I was a little anxious about this week’s technology topic. I’ve never used, or seen anyone use, a SMARTboard. They weren’t popular when I was in high school, and I had never seen anyone use one within a college setting. So I expected to learn a lot from the in-class presentation about their various functions. However, I still had reservations after the presentation. From the examples we covered in class, SMARTboards seemed to only apply to K-12 settings—elementary school in particular.
After some web searching, I found a collection of narratives from college faculty via SMART Technologies and a couple articles from The Chronicle of Higher Ed. In “‘Electronic Whiteboards’ Add Flexibility to Classrooms,” Young highlights the benefits of the “capture” feature. He writes, “The capture feature is a useful service for students, who can get exact copies of what was on the board after class, he says, and it can also help professors save a record of what went on in class so they can review their own teaching.” I could definitely see this as an advantage in a lecture-based classroom when a lot of information is written on the boards. Writing classrooms aren’t lecture-based, though, and I had a difficult time trying to relate different faculty narratives to my own classroom.
The author of “Do We Really Need SMART Boards to Teach Writing Well?” is a bit of a luddite, but I think the question is valid. I certainly believe in the value of technology to teach writing, but I’m not sure what the advantage of SMART Boards vs. another technology is—for example, a tablet PC. In fact, “11 Reasons Why a Tablet PC is Better” provides five reasons why a tablet PC + digital projector works better than a SMART board. Of particular interest are the abilities to transport it easily—to take home or to move from class to class—and to create video podcasts using PC software. For that matter, I think the same benefits could be said of the iPad, particularly with all of the apps you can download.
It wasn’t until I spoke with my partner, who is a community college writing teacher, that I began to see some really clear uses for the SMART board in a college writing context. Here are a few:
- Interacting with databases. Because comp classes are meant to introduce students to college-level research, it’s crucial that students learn to navigate databases. Bringing up different databases and circling particular buttons/tabs would be helpful.
- Outlining student papers. You could open a student paper and show students how to do an outline (or a reverse outline!) of that paper in the margins.
- Identifying topic sentences. Particularly in intro comp courses, and in community college comp courses, it’s important to start with the basics, and any way to spice up a topic sentence lesson would be great.
- Write sample theses. Thesis statements are so important for teaching good arguments, and it would be nice to have students interact with writing theses as a group.
- Practicing critical reading. You could bring up different texts and have students identify the parts of the text that they think are most important.
I think the accessibility of SMART Boards has its ups and downs. Barring the issues we talked about in class, I think they could be very limiting for low-vision students. Like we saw in class, the image couldn’t get any larger than the projector, and it was fairly difficult to see some of the smaller images on the board. As the Tablet PC article explains, a tablet PC (or an iPad) used with a projector can make the images much, much larger. In terms of increasing accessibility, the interactive nature of SMART boards seems like it would be great for students who learn better with multiple modes and stimuli.
Though I’m not sure I would use a SMART board (nor do I think I am likely to teach in a place that uses them), I do think they would have some interesting benefits if you knew exactly how you wanted to use them. Like any technology, they don’t automatically improve class. If you have a set lesson plan, though, it seems like SMART Boards could provide more options within the classroom.
“11 Reasons Why a Tablet PC is Better.” The HP Blog Hub. Hewlett-Packard Development Company. 14 June 2009. Web.
“Customer Stories.” SMART Technologies. SMART Technologies. 2012. Web.
“Do We Really Need SMART Boards to Teach Writing Well?” Two Writing Teachers: Teaching Kids. Catching Minds. 565 Miles Apart. WordPress. 17 June 2010. Web.
Young, Jeffrey R. “‘Electronic Whiteboards’ Add Flexibility to Classrooms.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 8 Feb. 2002. Web.