Engaged Learner Class Response 4: Impact of Interactive Whiteboards

Student Engagement, Visual Learning and Technology:  Can Interactive Whiteboards Help?
William D. Beeland, Jr.

At our last session of our Engaged Learning class for Media 21, our discussion centered around whether or not interactive whiteboards make a difference in creating engaged learners.  We seemed to come a consensus as a group that these tools are like any other piece of technology—training and teacher philosophy/pedagogy can play a significant role in how effectively the teacher uses the tool, and consequently, how effectively the tool may engage the student learner. 

In an informal survey of one department at my school, the teachers indicated that they felt the SmartBoard was a helpful tool for engagement, but like anything else, it could lose its effectiveness if overused.  Teachers expressed varying degrees of satisfaction with its effectiveness for engagement.  One teacher whose board is not mounted shared a great deal of frustration, stating the board could really not be used effectively until it was mounted and one of a more appropriate size for the classroom where it is housed was found. 

I think that training is crucial in order for teachers to use SmartBoards effectively.  While many of our staff members have had the basic training, few have taken anything beyond the “starter class” offered by our ITS to learn strategies and to see concrete examples of how to use the SmartBoard for more than lecture notes, announcements, and PowerPoints.   We don’t have many Teach 21 teachers yet at our school, so perhaps our administration could consider requiring teachers to attend a SmartBoard class that focused on resources for getting lessons…something beyond the “starter” version that most teachers have already taken.   I don’t think we have yet tapped into the “interactive” potential of our SmartBoards as a whole just yet on our campus. 

This may already be in existence, but what if a Wiki or shared drive were available to all high school teachers in each subject across the district that had existing lessons?  For example, someone at Cherokee High may have a fabulous SmartBoard based lesson on persuasive writing strategies or direct objects.  If the lesson were available to all other English teachers, then perhaps teachers might feel more at ease using the SmartBoard and would feel empowered to have these resources readily available rather than inventing all new lessons from scratch. 

This last class has inspired me to develop a page of SmartBoard resources; I plan to enlist the assistance of our great ITS and IT at my school to help me create a resource page for our faculty.  Ruth and I personally are extremely excited about the prospect of us getting a SmartBoard for our library lab—already, we are thinking about how we could use it to improve our instruction on NoodleTools and database skills mini-lessons…we definitely want to make those more hands-on and interactive for our students!   This is one tool I cannot wait to have in our library, and I think it will be the “next big thing” as far as equipment to help us teach more effectively in the library!


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