SmartBoards 2: Revenge of the SmartBoards

Thinking about one thing and another, reflecting further on things, and discussing my interactive whiteboard experiences with colleagues, I decided to input the following Google search: “interactive whiteboard cheapest”.

I was led to the following blessed gem:

The above is a) 3 years old and b) a tutorial for, through your own ingenuity, building your own interactive board which is ridiculously cheaper than the cheapest commercial unit.  There’s even comments on this post which show you how to get hold of cheap infrared pens without having to challenge your soldering skills.

I have 2 reactions to this resource: 1) that’s super cool and 2) I’m still not sure exactly how much this adds to students’ learning.  You’ll still find yourself at the front of the class; you’ll still be in the same spatial arrangement with your students that teachers might have been in 1920, even if you’re using infrared light instead of chalk.  Your students still won’t have any readier access to computing, searching, and digital creation.  You’ll still just be presenting; as a teacher, it’ll be up to you whether that’s synonymous with teaching.

Add to this the fact that 2 colleagues of mine gave a presentation today on the Airsketch app for iPad ( ), and it’s easy to see that there are so many more sophisticated sollutions to these teaching problems than simply dumping district money into FutureChalkboard!(trademarked) purchases.  If I can use a $300 iPad to conduct a digital presentation from anywhere in the classroom, where’s the percentage in spending more money for less utility?


5 thoughts on “SmartBoards 2: Revenge of the SmartBoards

  1. helpmehelpyouteach

    I like that you are challenging where school funding is going into classrooms and what we have now and what we could be using. I am not sure I completely understand where you are going with this thought, but in response to the example of using the Ipad in place of a smart board etc. The question we should be asking is not which is better but how can it enhance the students learning ( which I read that you have been asking yourself this as well) as a new Ipad user ( and addict) I am also asking myself what can I do with this ipad to enhance the learning? And that takes some serious research and deep thinking/creativity on our part. It’s an easy trap to fall into with using the evidence or lack thereof that the smart board is not very “smart” for our students but this doesn’t mean the Ipad is the better choice. What can we do now to determine what is the better choice and for that matter should we be bringing the ipad into the classroom as a new teacher?

    1. 1bluedot Post author

      I’m mainly talking about enhancing student learning. I guess I could be clearer: I’m not talking about an iPad replacing a smart board; I’m talking about individual computing devices being a better investment for the classroom. This is because it puts more creative and searching power in the hands of students, who in many classrooms still are largely denied this, except in certain, highly prescribed contexts. Personally, I believe this is something that should change – not only would a more democratic device ratio more accurately reflect the world we’re preparing our students for (and therefore be more authentic), but it would encourage students to take more ownership of their education – since the tools are directly in their hands, instead of horded at the head of the rows of desks, or behind the teacher’s desk.

      Obviously this model would have to be implemented with care, support, and scaffolding – but done well, it offers amazing possibilities; we’ve all seen plenty of examples at this point.

      (The computing devices need not be iPads; myself, I might actually prefer some cheap netbooks.)

  2. Veritably Clean

    I don’t know if this has been stated before, but I feel like there was this big public question at one point saying “what are we doing to get technology in the classroom?” Instead of turning to controversial pilot programs or actual innovation, districts elected to go with technology that did little to change classroom practice (which, honestly, demanding large-scale shifts in classroom practice would most definitely have met resistance) but would make it seem as though they were taking action. I feel like district administrators are frequently caught between three worlds: what is politically feasable for the school board, what is best for teachers and what is best for students. Those three worlds are rarely in agreement with each other, so the district elected to please two of those three constituencies. The school board now sees tech in the classroom, teachers don’t have to modify classroom practice (much), and students get…well…if you think of something, let me know. But I honestly see little about the educational experience for students that is better with interactive whiteboards that what we could achieve with an old whiteboard and some ingenuity.

    1. 1bluedot Post author

      That’s pretty much in line with what I’m thinking. When I think of edutech, I think of improving student learning, or making sure that what they’re learning is what they need. Newer, smarter whiteboards don’t necessarily seem to serve that. Instead of enhancing teacher tech (incrementally), we should be revolutionizing student tech.

  3. Pingback: Quarterly Revue | Ten Thousand Small Steps

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