April 2010

Unanswered Questions About Smartboards

Today I had a chance to take part in an interesting discussion on the role of Smartboards in elementary classrooms. As a result of this discussion, I was left with more questions than answers. This is good, as I will be keeping these questions in my mind, till I figure them out (or at least do some progress). So here are some of them:

1) What can Smartboards do than a regular tablet (it is interesting how I write “regular tablet” ) can’t? So what is an advantage of having this technology?

2) Why would touching a screen with your finger versus a pen or a piece of chalk make a difference in terms of student learning? Is it called “engagement”? May be I am missing them point for elementary students.

3) To me it appears that Smartboards promote teacher-centered learning environment as the teacher, or maximum one student can access it at a time. Is this true? What am I missing?

4) When the novelty factor of the Smartboard wears out, what is going to be left there?

5) Today I noticed that there were a number of technical issues with the SmartBoard. If a teacher in the classroom does not have technical support, how will she trouble shoot?

6) In today’s presentation I felt that there was a lot of distractions in the way the Smartboard was used. Can it be that children and adults are stimulated different and what is distracting for an adult might be helpful to a child? Just a thought.

I have heard from my students that they were using this technology successfully, so I am sure I haven’t discovered its real applications yet. I have to have to work with it more. I think I might have felt the same with electronic response systems (clickers) some years ago and now I feel that I won’t be able to teach without clickers, so may be this technology will turn out to be as helpful?

OK, I have to think about it more…

1 Response to Unanswered Questions About Smartboards

  1. Marina Milner-Bolotin

    This comment was e-mailed to me by a colleague and a friend, a distinguished professor of physics from Trent University, who deeply cares about student learning – Dr. Al Slavin. He allowed me to reproduce his e-mail here:
    I share exactly your blog questions re SmartBoards vs tablets, and have asked them several times without getting convincing answers. The latter are far more portable and work well in a large lecture hall with a screen where the SmartBoard is impractical because of its limited size. I think that one advantage to the SmartBoard is that the audience can see physically what you are doing by where your hand goes. When I use a tablet to develop the solution to a problem, for example, and have to refer back to an earlier section, I find I have to say explicitly “I am now going to the top middle of the screen, of possibly switch to a different colour to highlight where I’ve gone.

    For younger children who you want to work in front of the class, it is probably much easier for a student to go to the SmartBoard and use her fingers than to use the pen of a tablet and try to figure out the relationship between what the audience is seeing on the projection screen and what she is writing on the tablet. I suspect that, for most audiences, if they need to use the technology to make a point, a SmartBoard is probably easier because they have already seen how the instructor manipulates it.

    Best wishes,


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