Saturday, 26 May 2012

Why SMARTboards?

Recently, I discussed with some classmates and colleagues situations where people have been resistant to technology.  Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, the most  prominent answer was the introduction of the interactive white board, specifically the  SMARTboard.  Obviously, we were discussing the resistance of the teachers, and not the students. 
 One person raised the question of how and why, if many teachers are resistant to SMARTboards in their teaching and learning practice, did this tool become so ubiquitous in our schools.  This questions has been nagging me for over a week now.  I have been considering what made the SMARTboard so attractive to governments funding projects, and to schools divisions and administrations buying the hardware to put into schools. There was also something else rattling around in my mind about this question of how interactive whiteboards became so popular despite many teachers wishes.  I finally realized what was bothering me-- I thought who cares what the teachers want!  Our vision of elementary education has moved and continues to move towards a student centered approach.  What happens in our classroom should be best practices for our students’ education, even if that means that we teachers are uncomfortable sometimes.  
Interactive whiteboards have exploded onto the educational scene in the last 5 years. The Alberta government began a three year initiative in 2008 called Innovative Classrooms to support technology in grade 1-12 classrooms.  According to Alberta Education, “innovative and engaging learning environments enable students to develop the skills they need for global citizenship, lifelong learning, and participation in the world of work.”1  These kinds of environments are what students want, and what they thrive on.   This initiative required that every classroom in Alberta have an instructional computer, and a data projection device and/ or an electronic whiteboard.  With this funding from the government, many school divisions bought SMARTboards for classroom use.  
Why did the powers that be choose these devices over other available technologies?  I have been reading around online and I have not found a definitive answer.  Part of the reason I think is because the SMARTboard has a good bang for the buck.  The SMARTboard hardware and Notebook software are reasonably priced and therefore are attractive to organizations.  It is also a multiuser, multi purpose tool that can be used in whole class instruction, small group work, and one on one instruction.  A SMARTboard can simultaneously cater to visual and kinesthetic learners, as well as auditory, interpersonal and logical learners. It is a highly motivational tool that student want to interact with that provides teachable moments about digital citizenship and cooperation.  I cannot think of another tool that encompasses what a SMARTboard can be in a classroom. I think the versatility of the SMART interactive whiteboard is a major reason that they have become so pervasive in classrooms. 
I watced this video on the SMART website(which I think is a great resource, especially  and it brought me back to my other thought on how much does it matter how the teacher sees the use of interactive whiteboards in the classroom, when clearly it has an impact on students.  

A colleague commented to me the other day on how young children today just “get” how to use different devices. Students have already learned a great deal about technology before they enter school and we often ask them to abandon the tools they have been using  for literacy and numeracy to work more traditionally.  Why are Smartboards so popular?  Because they are a meaningful and engaging technological tool that students thrive on in their education.   One of the best strategies I used when teaching teachers about SMARTboards was to do the lesson with the students,  The students picked up the concepts much faster, and were able to help the teacher troubleshoot.  Learning with SMARTboards makes concepts interesting, concrete, engaging for students.
I could go on and on about the benefits of the use of SMARTboards in teaching and learning.  I have drank the kool aid! With training and support, I believe that more and more teachers would embrace this tool in their practice.   

1 comment:

  1. Ha! I'm going to save your comment, Theresa, about how SMARTboards were adopted over teachers' apparent wishes. When you said, "Who cares what teachers want!" I about fell out of my chair. I love the way you dug your heels in when you took the position that we need to figure out what is good for kids, and then go from there, despite what teachers prefer. Of course, I've seen a lot of promising technologies fail for the simple fact that teachers do in fact not like them and don't want to use them (ask me about videodiscs some day), so I'm of the opinion that we need to bring them along for the ride and provide a bunch of support.

    Ultimately, I'm in agreement that the "bang for the buck" is a pretty big issue for central administrators who control the budgets.