Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's not about the tool; It's about the students.

Over the past 2 days I attended a training session on Smart Board. I just received a new Smart Board for my classroom and was interested in learning about Smart Board as well as the software that drives it, Smart Notebook.

There is no doubt that the Smart Board technology has a wow factor. There are also useful tools that I will be able to avail. However, my initial feeling about the Smart Board is that relied upon too heavily it will destroy what many are trying to achieve: A student centred classroom. Heavy reliance on this tool makes a classroom look like a “traditional” classroom. That is to say the focus remains at the front of the class.

I am not saying, by any means, that I do not like it. I do and I will find uses for it that will add to the learning of my students. However, I can’t forget that too much focus on this tool makes it about the tool, and not the students.


  1. I think you make a really good point, and it's one I'm sure many of us are mulling over.

    When I taught in Pangnirtung, the internet was pretty much a new thing and very unreliable, so we didn't make much use of it. Now, in my school in China, I'm finding our connection so unreliable, that I'm almost giving up on technology all together in my lessons. This is particularly frustrating when I'm only lately waking up to how much is out there is help me be a better teacher. Still, I find myself just going back to relying solely on books for research, since sometimes we can waste a whole lesson waiting for Britannica Online to load.

    I haven't worked with a Smart Board yet, but we have them in a few of our classrooms. Does all of this technology take the focus off the students? Certainly something we need to be aware of.

    Is there such a thing as a Techno-Luddite? If not, then maybe I'll proclaim myself the first.

    Miss the daytime stars in Nunavut and the view of the fjord from my classroom window. From my library now, all I can see is new construction. China continues to boom!


  2. Hi Ellen,
    Thanks for your reply. Indeed,technology can take focus off the students if it is used incorrectly. I see the Smart Board, when used too much, taking focus off students. That said, by no means am I a "Techno-Luddite," or Luddite if you will. I am a strong supporter and advocate for technology. Used the correct way technology can enhance learning. It can give students a voice and connect them to a world outside their classrooms. Social media alone has impacted many classes across many borders.

    On a side note, I have a a beautiful view of Frobisher Bay from my classroom. It is getting cold here now and the bay is continues to freeze.

    Thank you so much for reading my blog and good luck with your teaching endeavors in China.

  3. I had a smartboard in my class last year, and I found 2 downsides to it.

    First, I echo what you say above. Having a SmartBoard doesn't necessarily create student-centered learning. So many teachers who were using them used them as a projector screen, and from time to time picked up a pen and wrote on them (to solve a math or chemistry problem). Thing is, I can do this with my $99 bamboo tablet plugged into my computer.

    Second, the amount of time it would take me to create a notebook file that was truly student-centered and enriched the lesson better than any other alternative was substantial. I can't spend 5 hours making one great file, for a 30 minute lesson. I could come up with labs and group discussions and other things that were so much more interactive and beneficial, in less time.

    I'm not saying that there isn't benefits to it - I can see where they are. But I don't know if the money and time invested fully pays off yet...

  4. I have to agree with you once again Brian, because SmartBoards are not the solution. They are a fantastic tool for catching kids attention or opening the doors to the wonderful tools avaialble online. In our district, SmartBoards are all the rage and I see them being used everywhere. Money spent on technology would be better spent putting tools in the hands of learners. Whether it's an ipod touch or a netbook, I think 1:1 computers will allow teachers to meet the individualized needs of digital learner.

  5. On Smartboards: I can only echo all aforementioned comments! Have seen them being used very successfully in some Scottish classrooms. First, they weren't at the front of the class, and secondly, the teacher was nowhere near it. Students had been taught to use it themselves; ideal for groupwork presentations. It was quite simply their tool!

  6. I agree about technology. The possibilities for education and connecting students and teachers seem limitless. My only frustration is with poor internet connections and the Great Fire Wall of China. I have to pay to be able to use Twitter and read your blog, for instance. Even so, that aside, I just worry about the time I waste in my own classes with trying to get technology to cooperate. There's so much I want to do but can't because it takes a full lesson for a site to download!

    Snow and freezing rain in Suzhou today. Just like home.