AQ ePortfolio Artifact: Smartboards

This is one part of a 5 part assignment, highlighting contributions to an AQ course. The assignment asks the student to select 5 – 7 pieces of your work from this course that shows “You”.

The Question: Post your thoughts in a persuasive paragraph stating whether you feel that Smart Boards would be a useful teaching tool for your classroom.

The Answer: The SMARTboard is a dead technology. For years the myth that this teacher-centric tool will somehow convert our classrooms into 21st century learning spaces has been perpetuated on our schools, leading principals to mis-appropriate school funds to purchase the equivalent of a giant trackpad mounted on the wall. Seven years ago, before the advent of superior technology, I will acknowledge that the SMARTboard — populating a far less crowded edu-tech marketplace — found a willing buyer in schools looking to integrate technology into pedagogy. I don’t want you to take this diatribe as a judgement on the teachers who everyday find innovative uses of this technology; everyday teachers spin magic out of popsicle sticks and construction paper: we are an innovative breed, and consistently find ways to do more with less. I argue that the SMARTboard is that “less”.

The SMARTboard is a single touch device. It perpetuates a teacher-centric teaching practice. I will again acknowledge that teachers have found ways to make this a centre, to make it a space for students to collaborate, but in the present day, that collaboration can be had on far more dynamic devices, and in the past, 90% of that collaboration could still be achieved from a projector and laptop, or a bank of desktops. To continue to spend what amounts to about $3500 in each classroom for the requisite board, laptop, projector and installation is certainly not the way that I would want money spent within my classroom. A projector, and a device (laptop or tablet) that could be connected to that projector is worthwhile technology in the classroom, but I would spend the remaining $2500 on devices that could be more easily leveraged in the hands of students. If I was making the purchase today, this could be 7-8 iPad Minis that could put research resources from the internet, and an array of apps that would allow students to create multimedia artifacts to show their learning. I know that these devices are fairly new, but I believe they represent a quantum shift in ed-tech purchases, and in much the same way that we are watching Blackberry (who rested on their laurels far to long) attempt to re-invent themselves in a market that has moved on without them, SMART will need to create something far more innovative, at a price-point far more reasonable than a $5000 table (their latest product) in order for me to renew my faith in their inclusion in classrooms as we move forward.

The Motivation: I felt that the question in this section was rigged to promote a positive answer. The following question in the unit invited the students to explore different Smartboard activities that we might find useful in the classroom, presupposing that we had already decided that the Smartboard was a useful tool. I will certainly admit that there was an element of devil’s advocation in the writing of this post; but it does reflect my current thinking around Smartboards as a current technology. I am an advocate for the effective use of any tool provided in a classroom, and have certainly seen Smartboards used effectively in classrooms, but I think we need to question the continued purchase of these devices moving forward.

2 Replies to “AQ ePortfolio Artifact: Smartboards”

  1. Jared, I really enjoyed this post! Over the years, you’ve helped me rethink what I initially thought about SMART Boards. Initially, I wanted one in my classroom so badly, and I thought that I couldn’t teach without one. Then I realized that even the students figured out the limitations of a SMART Board, and would instead sit around the one laptop to collaborate instead of actually touching the board. When I moved to a new classroom and grade this year, I didn’t have any technology in my room, and the principal offered to install a SMART Board. Instead I asked for a laptop and projector, and I’ve been thrilled. I would way rather have technology in the hands of the students.

    I’m intrigued by what you said about iPad Minis. I’ve used iPads a lot in the classroom, but never really thought of the Minis for purchase. I know that some students have them and love them though. They bring them in and create some great media texts using iMovie, GarageBand, and even Keynote. What about storage though? This is something that continues to give me a headache with just the iPad itself. I would love your thoughts on this!

    Thanks Jared!
    Aviva
    http://www.weinspirefutures.com

    1. The storage on the mini is no smaller than the storage on the larger iPad: 16GB for the base model, and the option to purchase a 32 or 64GB model. Storage will always be a concern with the iPad, along with any other mobile device. The key is to create content on apps that have an exit strategy. When you look at something like iMovie, you really can’t use the iPad as a device to store all of the projects: the iPad should be used while the project is taking place, and then the product needs to find an alternate home. That may be on YouTube, or stored in Google Drive, or posted on a Blog. Explain Everything is another example of an app with multiple export options. In a world where we don’t necessarily set the devices up with an email account, we need to be mindful of how we will export content when we are choosing the apps we will use with students. This becomes even more important with shared devices. Managing the devices, and having a repository to eventually store and archive the content is imperative. The more we embrace cloud-based solutions like Google Drive, the less we need to worry about HD space on the device, because everything is automatically stored in the cloud.

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