SMART boards to SMART classrooms

For the most part, most would argue that technology in the classroom is a good thing. Despite the technical mishaps, the learning curve for teachers and the occasional frustration of things not quite working the way you would like, it bring enormous rewards in terms of learning, student engagement, creativity and collaboration, especially with the development of web 2.0 tools.

The current school that I am working in, recently purchased a number of SMART boards for classrooms. On average, one per grade level/department. As a Information Technology teacher, I also have one in my computer lab. SMART boards definitely have that “wow factor” for everyone. Students would gasp at my apparent magical ability to prerecord welcome messages to them and play them back through the screen recorder. Parents who were CEO executives would beg me to come to their board meetings to give demos on the presentation power of these devices.Teachers would pop in for visits during my classes and then ask me how they can get one in their classrooms.

Full disclosure:I am by no means a SMART board guru. I just starting using them a few weeks ago.

So in my limited use of them. I still have learned the basics of using them and all their fun little tools attached to the Notebook software. I am dabbling into the vast sea of resources out there. The fact is, SMART boards are not new technology by any means. Many schools in the UK have them installed in every classroom. SMART technologies first introduced the interactive whiteboard in 1991. 18 years later, they are finally making their way into some schools as a new technology!

Despite all their advantages, some might argue that they are just a  gloried chalkboard. Think about it, when the first chalkboards were introduced into classrooms back in 1801, it must have turned the education system upside down. Imagine, being able to write your ideas on a board for students to read, copy and recite! Revolutionary indeed. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the SMART board as an instructional tool but I’m not convinced it is the best learning tool..if that makes sense (and if my principal is reading this, please don’t take my SMART board away 😉 ). I taught in a classroom that was 1:1 and at the time, our Technology Director had the choice of buying SMART boards or getting laptops for each student. He chose the latter for this reason. I would put SMART boards in the same category as instructional tools such as overhead projectors, document cameras and data projectors. They are all really nice to have. However, as I watch one student come up to the SMART board at a time while everyone else watches, I go back to one of the greatest teachers of all, Confucious, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”  How can we increase the “doing” in classrooms?

So how can we make “SMART” classrooms?

Let me put it this way, if you had $10 000 to invest in the learning of a classroom through technology, how best would you spend the money?

With this in mind:

SMART Board $1200 – $3000
LCD Projector $750 – $3000
PC or Mac $750 – $4000
Projector Light Bulb $50 – $150
$3,450 –  $10,050

Would you:

A-Buy 10 laptops for the classroom

B-Buy 1 SMART board (laptop, projector, etc) + maybe 1 other laptop

C-Buy 1 projector +9 laptops

D-Buy 1 projector +1 laptop +18 ipod touch(es)

E-Other

Please post your answers in the comment section below. I’m more interested to hear other viewpoints.