|Image from here|
Not too long ago when I brought up my dislike for the cost of Smartboards working in a budget crunched district, I was told that there was no way I could dismiss the improvement of student engagement that it has created in my classroom. I met that statement with raised eyebrows and then shook my head. The Smartboard or whatever technology tool I may be using is not what increases engagement in my students; the content is. The tool does not engage; the learning does. Because if the tool is the only thing that engages then I would say we are in serious trouble. If the tool is the only thing we use to keep those kids tuned in and invested then we need to do some serious re-thinking of our curriculum and delivery.
So while districts can flaunt all of the technology tools they so happily purchase with or without teacher input, we cannot tout that our engagement level goes up just because of that purchase. We cannot say we are now 21st century districts, since in all sincerity this is the 21st century no matter what tools we have. Sure kids may be looking at the board or screen more when we have more technology, but how much of that is training or simple politeness; a feigned interest or hope that something engaging will show up on that screen? How much of that is because all of them are facing the board rather than in pods? How many of them long for getting out of their seats and do something rather than watch one person direct the learning?
So don’t tell me that putting a Smartboard in my room increases student engagement, in fact, please run any technology purchase by me so that I can investigate and dissect it. Don’t tell me that my students are eagerly anticipating their turn to click the magic board, that wears off after the first couple of days. Tell me instead that the curriculum we teach is worthwhile, that the learning that we DO is engaging, that my students are engaged because they choose to be and I put enough thought into what I am teaching to realize that. Tell me that and I will agree; the tool does not create the engagement, we do.