before the purchase but the decision had already been made. This I think is a horrible way to implement any tech as it gets less buy in than if teachers have been asked.

- We are in tough economic times. Just like every other school district in Wisconsin we had a massive budget shortfall which means our salaries have been frozen and cut, positions and programs have been cut, as well as field trips, supplies etc. So granted, part of this money was froma grant but soem wasn't. Is now the time to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in IWB's?
- There is little support. Sure there are classes to take but there seems to be no overall plan for further tech support and implementation help. It is more, "We gave you the tool, so now use it." That doesn't work for many new things, including this.

- Yes, I have it and I am not complaining. I just do not have time to sit and create a lot of smartboard geared lessons in my already jam packed schedule. Besides, I do not do very much lecture style teaching anyway, we are more hands on, so I am asking for ways in which others use it for that.

- And when I say I don't have the time, this is not a choice thing, this is an actual I do not have the time. I cannot physically work more hours than I do in a day already. I have days where I have 20 minutes of prep the whole day, that means dropping the kids off, running to the bathroom and then picking them back up. I work through my lunch. I come in an hour early, I can't get in any earlier because I have to take my daughter to daycare and they don't open until 7 AM. I leave 25 minutes before daycare closes so I can pick her up. Then I spend 2 hours with my family and then I work often another couple of hours. Besides the SmartBoard I have a new grade level (by choice), new team with meetings (by choice), new math curriculum (not by choice) and also new SS curriculum (not by choice). So no, I don't have the time to also sit and painstakingly create 10 slides for a smart board lesson when I just need to get to the point and get out of the way so my kids can learn.

I hope this helps clear up any misconception people are having.

best,
Pernille

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

Oh and final misconception; this isn't my first time with an IWB. I have been messing around with them for 2 years, making lessons, playing with them whenever I had access and was not impressed. Now I just have one mounted in my room.

The Innovative Educator said...

Smartboard companies spend a bundle to confuse people into thinking they enable you to do things that you can do more effectively without them. I was forced to place the devices in every classroom in a couple dozen schools and have never found them to enrich teaching or learning. They are a terrible waste of money and learning to use them is a terrible waste of time. Get the sages off the stages and let real-world, constructivist learning occur. Remember, the best learning happens with people (around the globe) not a board in front of the room. I write about my dislike of these devices often. You can read why I think smartboards suck at http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/search/label/SMARTBoards

George Couros said...

We were talking about SmartBoards yesterday and the need for inservice on their use. My suggestion was to start with the pedagogy first, and see if what we are doing can be served using this technology. We shouldn't be trying to figure out what the SmartBoard can do, or we can do with it until we look at the learning environment we are trying to create for our students. Answer that first and you will figure out if the SmartBoard is something that is needed in the classroom.

Kyle said...

The only way IWBs do anything to improve education, is if they allow you to "do" education in a completely new way.

99% of examples given call for doing the same old thing in a flashy new way.

Blanket installation of IWBs make my stomach knot.

Douglas Green said...

I would rather have more computers for students to use, but if you are given a smart board, just make sure the students all get to use it and that they use it more than you do. @DrDougGreen

BrendaB said...

Low cost and training are key to appreciating an IWB purchase. Cell phones were not heartily adopted until they were easy to use and affordable. Same here. Today, there are IWB solutions at a fraction of the cost that allow you to use your existing dry erase board and projector. Some of these technologies are even multitouch and allow you to use pinch-scroll type gestures instead of hunting for tools and they also allow 2-3students to work on the board at one time. Smart offers a good package but you're right about expensive so see what else is out there. As for use, it's important that your district supports electronic sharing of lessons/activities. Teachers who successfully use IWBs have great ideas that should be shared. Also, the district should support/negotiate regular training either internal or from a manufacturer. It takes a while to develop district adoption, but once done the IWB can be almost as treasured as your cell phone.

Isaac M said...

I used to teach at Brooklyn Technical High School until a couple of years ago.

As someone who's used an Interactive board for almost a decade now, I'd vouch for it. Sure, its a hassle learning how to use it and making lectures on it isnt easy. But you make a lecture once and reuse it for years!

Its like switching from a regular cell phone to a touch screen phone. It just gives you the capability to a whole lot more!

Note: On a lighter note, some kid punched through one of the panaboards in one of my classes. The hole's still there, but the board works fine even with it...

Mr. Salsich said...

In the past few months since my previous comment my thinking about IWBs has decidedly begun to change, due largely to this post and a handful of others questioning the value and effectiveness of these tools.

I still love my smartboard, but have been increasingly more reflective about how I use it. I'm still not buying the "sage on a stage" argument - that IWBs turn teachers into lecturers. That's either your style as a teacher or it isn't, if you really understand your profession an IWB isn't going to change who you are as an educator.

I love the fact that I can save all the students ideas and work on the IWB as a file to spring from in subsequent lessons, rather than erasing it at the end of an activity. However, I've found that my main use of my IWB is that of a projector - we watch videos and student created projects, and analyze blogs, comments, and articles as a group. Having never had a projector before my IWB, I think that has been the thing I found most beneficial - its projector is an easy way to bring the outside world to my students.

However, I have come to realize that the opportunities my students have to actually use the IWB as more than just a snazzy whiteboard are infrequent.

This is where I think opponents of IWBs are on target - IWBs puts the technology mostly in the hands of the teacher, rather than the students'. There are several good posts on this subject, but these two resonate with me the most:
Wrong Focus: Teacher-Centered Classrooms and Technology http://www.ryanbretag.com/blog/?p=2657
and
Why are we STILL wasting money on interactive whiteboards? http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2011/05/why-are-we-still-wasting-money-on-whiteboards.html

Both of these posts get to the most important critique of IWBs: there are other ways to use that amount of money to still provide a projector and devices that give the students opportunities to analyze, synthesize, collaborate, and create. They should be the ones with the newest tools, not just the teacher.

So, yes, if I could use the $3,000 dollars that my IWB cost (which isn't going to happen), to spend on tech for my classroom in ways that I think would benefit students the most, I wouldn't buy an IWB.

But, I have one, I like it, and I will really start to focus on ways that I can allow more students to use it on their own or in groups to create and collaborate.

Thanks for a great discussion!

-Jonah

Royan Lee said...

If IWBs are so great, why are classroom teachers really only the ones using them?

 

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