So I ran across this Smart Ease of Use video in the course of one of our threads in a PLP cohort and I have to say, I can’t seem to shake it. I mean, maybe I’m missing something here, but if this is a vision of “transformative” technology, we’re in some serious trouble. Worse, if this marketing piece actually does the job and creates sales of Smart boards, we’re in even bigger trouble.
Is this really a vision of classrooms and learning that we aspire to? Is it all about being “easy”? And what does it say when the manufacturer of one of the most popular pieces of technologies in schools presents this picture for what teachers and students should be doing in schools?
Help me…what am I missing?
William Stites says
I couldn’t agree more! I saw this video and thought to myself that they really have no clue!
Read another good post on the same video: http://www.johnnystryker.net/2010/02/03/interactive-whiteboards-the-tool-of-the-status-quo/
That sure is a fancy blackboard isn’t it? 🙂
They are all lined up in nice neat rows aren’t they? 🙂
This scene looks so familiar….where have I seen it before? Oh….every other classroom for the last 100 years or so!!!!!
Gary Bates says
What struck me more than the word “easy” being worked to death, were the students still sitting in rows at their desks as this “transformative technology” was being demonstrated.
Steve Van Dyk says
Doing problems on the board in front of the class is not transformative. Nothing in this clip allows students access to information, the ability to seek out their own learning, or allows students to move from their neatly arranged desks.
I think this means we need to do a thorough job of defining why this isn’t transformative and dealing with the misconceptions that IWB = high technology integration.
I agree that the classroom set up in the video is less than ideal.
I also agree that most of the so-called ‘innovations’ that are being shown in the video are simple content delivery methods.
But I think that there might be more to this video.
Looking at current research, this video addresses most of the biggest concerns that teachers voice when asked about implementing new technologies. Teachers are afraid of the complexity (hence the word easy was used extensively), the relialibity (also addressed), and the amount of change needed to make things work in their classrooms (which could explain why the students are still in rows).
This is how I present the IWBs (interactive whiteboards) to my teachers.
I try to follow CBAM (the Concerns-Based Adoption Model) when implementing technology. I know that the examples shown in the video is not ‘transformative’ in the sense that high-level tech users would use, but for teachers that have no prior use of technologies, this is what they’re looking for. I like to think of technologies like the IWBs and document cameras as ‘gateway drugs’ that get teachers hooked.
As teachers learn about the different features and functions of the technologies, I introduce new methods and ways that techology can be used. I can’t imagine many people (especially teachers) changing their practices dramatically overnight. IWBs can provide the teachers some of the baby steps that they need.
Will Richardson says
Totally get that in terms of slow steps for introducing technology to certain teachers. But can’t we do it for less cost and for more learning? You watch the video, and you get the idea that this is a teaching tool, obviously. I can think of lots of learning tools that we could put into classrooms for the amount one of these devices costs. And aren’t there better ways to get teachers to own technology? I mean I still haven’t heard of one teacher (or student for that matter) who has a IWB in their homes. If we want technology to be like oxygen, this just seems like a very expensive starting point just because it’s easy.
You make a good point about teachers and students who do not have have an IWB in their homes. But this is true for so many things that we consider standard classroom equipment.
I’d like to say that since most of our students have Blogs, participate actively in social networks, and produce all sorts of digital media from home, that this is something that we should have all of teachers doing in their classrooms. I think this would be great.
I am in a district where most Blog sites are blocked, most social networking sites are blocked and the teachers are not ready to have their students creating digital media en mass. With the IWB, we can take baby steps. First the teachers are using just like a regular whiteboard. Then I show the teachers how to record their voice and the screens that they share with their class. The first step is easy. The second step, not as easy, but possible. Soon the teacher will have an entire library of classroom examples. This is the start of a begining Podcast.
Isn’t it best to have the teachers create the media first so they have an understanding of what they want the students to create?
I agree. IWBs are expensive and it’s hard to justify the cost. But they are something that I’ve had success with in getting teachers to implement more technology and higher-level uses of technology.
Lisa Nieslen says
My issue with your suggestion is that we don’t need an IWB to do any of this. It can be done for much less money, much more easily, and much more effectively without an IWB. A netbook, projector and free screencasting app like Screentoatr or ScreenJelly does the trick much more effectively and every student can have access to those tools anywhere they can find a netbook, laptop or computer. They don’t need to have an IWB to do any of this.
Sandra Nosik says
Even using a bluetooth tablet ($250 or less), a projector (required for the Smartboard as well), and a blank wall, you can do the same thing as the Smart board except have the mobility of being anywhere in the classroom and letting students do demonstrations for the class from their desks. Still easy and at least a tenth of the cost of Smartboard with more versatility of movement. My husband uses this and no longer teaches from the front of the classroom with his back to the students, but anywhere he in the room that he wants to be.
Doug Johnson says
I would call IWBs “transitional” rather than “transformative” technologies to be sure. And endorse them without apology.
From my observations, the teachers who use these best are the ones who get kids at the front of the room sharing and demonstrating to their classmates using the clever software that comes with the big, dumb piece of plastic.
I’m also starting to believe there is a bit of self-fullfilling prophecy in the use of transitional technologies. Those who think of themselves as more tech-savvy actually grown in that direction.
Oh, I would also agree that like many things in education, IWBs are definitely oversold.
All the best,
sylvia martinez says
Looking at this for educational vision is like looking at the shopping channel for economic advice.
I think if we are aspiring to the visions of education we see in marketing we are falling far short. Those creating the marketing (and the tools, for that matter) are not educators, often. They may involve educators, but only peripherally and mostly for show. We need to be sharing our vision as widely as possible instead.
Tania Sterling says
Agreed! So here’s the challenge-what SHOULD the video look like? I bet our students would have a few ideas that they’d gladly create in video format for Smart! Anyone have access to `said` students and the tools req`d to create `said`video …
Well, it may be transformative — just not the way that I (or many of “us”) would want to transform…
monika hardy says
Transformative in that they’re sucking out any money we might have for authentic and individualized tech for kids. In a time that transformation should be a reality.
Wish we didn’t always feel the urge to buy. Esp the urge to buy shiny.
Mike Nathman says
I’m not sure if the ease of use is as bad as the blog makes it sound, but I think that it all has to do with making the students WANT to learn. SMART boards sure make me want to come up and participate more than a black/white board does. I think that it’s the teachers responsibility to use SMART boards (all technology, rather) to their full potential, and not just make them glorified PowerPoint slide-advance-clickers.
Cary Harrod says
And while you’re up at the smart board having fun, what are the other 25 students doing?
Helena Baert says
I agree! It is like having 5 year old’s play a 10 on 10 soccer game and only 4 of the 16 get to touch the ball while the rest just watches or stands around. In Physical Education, we want maximum participation by the maximum # of students in the maximum amount of time. In other subjects it should be the same requirement. A tool is just a tool, it is the process of learning with the tool that should be the focus. How can you use the SMART board technology to engage ALL students actively in their own learning?
I think there is a time and place for the use of SMART boards for sure but as it is portrayed in the video is somewhat disappointing.
Cary Harrod says
“How can you use the SMART board technology to engage ALL students actively in their own learning?”
You can’t. I don’t care how amazing the technology is or how good the teacher is at using an IWB, sitting in that classroom is at least one kid who…
…is not interested/passionate about the content
…is not ready for the content
…has already mastered the content
…is not able to understand the content
We need to find ways to meet students where they are, not where their peers are; or how about leveraging the right tools to allow students to customize their own learning 24/7? An IWB doesn’t allow for that; it simply perpetuates the myth that all students need the same exact thing and that only one person (the teacher) can provide that for his/her students.
Mike Nathman says
Very interesting. Thank you for pointing these things out to me!
I haven’t thought much about what the other students would be thinking/doing. Just because I don’t have an answer, though, does not necessarily mean there isn’t one.
About allowing the students to customize their own learning – at what point to you decide that a student is ready to take on that responsibility? Who gets to decide? What kind of limitations are there?
I agree that students should have more say in what/how they learn, and again, that making the students WANT to learn should be a major part of education, but how can this be achieved since every student progresses differently? I know that if I was in 5th grade and given the opportunity to choose my learning experience, I would, for example, completely exclude history – I was not very good at it. I suppose certain requirements/limitations would need to be in place, yes?
It takes hundreds of thousands of hours to design a piece of technology that can be used exactly like an existing technology along side outdated and unsound teaching methods. I’m glad Smart Board ensured that we can use this technology with our old fashion teaching methods – whole class single student at a time writing on the board on pre-made handouts.
Yes, I’d rather see people looking at people than people looking at a screen.
Aaron Fowles says
Nobody noticed that all of the teachers are young and white? Or that the student body was of that rainbow hue that screams, “We’re not urban students.”
Think about urban schools where teachers are lucky to have one or two functional computers. IWBs are great for them. IWBs allow teachers to interact with the Internet and whatever they’ve got going on in their computer without being chained to their desk.
Sure, these teachers, who may have upwards of 30 students in their classroom, may not be able to give every student a shot at the title in terms of interaction with the technology, but that teacher can still spice up their direct instruction, which is woefully common in urban schools that don’t have the time, resources, or physical space to let kids move around a great deal. The teacher can still find material that really engages and grips students, even if at first that teacher can’t grant that student tactile access.
Now I would clearly prefer 7-10 netbooks over one SMART interactive whiteboard, but lower cost alternatives like Mimeos and the Wiimote Whiteboard (which I use personally and love) don’t require teachers to make that decision anymore. They can have both (given the funds for one SMART product).
Netbooks and wifi aren’t going to rain down from heaven upon urban schools, so don’t knock IWBs in the interim, please.
Lisa Nieslen says
Aaron an you say an IWB enables a teacher to not be chained to their desk, but I challenge that and say to you and IWB FORCES a teacher to be chained to the whiteboard and being the sage on the stage. I would much rather a teacher didn’t use an IWB and instead use a laptop and project where they can 1) maintain eye contact with their students 2) more easily transfer power from teacher to student 3) be able to authentically demonstrate interaction on a computer and keyboard.
Somehow IWB companies have gotten folks to think they are necessary to achieve the same things you can achieve more effectively and affordably with just a projector.
Aaron Fowles says
Look, I’m not advocating expensive IWBs. I use a Wiimote Whiteboard and it works like a charm. If I want to work out a problem with my students, it is MUCH easier to do it at the board. If I want my students do do a review activity of some sort, it’s easier at the board. Transferring power is as simple as handing over a pen.
There is nothing you can do with an IWB that you can’t do on the computer (except drawing, maybe), but being able to stand and get students involved is pretty amazing. Just today I had a whole class practice ANALOGIES on the IWB and they actually liked it! I left the room for a minute and when I came back they were still rocking and rolling. Take that, laptop and projector!
I would never, ever pay 3k for an IWB, though. That’s bloody ridiculous and I think that’s where the opposition to these things stems from. Pedagogically, they are good. That video didn’t SHOW their good sides, but I guarantee you they are there.
It’s not about the technology, or the SMARTBOARD, or the whatever. It is about teacher-directed vs. student-directed education. I didn’t see any student-to-student learning in the video (although, I admit I did fast forward a bit after the 5th “easy”). Until teachers accept not being the center of attention for 6.5 hours each day, I doubt that any leap of technological genius will change education.
Becky Grube says
The students look like little robots as they all raise their hands. The teacher looks like someone who is programmed, too.
The whole thing looks like an advertisement for something that will work well (as demonstrated) in a traditional classroom of the past 100 years where neither students nor teachers need to nor want to think. Yikes!
What a great example of taking a piece of technology and “fitting” it into a setting of “the way we were”–kids sitting in rows, listening to a teacher talk, and regurgitating responses to rote questions.
Are we actually living in the 21st century here? Very frightening!
I don’t think you were missing anything!
Steve Krause says
But at least its easy!
One of the things that’s kind of interesting to me about this is these smart boards can actually be kind of interesting. They have them at my kid’s school (none in my building at the university though), and there they use them to look stuff up on the internet, to do some collaborative projects, etc.; what I’ve seen is the students playing around with them as much as the teachers.
So maybe it isn’t the tool but the company promoting it and/or the teachers demonstrating it.
This reminded me of this article (which also includes a video!) from CHE: “Class Produces Parody of ‘The Office’ to Highlight Challenges of Teaching With Technology.” Very funny stuff!
Lisa Nieslen says
Steve, they are not using the Smart Board to look up stuff. They are using the computer. The Smart Board is not a necessary $2000 dollar extra purchase to do that. For looking up stuff they can use the smartphone in their pocket or a netbook.
Elizabeth Crispino says
If we agree that the video was meant to reach not the innovators but those teachers who WANT everything to be “easy” — easy technology, easy classes, easy instruction, easy job, another key question is this: How do we either change that mindset or move those teachers out of our classrooms? Nothing that’s truly worth learning is “easy.”
margo newtown says
Unless I am missing something, I didn’t interpret “easy” as meaning make things easy for me as a teacher. I interpreted it as the technology needs to be “simple” enough and reliable so that teachers will use it. I agree the SmartBoard is a glorified chalkboard or whiteboard, but it does create a more visually appealing lesson and when used properly, does provide a forum for engaging students. The hundreds of interactive SmartBoard lessons are engaging and we are constantly striving to find lessons that do keep students interested. So the “ease” of using the SmartBoard is enticing to teachers and students and the interactive lessons exciting for students. I believe it can be used as a tool to enhance learning – not replace it.
Lisa Nieslen says
The IWB does not create a more visually appealing lesson. The laptop and projector do. You can save $2000 by six netbooks and instruct more effectively if you ditch the IWB.
Keith Nemlich says
Having recently visited a classroom with 4 SMART boards being used only by students, this ad does little to emphasize the “transformational” potential of the device. In fact, it looked like the old “sage on the stage” model….with a fancy addition.
So basically this whiteboard is packaged as a glorified worksheet. It’s a transformed worksheet, i get it!
This video misses engaging learners in learning through use of technology. Raising hands in unison from rows of clean desks with a teacher in front is NOT engaging.