kitchen table math, the sequel: 21st century

Saturday, June 12, 2010

21st century

SMART Boards & SMART Tables, too

Senior Bertrand Ngampa gives a presentation on an interactive whiteboard at W.T. Woodson High. (Dayna Smith/Post)


Catherine Johnson said...

One of the things that strikes me as very wrong about SMART Boards is the darkness in the classroom. At the high school level you've got kids staying up late and getting up early; then you put them in a darkened classroom....

Any time you turn down the lights, sleep-deprived people become drowsy.

GoogleMaster said...

"Any time you turn down the lights, sleep-deprived people become drowsy."

... or they start sending explicit text messages to each other. They're teenagers, after all.

ChemProf said...

I am reminded of a conference a few years ago, when I broke my glasses on the flight and had to wear my sunglasses to all the sessions. Like a lot of conferences, the poster session ran until 1 am and breakfast was at 7. I slept through every single morning talk every day, sitting in the auditorium! And I was interested in the talks and paying money (well, my employer's money) to be there.

Catherine Johnson said...

re: sunglasses - that's amazing!

I knew that light is 'activating' and dark is 'deactivating' -- but until I read your comment, I didn't truly get it.

Catherine Johnson said...

btw, I think I should add re: SMART Boards... what distresses me about SMART Boards is that most of the teachers in my district are using $5000 SMART Boards in the same way they would use a $400 computer projector set-up.

SMART Boards have touch screens & the ability to capture anything the teacher writes on screen. I haven't heard of anyone using the capture technology, which makes sense because I imagine there are very few students who would download captured class notes and study them.

As to the touch screens, they are still glitchy. One of C's teachers had to constantly stop class to re-calibrate the touch screen. Finally she just stopped using it and went back to displaying PowerPoints.

Whether or not PowerPoints are better, worse, or the same as notes written on a blackboard, I don't know.

Is there any research on that?

Some teachers think students should learn to take notes (i.e. learn to separate out the important points from the detail).

Obviously, everyone needs to be able to separate out the important points from the detail but I'm not sure that translates to using blackboards instead of PowerPoints.

Obi-Wandreas, The Funky Viking said...

I use the SMART board in my room as a projector for two reasons:

1) Even though the terms of service specifically say that districts should give the software to teachers to install on their home computers as well, my district won't install it on anything but one of their machines, and I only use my own laptop. The district supplied laptops are out-of-date and loaded with crap; I won't rely on them for real work.

2) I tried another version of the driver software that I found on their website. The software required 3 constantly running background processes sucking down system resources to run a simple input device. This is unacceptable crapware, and I won't allow it on my machine.

I end up doing a large number of my lectures/lessons as Keynote presentations. I keep the lights on to keep the students awake and engaged. It takes a bit of time to typeset the equations in LaTeX, but it allows me to copy/paste and enlarge illustrations, tables and graphs from the book, everything is nice and big and visible, my own graphs and tables are very easy to read, it allows me to animate visuals, and quadratic equations are always better with flames.

GoogleMaster said...

I'm not an educator or even a parent, but I was a student for 16 years, and one of the things I remember is that the act of taking notes helps you learn and/or remember what is being taught in a way that studying someone else's prewritten notes (e.g. downloaded from SMARTboard) does not.

Even today, in my profession, I sit in a lot of meetings where designs are discussed, small but important decisions are made, etc. You bet I take notes. A few years back, I learned it was a good idea to jot down a list of attendees. A lot of times I'm the only one who took notes and we end up referring to my scratches to see what we decided and who was involved in the decision.

I'd like to think that my ability to take good meeting notes was at least in part honed in the classroom.

ChemProf said...

On the blackboard versus PowerPoint/Keynote question, I can only answer for science/math teaching at the college level.

I much prefer the blackboard for a few reasons.

First, I can follow the students. If I ask for a first step, and their first step is different than mine, I can go with it anyway. With Powerpoint, I have to follow my prepared method, so I might not even ask (and so might not give them a chance to think about it).

Second, the pace is much more human with a blackboard. I can also train the students to listen to me. They know that if I am talking to introduce a subject, and not writing on the board, that they should focus on what I'm saying, not try to madly take notes. You can do this with Powerpoint, but you have to be careful, as the glowing screen is hypnotic. I learned that one back in the days of overheads -- a blank overhead screen will attract your audience's attention in an odd, hypnotic way. You are much better off with some kind of boring slide (which is what title slides are for, in a research talk).

The advantages of Powerpoint are that it can show pictures (which is rarely useful in my field -- I dig out the laptop 3-4 times a year -- but I know my colleagues in Geology use it a lot for illustrations) and that you can make the slides available to students. For college students, this is a disadvantage, to my mind, as it encourages them to think they have the notes so they don't need to go to class. They are wrong, as bare bones notes aren't that useful, but they think they have more than bare bones notes because of all the bells and whistles. In K-12, where they have to be there, this is less of an issue.

Interestingly, we hired two young professors two years ago, one in organic chemistry and one in math. Both are in their mid-twenties, and had lots of powerpoint in college, and neither one uses it in the classroom. Even in Geology, where they find it more useful, they typically leave one board uncovered for the actual notes.

SteveH said...

A few comments on the SmartBoard in use at my son's school.

1. They aren't used much now that the fun has worn off.
2. When they are used, they are used for things that don't need the power of a SmartBoard.
3. The connection to the internet allows the teacher to avoid careful preparation. I saw one demonstration where the teacher spent some time trying to find a web site.
4. They permanently hide the white board behind it.

Anonymous said...

Our entire Title 1 system has smartboards in every room. Great way to spend money, heh? My kids tell me that the bulbs constantly "blow" and some teachers do not know how to use them well. I also watched a math presentation on one and decided that math is easier learned from a teacher writing each step - not "saying" each step while staring at a screen.

-public school mom of 3 in Georgia

LynnG said...

My 4th graders says they are great during indoor recess. Very entertaining.

But during class time, all novelty has worn off.

LynnG said...

Daniel Willingham has a guest blog column on SMART boards that was published on the Washington Post website on Monday. Both the column and the comments are quite interesting to read.

Willingham's viewpoint is that more professional development is needed so that teachers can use the electronic boards better. There is an assumption that student achievement could be beneficially impacted if only teachers were better trained in their use.

That might have some validity, although I suspect the interactive white boards would be best used sparingly (not as a crutch, but as an enhancement) and then only in middle school or high school science and math.

I have yet to hear or see of any teacher anywhere effectively using the SMART board in elementary grades, foreign language, english literature or any other of the humanities related classes.

Here's a link to the Willingham column: