As a teacher, you know that it can be a challenge to capture the attention of students who are increasingly distracted by cell phones, laptops and other devices of our modern age. Truthfully, engaging students in the learning process has become a challenge. A study published by Swansea Metropolitan University in Wales showed that teachers and pupils agree that active participation and talking about their ideas in the classroom helps children learn more effectively. But how does a teacher create active participation in a classroom filled with distractions?
For some educators, the answer is the SMART Board (also known as the interactive whiteboard.) The SMART Board is a touch-sensitive screen connected to a computer. Using the interactive whiteboard, teachers can create lessons or access thousands of pre-made lessons, write or draw on it, move images around, show video, do a PowerPoint presentation or surf the Internet.
The use of old-fashioned chalkboards is being replaced by tech-infused lessons that get through to the new generation of students. SMART Boards make the teacher’s job easier and more creative. They can store and retrieve lessons quickly, connect to the Internet and bring the outside world into the classroom.
From math to the arts, SMART Boards have been able to give teachers a new level of bringing a lesson to life for students. Students are given new ways to approach problem solving because of the interactivity and visual approach of the SMART Board. A report from FutureLab noted that, “one of the most striking benefits of interactive whiteboards is that they can introduce ‘theatrical tension’ into the classroom.”
For instance, many math teachers will say, “Learning math is a visual experience.” With a SMART Board, the student interacts with a creative graphic of the math problem, while getting guidance from the teacher and fellow students. In many ways, this technology brings fun back into learning.
Alexandra Dunn, a Speech Language Pathologist for Upper Canada District School Board, is overwhelmed by the results she is seeing with students. “The transformation has been astounding; we are reaching students in a way we never could before.”
With the SMART Board technology, teachers are excited about the opportunities to enhance and evolve their lesson plans. SMART Boards are motivating students and teachers alike. The impact on student behaviour is also noticeable to teachers and can aid in reducing the stress in the work environment.
“The only thing limiting the potential of SMART Board use is the creativity of the instructor,” said Dave Balfour, a SDC Teacher at Chimo Elementary School in Smith Falls, Ontario.
Through a growing collection of websites, including one provided by Smart Technologies, teachers have access to the experiences of other educators and lesson plans for their SMART Board. Also, teachers are sharing their class plans over the Internet. This lessens their need to recreate and reinvent and instead see what is working in other classrooms around the world.
“I am revitalized, invigorated, it feels like I’m starting teaching all over again after 21 years,” said Eric Thomas. “It grasps all students’ attention and makes whole class instruction easier and more meaningful for both the students and myself.”
Secrets to Becoming SMART Board Savvy
Look for professional development classes or seminars in your area. There are many things to consider when choosing an education partner to support the implementation of technology in your school district. Look for a partner who has a combination of experience, reputation and expertise to ensure a successful and smooth integration of technology in your organization. One way to measure the quality of a potential partner is to look at the types of awards and certifications held by the organization and its workers. Out of class training and seminars, like those presented by Advanced Education, are a great way for teachers to see the possibilities of whiteboards beyond a way to present a PowerPoint. (Advanced Education is a leading provider of SMART Board professional development for teachers involved in K – 12 education in Ontario, working with more than 5000 educators each year.)
Globally, the media and blogosphere are starting to pay attention to SMART Boards and how they can transform the classroom and students’ education. There are great stories on how they are helping particular age groups, children with learning disabilities and different courses. Educators are posting information every day on their experiences including what works and what doesn’t work.
Get Hands On
The best way to delve into any new technology is to get hands on with it. When you have access, try out all the features and ask questions—you won’t break it!
Taking It Further
We are just at the beginning of exploring all the areas of education that are transformed by the SMART Board—the only limit is imagination.
SMART Boards in Action: Inclusivity
Meaningful integration of students with severe learning disabilities into regular classrooms can be a daunting task. Thanks to a vision by the Psychology Department at the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB), hard work by teachers, support from senior administration in the school district, and support from the Ministry of Education, exciting things are happening.
In the summer of 2008, UCDSB moved forward with a pilot project using SMART Boards to integrate autistic students into the regular classroom. Within weeks of starting the project, teachers were reporting exciting results. A parent of a special needs student from Chino Elementary School, says that the introduction of the technology has changed his son’s entire life outside of the classroom.
Alison Inglis, the project manager noted, “All students are included as active participants in learning academic content in relevant areas, ensuring they have opportunities to form social relationships and friendships with peers; and they acquire relevant, functional skills in non-academic areas. The goal for all students is meaningful educational and social participation.”
For many teachers, SMART Boards are a new and important direction to learning and creating inclusivity in the classroom.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Palbom is an education consultant with Advanced Education. Over the past year, John has conducted over 50 professional development courses on the SMART Board for educators in Ontario. Advanced Education provides SMART Board and other technology training, services and products to the education sector. www.advanced-education.com
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s March 2009 issue.