Monday, September 29, 2008

Struggles with the SmartBoard

This is a cross post with the high school's math blog.
After taking a math technology course this summer, one of my projects was to prepare a tech lesson extending past our comfort zone. With me, it's the SmartBoard. I planned a lesson around congruency shortcuts of triangles because I thought that the ability to manipulate the tools (ruler and protractors) as well as the triangles themselves would be an appropriate use of the capabilities of the SmartBoard. I felt a had a great lesson, with background-building vocabulary, questions with answers covered with the screen shade, sequential topics to investigate which short-cuts work, and conversation topics for each slide--all prepared on the SmartBoard notebook.

However, as I'm sure we've all experienced, the lessons that seem great in theory flop in the classroom. I struggled very hard to line up my ruler and protractor using my finger, so measuring 3 pieces of two different triangles was long and frustrating. Even sorting objects by dragging them around seemed difficult and tedious. If I got a student brave enough to attack the tools, it still left the rest of the class unengaged and bored quickly. I adapted the rest of the lesson in order to cover the main points. Any writing I did was very hard to read since my orientation was off no matter how many times I tried to readjust (and my SmartBoard was against the wall.)

The main points of the SmartBoard that I would like to exploit are the ability to work out problems and record in real time and/or save and the manipulablity. Without these features, I don't see much difference than projecting on a regular screen. I try to be very cautious about using technology effectively and not just for the sake of using technology. However, I do not feel that the ability to save is great enough to offset the difficulties in writing and reading the work. And the ability to manipulate items can be powerful... for the person doing it, but leaves the rest of the class unengaged. It would be no different than me manipulating something from my laptop or with a wireless mouse for the class to view on a regular screen.

With this, I am looking forward to the Global Leaner chat this week, which happens to be about SmartBoards. I would love feedback on how the SmartBoard is used effectively in your classes, especially with secondary students. How does it keep the whole class engages? How does it benefit students who miss class? How can the benefits over projecting on a screen be maximized? And how can all of this be done on a regular basis?


Dave Tarwater said...


You pose great questions regarding effective use of the SB. We should get some great discussion on that very topic in this month's Skype conversation. Next time you plan a lesson with the SB may I collaborate with you?

Stewart said...

I'd love that, Dave. And I can show you the one I had done for your comments and suggestions as well. I might as well use it as a learning tool for myself.