being a teacher, smartboards, Student-centered

The Sheer Genius of SmartBoards

Image taken from here

I am not a believer in SmartBoards, there I said it.  Sure, they are a nice tech tool to have but honestly, for that amount of money, I could think of about a thousand other things I would rather have in my classroom.  In fact, Bill Ferriter at the Tempered Radical agrees with me, which partly prompted this post.  And yet, I have to applaud what the makers of SmartBoards have done to our school districts.  Think about it, a smart board.  So if you have it then you must be smart for making the investment and if you don’t, well, then you are not.

Sometimes it is all in a name.  After all, that is why companies spend money trying to come up with the best marketing they can.  So when someone came up with the name SmartBoard you know high fives went around the room.  How about the Interactive Whiteboard?  Teachers love to speak of how interactive their SmartBoards really are.  And where does that notion come from? Their name.  I do nto for one minute believe that soemone went up to that board and thought indepedently of how interactive they are for students, maybe for the teacher, but not for others.  It really should just be called a touch and response board but that just doesn’t seem to have the same kind of connotation.  So when you call something interactive well, then, think of how much easier you can sell it.

So really who is the board interactive for?  The teacher who gets to touch it as the lesson moves on or the selected student who gets to come up and move a word around.  Ooooh, now that is engaged learning.  I don’t dismiss interactive whiteboards as classroom tools altogether but I do dismiss the notion that they are the ticket to reform our classrooms, to re-engage our learners, and teach our children.  Instead they lead themselves to more “sage on the stage” type of teaching where the teacher is in control of all of the learning and the students just get to participate.  That is not what school should be.  So laud your interactive whiteboards as much as you want, but keep in mind just how they were sold to you.  I think it is time we see them for they really are; tools, not solutions, not magic pills, just another tool and one that comes with a steep pricetag and a much too deep learning curve.  This should not be the future of our classrooms. 

14 thoughts on “The Sheer Genius of SmartBoards”

  1. If we want to engage students, we'd be better off allowing them to use a hand-held device from which they are accountable to participate.

  2. So your solution is what? ipads for everyone? Smart Boards ARE interactive when used as a center activity. And the cost is nominal, I built one in my room for under $100. The kids love it and their engagement isn't even questioned. If you want EVERY student engaged at the same time than my advice is stop bashing smart boards and start working toward real solutions.

  3. I think if you read my blog you will see that I do speak of solutions to increase engagement. I am not bashing smart boards just trying to bring them down from the insane pedestal they are on. I am really impressed that one was built for that little and wish that other districts would go that route rather than invest $3,000 in one. That way we could invest in other tools as well. Thank you all for your comments.

  4. I agree with you. Because our administrators have purchased IWB for every teacher, they proudly proclaim that we are a 21st Century school even though teachers use them the same way as a white board. Yes, they can be used as an interactive tool for students but rarely have I seen that done. On Friday, faculty members were creating their professional development plan. It was amazing to me how many of my fellow teachers put That they were going to take classes in using IWB as their goal for the next year. Administrators accepted that as a way for teachers to grow professionally inspire I'd the fact that it would only be a new toy that for a majority would not impact student learning at all. I think as teachers we do need to be careful to evaluate the true effectiveness of a tool in actively engaging and impacting student learning instead of falling prey to slick marketing programs.

  5. The problem with SMARTboards is that they give districts the security that they have done their part as far as integrating technology, addressing 21st century learning and being on top of the curve. So those goals get checked off as done on the district improvement plan and nothing moves beyond having SMARTboards in every classroom.

  6. I have had an IWB in my classroom for the last two years. I guess there are people who think that having an IWB means you're an e-learning class. That all depends on HOW you use it. IWB is simply an effective tool that enhances student-learning and teaching, which is our ultimate goal when you adopt any tool into the classroom. The part of e-learning can be incorporated but IWB doesn't define it. I'm not saying that you cannot plan a fabulous lesson without it. But I firmly believe that IWB makes the lessons better and relevant for the students especially in this day and age. Here are some of the things that an IWB can do: I can create something in 30 minutes, somehting that I used to need hours to do and in much better quality and with more enthusiasm from the students. E.g. Creating an interactive quiz, shared writing (SO MUCH EASIER!), shared reading, researching together as a class online and the list is endless. There are also devices like activotes and active expressions where every child is made to participate. I really think that people who are doubtful about IWB's have not used it in its fullest potential.

  7. Have to agree with the thoughts so far. There is little interactivity in an IWB beyond the whose turn is it to touch the board, although I do have to say my class love this.We are getting some new classrooms which are being equipped with new projectors instead of IWBs which apparently are "very cool" but it all comes down to how is the technology used. Don't get me wrong I am a geek of the highest order and gadgets are my mothers milk. However sometimes we have to acknowledge that often the most interactive way of teaching is a big sheet of paper and 30 felt tip pens.

  8. I kinda like my IWB. It is not the answer to everything, but what is? It is a tool, and expensive tool, but it's just a tool. Maybe the money can be better spent, but there are lots of uses for IWB's. If we want to talk about wasting money, what about the $500 million dollar school in LA? Do we need to spend that much money on a school? Wouldn't we all find better ways to use that money in our classes? If they built a cheaper building and applied the rest to classes, what could you do with the hundreds of millions of dollars? Schools do not have to spend millions and millions of dollars to create a piece of artwork building. What about our plethora of admin/secretaries/support staff/food service/etc?Hundreds of millions versus $3,000 – don't we have our priorities and anger misplaced?

  9. I've had one for 2.5 years. My personal assessment is that it is what it is (I hate when people say that).It is a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn't make students smarter and it doesn't make me smarter. Yes, they are probably overpriced and many things could be done with a projector & document camera. But, they can be very engaging and immersive when used the right way.I think that's right -on about them leading to more sage-on-the-stage teacher directed classrooms. I try to touch my IWB as little as possible. I want every student to know how to use the board and the software. The positives can be multiplied when it's used by a small group.They're definitely not going to save education. You are not a 21st century classroom because you have one. But, they are a good tool and most kids enjoy them.– @newfirewithin

  10. I agree that it depends on how you use it, but the fact that only one person can use it at a time makes it great tool for presentations. Thats about it so far although I use it to write on the online math textbook. I am just starting to use the third party software to create interactive, hands on manipulative lessons. However they still can only be used by one person (I have one stylus). That causes quite a squabble in my class when I choose someone to come to the board and their turn is slightly longer than the last student's turn…. I have been using mine for less than a year, and one thing I don't like is that I became tied to it by an invisible bungee cord that snaps me back every time I try to walk around the room to monitor my students. I have just gotten my tablet hooked up to it via remote access. I can once again walk around the room and teach from anywhere again.

  11. I agree with the author. IWBs can be a big waste of school funds. They are becomming outdated and obsolete. Better to invest in PC tablets (preferably Windows platform) and interactive projectors (like the BenQ MX810) to achieve the same results and with more benefits.Who in their right mind wants to spend that much on changing a classroom teaching to lecture stlye? What happens when that mounted IWB needs to be upgraded? It's not simply upgrading the software to match the latest technology (think of the new boards that uses multi-touch) – you will have to replace the hardware/firmware.These companies are all about making profits. I like the marketing terms they use to get to buy-in to IWBs. The leading company has a slogan 'Extraordinary made Simple'. What a laugh. It's not very intuitive to use their software that's why they have extensive training for it. They also know if you just use the software with a projector there won't be a need for the boards so they prevent you (legally) from using it on other proprietary devices (ie. tablets) other than theirs.For more like this topic read:

  12. I absolutely think some massive points are being brought up in this discussion. I am huge fan of Lisa Nielsen (The Innovative Educators) and thinks she nails it. I am not opposed to IWB's as a tool, however, they are not viewed merely as a tool but as a solution, as a technology program and that is not how they should be viewed. Too many districts place them in the classrooms without consulting teachers and then come down on the teachers that do not want to use them. Just another top-down decision that meant well but wasn't a good one.

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