Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why I heart my Smartboard

There has been a bit of discussion over the past year about the merits of iwbs, and the money spent on one, versus using the same funds to purchase a class set of netbooks, or other devices that could be potentially used by lots of students.

I love my Smartboard, and believe it has added a new dimension to my teaching, and to student learning, and to group learning. First of all it is just a way better display device than a blackboard. I know that is stating the obvious but I found that the use of light and colour animated a subject like grade 8 math and led to amazing assessment results. I will talk about our math voyage in another post. The Smartboard also made aspects of EQAO prep fun for my grade 6 class. We do not usually do a lot of shared reading but during May we read a number of practice pieces aloud and collaborated on answering the questions, using the board to go back and find key passages and underline text. It was fascinating to see the engagement of so-called struggling readers and active boys when they had the chance to stand up and use the board. I also like the fact that the students were learning a technology that will be of use to them in higher education and the workforce.

But the biggest benefit I saw involved the integration of student presentation skills, software, original content and above all increased confidence. Having the chance to access my desk and computer to run Smart Notebook and other multimedia presentations in pairs across several curriculum areas literally transformed many students. They worked harder than I anticipated to prepare their work, and the personal and academic growth was perceptible. I recently compared them to “indoor gazelles” in the way they seemed to effortlessly and gracefully move back and forth between the computer and the Smartbord controls. This was in stark contrast to the hesitant and self-conscious youngsters who first tried to do this last October when we got the board.

I think this had to do with audience. If they had all been at their personal netbooks, yes they would have been writing for an audience, for example in a blog. But the presence of a human audience, the use of tricks like “hide and reveal” to involve their peers, the opportunity to incorporate music or scans and then explain their choices in real time - these are just a few things that the Smartboard enabled in my class this year. Yes it is true that only one or two students were literally touching the device at any given time. But I believe the heightened quality of the presentations and the natural curiosity of the other students made for classes with high levels of engagement and learning.

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