Classrooms in the UK are typically over crowded. They are full of students with a range of learning abilities and often teachers have an incredibly stressful job. They have to not only control the excitable beast that is the class, they also have to direct and encourage pupils with a great range of abilities towards goals that they can achieve.
Over the years, many techniques have been used to try and control classrooms. This might have involved a cane across the palm for every child that acted out, it could have been punishment exercises or detention, or perhaps they were given extra attention to ensure that they stayed focused.
Often though, the best way to control a class is to keep them engaged; something which chalky blackboards often fail to do, especially when 21st century teens have super computers in their back pockets.
That’s why one of the biggest revolutions in teaching equipment is underway with the introduction of the Smartboard.
A Smartboard is an interactive white board, which is basically a white board with a projector attached. Think of it like a giant tablet PC and you are almost there.
So why should every classroom have one?
Every teacher who has one will tell you the same thing: they love them. Importantly for the engagement of the class, they are highly interactive. Most people in the UK will remember copying into a jotter from the blackboard, or perhaps working through a dusty work book. Neither of these activities was particularly stimulating and could result in some seriously boring days.
A Smartboard is designed to encourage teachers and students to stand up at the board and either write, draw or move text around, to play with images and interact with games and learning tools for all kinds of subjects.
Importantly, this level of interactivity helps to engage students. For example, the board can be used to show a short video, and then a few seconds later can display a quick quiz, and then a series of images. The speed at which teachers can switch between interesting displays is key as students have no moment to be distracted. Plus the fact that students can come up and use the technology themselves with no training means that they can quickly and easily be a part of every lesson.
Fun for Teachers and Students
Equally important for teachers and students is the fact that using a Smartboard is fun. Teachers have always hated the scratch of the chalk and the dry powdery hands, or the squeak of dry-wipe boards and the smell of the pens. Smartboards allow them to stay clean and actually have fun moving the different types of display around. Pupils love the moving images and the fact they can play games on the board.
While school text books may have limited the way teachers could approach any given subject, as they only had so many books, or because they had no access to materials for alternative lesson plans, Smartboard technology is such that anyone can make a lesson plan, uploaded it to the internet and make it available for any teacher to download. All they need to do is find a lesson plan for the correct subject, download it to their Smartboard and the lesson is ready to go. Banks of images are available too and many other resources that are only a few clicks away from being on the board and ready to go.
The way of the future…
The fact is that once you try teaching with a Smartboard and then go back to a black or white board, you will feel like you are stepping back to the dark ages of teaching. It is a step forward for teaching and will hopefully become the norm for every classroom in the UK in the next few years. Fingers crossed…
Have you used a Smartboard?
Kevin Gallagher is a fan of Smartboards. He feels that it is one of the most important educational resources for modern school teaching and makes most other school equipment like black boards seem like antiques.