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Pre-Service Perspective on SMARTboards

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I've just finished up the final class in my semester long course for MIT undergraduates in the Scheller Teacher Education program. These students were an absolute delight to teach. They observed classes all semester and blogged about the experience, and while I try to finish grading their papers, I'll use some of their technology-related posts in this space. Here, student Christina Lalani describes her perspectives on the use of an interactive whiteboards in one classroom that she observed:

Today I want to address the use of technology in this class. In particular, my focus will be on the use of SMART Boards in comparison to regular whiteboards/chalkboards. The cost of a SMART Board ranges but this article describes an individual's experience with purchasing a SMART Board: http://www.modernchalkboard.com/article-cost.html Although the estimation of $5,000 may be on the higher end (especially because schools usually receive discounts for bulk purchase), let's estimate around $3,000 for a SMART Board with installation and accessories.

Here are some of the advantages I saw in the SMART Board focusing only on the lesson taught last Thursday:

1) Saving Time: Having the practice problems already typed up and available at the click of a button saved the teachers classroom time and allowed a greater focus of time on problem solving. However, it's hard to say how much of a time-saver this was because time was also lost as the teachers attempted to switch between pages, make changes, etc. Although more training could probably help with any confusion using the technology, more training requires more time and more money.

2) Switching between pages: The ability to switch between pages and come back to topics discussed earlier that day or earlier in the week is really useful in the classroom. For example, Thursday's lesson was focused on graphing parabolas. Ms. Mathews was able to flip back to a practice problem from earlier in the week on finding the axis of symmetry and vertex and then build on that problem to lead into the new topic. This ability is useful in maintaining an underlying focus and connecting topics.

3) Sharing Interactive Media: Because the focus of the lesson was on graphing parabolas, Mr. Johnson pulled up an interactive image of the classroom calculators and was able to show students how to use their calculators for specific tasks related to graphing. This was probably more effective than explaining purely in words with no visual, especially for students who are more visual learners.

Although these three reasons are advantages when compared to a regular whiteboard, the reality is these three things can all be achieved by the "overhead projectors" that most teachers still have in the classroom. Writing practice problems on transparency sheets ahead of time would save time in the classroom and allow the teachers to return to topics later on; putting the calculator on the projector would allow students to visually see how to graph different parabolas. "Overhead projectors" are nowhere near as fancy or high tech but keeping in mind the needs of this math classroom, they could likely have a similar effect.

That's not to say the SMART Board is useless entirely. There are definitely classrooms in which the unique features of the SMART Board, such as its ability to receive input from multiple computers or its features catered toward collaborative work, can contribute substantially to learning. It's just hard to say that this is one of them.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my publications, C.V., and online portfolio, visit EdTechResearcher.

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