I worked with two groups of elementary teachers today. Our focus has been on integrating the use of SMART Boards into their classrooms. They have been progressing well as they learn about the nuts and bolts about the board. They know how to use the basic tools and tabs as well as other skills such as how to capture photos, create recordings and link to websites. Over time each of them is becoming more confident in their skills to use this tool well.
I shared a podcast created by a friend of mine, Anton Lakusta, that gave us the opportunity to talk about the pedagogy of using a SMART Board effectively. Technology Without Borders is the name of Anton’s blog and this particular video he created is called One Page Lesson in Notebook. His suggestions for a one-page lesson are fantastic. Oh boy, do I wish I had seen this when I first got my SMART Board! I made so many mistakes…
I spent hours creating these beautiful, engaging and complete lessons for my students. I’d sit at my home computer and select the best websites and make links to them so I could go there easily without typing in the URL. I chose the best quality photographs to spice up the lesson. I organized my pages so that I had the outcomes stated at the beginning and then guiding questions to lead students through the new learning for the day. I was proud of all the thorough and thoughtful preparation I had put into my lessons even though it had taken hours to create just one 45-minute activity. I was confident that my efforts would pay off. I was excited for my students and expected them to appreciate the work I had done. I imagined that they would be more engaged and that they would learn more. What I learned was a resounding, NOT!
Students were neither excited nor impressed about the lessons I had created. I thought that I was missing something so I kept trying over and over again. Perhaps I could find one more thing that appealed to my students, that neat website or some cool sound effects that would do the trick. Through all of this, my husband kept telling me, “My gosh, look at the hours you spend creating for your SMART Board. Watching you, I have to say I don’t want one. I am happy with my dumb board”. Well, looking back at what I was doing, he was right.
Since I began this journey with SMART Board technology I have slowly come to understand why my students were nonplussed with my efforts. I presented them with a complete and polished final version of my thinking. I had made all the decisions by myself and made the choices away from my students. I hadn’t involved them in our learning. No wonder they didn’t care about the nice photos or the websites that I thought were so cool. They had been totally left out of the loop. In class I simply followed the linear progression I had created through each slide and expected them to enjoy the adventure.
What I have learned is that students need to be (and want to be) involved in the work I had previously done by myself. That doesn’t mean that teachers don’t plan, but instead they create a structure based on big ideas, set up key questions, prepare some links to relevant websites, and then take advantage of what a SMART Board can do to co-create learning with students. Capturing video, photos, annotating learners’ thinking, etc. are powerful ways to use a SMART Board effectively. Students will feel connected to the learning and be more engaged in the process. Overall, the blend of good pedagogy and the ability to use a SMART Board can make all of this possible.
Learn from my mistakes (and save yourself a ton of time) and watch Anton’s video. Try out his suggestion of a one-page lesson and let me know how it goes. I am sure you’ll be amazed at what happens.