A Revolution in Education
What are your answers when someone says "too expensive" "steep learning curve" "cheaper alternatives" "keeps the teacher in the front of the room....time to get past that"
On School Board visiting day I was aggressively challenged by a board member who thinks SMART Boards are a waste of money. Her view was that SMART Boards, SMART Notebook and the like can all be replaced by other technology that does everything better and cheaper. Part of her view was based on financial considerations and part on the fact that her son, who is a teacher elsewhere, uses a laptop and projector on a plain dry-erase board and is perfectly happy with the resources he is able to use.
I was blind-sided and did not have a good rebuttal for her challenges. Everything I mentioned, every feature I demonstrated was waved off as either just cute/non-essential or something that could be "easily" substituted by using less expensive software and hardware.
After I got over being angry at having my work and passion passed off as so much fluff (well after she had gone, of course) I started wondering if I actually did have ready answers to challengers.
What makes SMART Board/SMART Notebook continue to be viable as a technology teaching solution for schools (I work in a Lower School division)? What would you demonstrate or have your teachers demonstrate to illustrate the effectiveness of the product?
Great question! All of the "other things" that could be used don't integrate together. Talk about a steep learning curve! Think of all the other hardware, programs, web apps, etc. that you would have to cobble together to do what we do so easily.
A laptop and projector on a whiteboard works. There are free websites that can be used as whiteboarding software. You can draw, write, etc. But how would you write? you could use the mouse, but that is difficult. You could add a Wacom wireless slate, but that costs money and has a learning curve. Can you add the graphic items? Probably, but can they fade in, fade out, or flip like the animations in Notebook? I don't know. Can you build and save complete lesson files with the website software? I don't know. If so, it probably starts to cost something to be able to save or download them. Can you share and use other people's lesson files or do you have to create all of your own with that setup?
Sure, you can use polling websites and mobile devices instead of the SMART Response. But at your school, do student have web accessible cell phones at school? Can those sites export the responses for later analysis? Can they be imported into a grade book? Can they be tagged so you can disaggregate the data? I don't know. But think of the learning curve for a teacher with an average technology knowledge level trying to figure out all these things and integrating them.
That's my top of the head thinking. Anyone else?
Have you visited the white papers section on Smarttech's website?
I have found the research presented here helpful for many questions--Improving Student Learning, Differentiating Instruction, and Universal Design.
The white papers on SMART's site are wonderful as they were a key resource for me last fall as I completed my resource. They state how all students are able to participate. They become involved and excited about the lesson. Yes, the white board can be viewed to show a website, but can that website only focus on the skill being taught and tailored to meet the learning challenges of the classroom? Notebook software allows a person to create a lesson, present in a game format and get the students out of their seats and working collaboratively.
I would suggest that this nonbeliever observe a class where it is used effectively. Show this person the multitude of lessons already available on the web and explain that these resources are endless as more people add activities daily.
I like SMART over other IWB brands for two main reasons. The first is the software. Sure you can do the same things that SMART can do on other IWB but it often requires more ‘clicks’ to achieve the same goal. Secondly, I like the online resources and support that SMART offers through SMART Exchange for example. Sure, other IWB such as Promethean provide a similar equivalent but they are in the same price bracket at SMART. Cheaper options generally don't offer this support.
In regards to “cheaper alternatives: As quoted by Chris Betcher (author of The Interactive Whiteboard Revolution: Teaching With IWBs) on http://iwbrevolution.ning:
“I recently got an installation quote from an IWB vendor and I asked them to provide me with two prices - one for a full installation that included the actual IWB, and the other quote just for the installation of the projector. I wanted the job done right, with a permanently mounted projector, ceiling mount, speakers, cabling, input plate for laptop, volume control, etc... I don't want to have to set up a projector on the front desk in the classroom each time I plan to use it.
The cost of fitting out a classroom with the projector (and associated accessories) came to $4000 (Australian Dollars)
The cost of the same installation with an IWB came in at $5500.
This means that the cost of the board is about $1500. This particular board I got the quote on has a 5 year warranty (although I would actually expect it to last longer than 5 years) so the cost per year of having the board in the classroom is $1500 divided by 5, or $300. I then made an assumption that there were roughly 180 teaching days in an average Australian school year, and that class sizes averaged about 25 students. Do the math and it seems that having an IWB in your classroom costs about 6 cents per student per day per year. Hardly excessive! Think about it... $300 a year for a tool that can potentially (when used with good teaching practise) benefit every child in the room for a sizeable part of each school day.
By comparison, the cost of providing a laptop to each student works out at about $2.70 per student per day per year. And whereas you need only one IWB to benefit the whole class, you need to provide 1:1 access for each of the 25 students”.
We have 58 SMARTboards at our school, some of which we are only now just looking at replacing after 7 years of use!
Great post! Thanks. What a great way to look at it.
Here's a great site with links to several studies, white papers and other accounts from "experts" who support the value of SMART Boards in the classroom. Hopefully you'll find a few anecdotes you can share with this school board member.
As a side note to your backstory, what does this board member do during her work day? Maybe you can make a few parallels to the tools she uses for work that may be "fluff" to you but essential for her.