During my teaching practicum I was fortunate enough to be at a school which had Smart Boards in every room (and no, it was not a private, well funded school, it was a public school in East Vancouver), and now that I have my own classroom, I want one!
Yes, at first it seems just like a fancy white board, and there is still only one person (teacher or student) at the front of the room...how does this really increase active learning?
But really, it's so much more than just a fancy white board. Here is a selection of reasons why I want one in my grade 4 classroom.
It's white board feature is better than a regular white board
One of my favourite aspects of the basic white board feature is the fact that nothing is erased. When you move on to a clean page what you have written previously is still there. The entire set of notes can be printed for students with written output issues, or students who were away. If a student has a question about something previously written (particularly in math) you can go back and re-examine it. I can't tell you how many times I've needed to go back and wished I still had my sentence, diagram or math solution to continue working on.
When students type work that document can be edited on a large screen, using the same written editing marks used in class. This is much more useful then changing a document (what did we change again?).
Ability to manipulate digitial 'stuff'
I can put up a diagram of a 3-D object just like I do now, but on a Smart Board we can spin and flip it. Yes, I can do this with real 3-D objects, but I don't always have the same set of objects we're discussing (especially some of the weird prisms). Students can observe a shape and watch it transform - either grow or shrink. Right now the best I can do is draw arrows indicating the change. We can watch the temperature in a thermometer rise or fall, see water moving through its cycle, view the Roman Colloseum from a variety of angles, roll large dice, circle the Nile River Delta on Google Earth....the list goes on.
A presentation can link you to outside websites, play videos, and can be added to as you go.
Related to this is the ability to play games....
Jeopardy-style review garmes on a Smart Board involve questions flipping to show answers, points adding up automatically...yes, one student may be the one making the question flip or moving text into the correct category - but the rest of the students actually want to watch.
Integration of a variety of tools
A lot of the things I would use the board for could be done on either an overhead projector or computer connected to my projector or regular white board or printed graphics and posters...the difference is that with the board everything is stream-lined and ready to go, saving me time, which is the point when the kids get restless and I lose their attention.
Our students are tech-savvy, and more importantly tech-loving. While this in itself isn't a reason to go high-tech, it does explain why students respond to these boards. They have fun creating their own presentations, and showing the teacher things she didn't know how to do.
Here are a few examples of amazing things I've personally seen.
In the morning the screen shows a T-Chart, with photos of the students under the "Absent" column. A student with disabilities comes in, calls out a student's name, and when that person answers, she moves their photo into the "Here" category. This student interacted with her classmates, and completed an important job in the classroom - attendance.
A student on the autism spectrum stands in front of the class ready to present. His presentation includes pages with bullets with one word - which prompted him to talk about his information and then summarize it and write it in as he went. There was no reading from a project, and he speech was natural, he was sharing what he new. The next slide included a photo and a sound byte which he played for the class. His final slide consisted of multiple choice questions which he posed to the class, and then 'flipped' to share the correct answer. This presentation was more engaging then most I've seen from regular students.
A full description of how the teachers at Livingstone Elementary use their boards, and where I want my teaching to head...