Like a snowball gaining in size and momentum, bright, white, digital SMART Boards are on a roll taking over K-12 classrooms. These powerful visual tools are revolutionizing the way teachers run their classrooms including how they handle simple record-keeping tasks, engage student interest, demonstrate complex information, assess learning and prepare students for an increasingly digital world.
1. Improving classroom management
SMART Board uses in the classroom at the elementary level increasingly are including management start-of-day routines such as taking attendance and lunch count.
For example, before class every day, a first grade teacher may post large, colorful icons marked with individual student names. The board may also show pictures of the day’s lunch choices. Then, instead of waiting for roll call and lunch count or checking in on a magnet board or pocket chart, the students use their fingers to guide their icons to their lunch choices. The teacher views the class and the board to see if the record keeping is complete. Then she can report the attendance and lunch counts.
This process also helps young students become comfortable with the touch process that is becoming so important in using Wi-Fi digital tools, such as the computer notepads and e-readers that some schools are adopting for instructional use.
2. Minimizing the need for eyes at the back of the head
Teachers often jokingly say that it takes a few years to develop “eyes” at the back of their heads so they can detect misbehavior when facing away from students. SMART Boards change classroom management by minimizing the amount of time teachers need to turn their back to the class to write on dry-erase whiteboards or chalkboards.
By connecting a computer to a SMART Board, a teacher can stand face forward and attract student attention to a particular topic by sharing PowerPoint presentations, software lessons or interactive websites with the entire class at one sitting. This occurs before students begin small group or independent work on the same topic.
3. Providing academic & digital learning
During SMART Board lessons, teachers may also help students gain digital and presentation skills by taking turns manipulating the equipment. Think of this practice as the Digital Age equivalent of going up to the blackboard to solve a problem.
SMART Board uses in the classroom may include teaching various lessons. Examples include:
- Fourth grade fractions made more comprehensible by viewing the movement of virtual tools, such as pictures of cubes, pie graphs and other objects.
- Civil War history for middle school students, who enrich textbook learning by taking a fictional tour of the Underground Railroad in which the class makes choices and sees where those decisions lead.
- Virtual dissection of a frog in high school biology.
4. Building motion into kindergarten lessons
Young children have short attention spans and respond better to instruction if it includes movement and hands-on action, such as getting up to answer a question or demonstrating how to use a tool. As one kid-favorite song says, they “like to move it, move it.”
The Australian journal Teaching Science notes that kindergarten students enjoy touching SMART Boards to answer questions and participate in lessons. They also respond well to the colorful graphics that are much easier for a large group to view on a large screen.
Using electronic pens to circle items or moving virtual objects with their fingers, kindergarten students can sort items on a SMART Board to show what they know about a particular subject. For example, they might be asked to separate objects that need electricity from those that don’t.
5. Clicking here to show what you know
At upper elementary and higher grade levels, teachers may ask students to demonstrate their knowledge by taking multiple choice tests with the help of SMART Boards. They may also participate in interactive test review before the final test near the conclusion of a learning unit.
If a school has the right software and equipment, students may even respond to questions on the screen by using individual, handheld remote clickers that record their answers for later review and grading by the teacher.
Waking up students with smart technology
The object of a SMART Board isn’t to take traditional book learning, hands-on experiences or paper testing away from students. Instead, it is designed to wake students up by adding variety to instruction, getting them moving and providing novel ways to respond to questions.
Especially in one-computer classrooms, SMART Boards are smart choices, because they quickly provide a big picture of learning. Connected to computers, they offer whole-group access to colorful, educational websites, powerful assessment software and teacher-made materials tailored to a class’s needs.
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- Chris Preston and Lee Mowbray, "Use of SMART Boards for teaching, learning and assessment in kindergarten science," Teaching Science, Volume 54, Number 2, June 2008