I mentioned the fact that I use a SMARTBoard interactive white board in my classes, and I have received an e-mail and a comment about SMARTBoards. In my book, if two people are wondering about it, perhaps it warrants a post. Before I begin, however, I need to issue a disclaimer. I haven’t used other interactive white boards, so I’m not sure how they work. Second, I don’t work for SMART Technologies, and I am not necessarily endorsing their product. I am very happy with their product, but it could be that other interactive white boards are just as good. Finally, I need to add that this is my first year teaching with a SMARTBoard, and I don’t know it inside-out myself yet, so I haven’t begun to figure out all its potential uses; I can only speak to how it has transformed my own class.
What is a SMARTBoard? It is an interactive white board, which means that it is hooked up to my classroom computer and works much like a touch-screen monitor. I can access any program on my computer from the SMARTBoard at the front of the room. Here is an FAQ for the kind of SMARTBoard I have.
SMARTBoards come bundled with software specifically for use with the SMARTBoard, including gallery content and templates. I think the math materials look pretty good, but I will be the first to admit that the content provided for English/language arts is elementary and not really helpful for high school. However, if you keep in mind that you are only limited by what you can do with a computer, then the fact that the bundled content isn’t that great shouldn’t be a problem.
What do I do with my own SMARTBoard? The biggest way in which my SMARTBoard has changed my teaching is that I am able to save notes written on the board in class. I tend to save them as pdf files so that my students can download them at home, but they can also be saved as SMART Notebook files (for which one has to have free SMART software installed), images, and Power Point files. I write on the board as I would any white board, but the difference is I don’t have to erase. I can add as many new pages as I need to add to get the content up, and then I can save the whole thing. I can copy and paste images into my notes, as I did when I wanted to show students the parts of a Greek theater (see the second page).
I use the SMARTBoard to access the Internet in class. We have viewed YouTube videos with the SMARTBoard (it’s also great for displaying DVD’s played through the computer). I also have used it to demonstrate how to do something in a computer program, such as how to login to our class blog and post an entry, how to alter our wiki, or how to manipulate text in programs such as Word. It’s so easy to demonstrate how to do something on the computer with a SMARTBoard.
Another frequent activity my students do on the SMARTBoard is correcting usage errors. Many language arts teachers may be familiar with the DOL activity in which students are presented with two sentences containing grammar, usage, and mechanical errors. The students learn grammar through correcting the errors. What I am able to do with DOL’s on the SMARTBoard is type the sentences up in Power Point and display them. Students come to the board and make the corrections using proofreading marks (which has an added benefit in that they understand what the marks mean on their own papers when I use the marks).
SMARTBoards work great with Power Point presentations, enabling the presenter to switch slides easily. One can also write on the slide using the SMARTBoard pens to add information or clarify or emphasize a point. You know how it is when you’re a teacher — it’s easier to keep tabs on all the students if you’re in front of the room, and a SMARTBoard enables you to access your computer from the front.
One thing I really like about having a SMARTBoard is that if a student has a question I can’t answer, we can explore it together right then. I can pull up the Internet and we can search for the answer.
I know many other features exist, and as I said, I am still learning all the uses myself. For instance, I know that I can record our SMARTBoard sessions like a video. One of our math teachers can access the graphing calculator and demonstrate calculations. You are only limited by your creativity and what you can do with a computer.