being a teacher, being me, smartboards, Student-centered

Stop Telling Me Technology Engages

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.

smartboards, Student-centered

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.

being a teacher, smartboards, technology

Technology Does Not Make the Classroom Succesful- the Teacher Does

It appears that technology is sweeping the nation as the answer to the “broken” education system in America.  Everywhere you turn school districts are touting their Interactive Whiteboards, their iPads, their one to one systems and anything else tech related.  Since I am techie myself, most people assume that I think this is a good thing.  Well, you’re wrong.

I love technology and more specifically integrating it into my curriculum.  So my students blog to create writing portfolios, learn how to write for a specific audience, and document their learning.  We also journal every day in a notebook using that great tool; pencils.  My students create wordle’s on our computers to watch for main ideas or overused words.  We videotape science experiments so we can post them for parents to ask us questions.  We use computers to do our research.  We participate in the Global Read Aloud so that we can share a book with classrooms around the world.  We project videos that boost our understanding, and yes, we even have a SmartBoard.  But the thing is, this doesn’t mean anything if I don’t know how to properly use the technology and then pass that on to your students.

You can stick a SmartBoard on any classroom teacher’s wall and then claim that they are 21st century.  Well, guess what?  They are not.  Unless they know how to use the tools provided all you are doing is dressing up a dog and passing it as a circus horse.  The race to be more 21st century seems to be clouding the judgment of districts everywhere.  It is not about the tools, it is about the teachers.  So yes, some technology is phenomenal and does help student learning, but all tech is not created equally.  So it shouldn’t be judged equally.

So when test scores don’t rise even though a district is heavily tech integrated, people tend to blame the technology.  “See it isn’t working.”  And yet, the technology shouldn’t have been part of that equation really.  I don’t care how many computers you stick in a room, if a teacher is not facilitating them properly, or the wireless is awful, or they are outdated etc then they wont make a lick of difference.  The teacher is what will raise test scores, that is if we ever have enough time to actually teach in between all of the tests we have to give.

The truth is there is no simple answer to create a successful classroom.  You need to have a teacher that is invested, students who know that their teachers care about them and that they are in a safe environment.  You need administrators that actually trust their staff and engage them in discussion.  You need parents that are invested in the classroom as well.  And yes, computers make my classroom work better and I would say that classroom computers are a must-do investment.  But everything else? It’s nice, but not absolutely necessary.  So perhaps we should be investing in teachers, raise their salaries so they don’t have to work 2 jobs.  Stop cutting their benefits so they don’t have to look for a new job.  Rather than investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into technology that may or may not get used.

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.