Sunday, July 29, 2007

Smartboard: The Interactive Element

As part of developing the lesson plans that will best use this new technology, I've been in close contact with other teachers who have used a Smartboard. And we're all struggling with the same question--is the Smartboard merely a glorified projector? Or does it add a functionality to the classroom that aids in active learning?

My experiment assumes that the Smartboard is more than just a visual medium, it's an interactive medium that will get students involved in the learning process. This question is very relevant at this stage in the process, because I need to decide which software to use in the classroom. I'm becoming convinced that this decision will affect the dynamic between me, the students, and the material they're learning.

Basically, it comes down to Powerpoint vs. Notebook. Powerpoint, or any presentation software, can produce really powerful lessons. Everything can be set up in advance. In the classroom, I would move smoothly from slide to slide, each slide illustrating another step in the learning process.

I've seen some Powerpoint presentations designed for the Smartboard, and they are very impressive. Words of the passuk are broken down, moved around, extra words added to demonstrate various approaches, colors highlight information--it's all very clear.

So why am I hesitant? What's wrong with this picture?

I find that the interactive element is missing. The student isn't moving around the words in the passuk--you are. You've set it all up in advance. And you know you've got the information right. But where is there room for the student to move things around, to try to find the answer, to fill in the blanks, if you've filled it all in already?

That's why I'm considering Notebook. Notebook provides the interactive element. You can't really set everything up in advance, as you do on Powerpoint, and it definitely isn't as flashy. But anyone can be up there, moving things around, testing them out, until together you reach a final conclusion.

What I'd really like is something that offers a combination--a Notebook-style beginning, for the experimental part of the learning process, and then move to a Powerpoint-type presentation, where the final conclusion is clearly presented. Right now I can have one or the other, but not both. (Switching back and forth from one program to the next will, I suspect, be too distracting in the classroom and too much work for me to set up.)

The interactive element is important to me. In fact, that was the primary push behind my decision to go ahead with the Smartboard. I did strongly consider the notebook PC/wireless projector combination for a while, but I decided that I really want those students up there, experimenting, becoming a part of the learning process.

So I think I'm going with Notebook as my primary software tool, though I can always use Powerpoint presentations when I feel that will be most appropriate. I keep reminding myself that this is an experiment, after all. And the only way to know if an experiment will work--is to try it and see! If the Notebook approach doesn't seem to be working, I'll try Powerpoint for a while and see how that operates in the classroom.

If anyone has any other ideas for a presentation medium--particularly ways to get the students involved in the process--I would love to hear it!


Ms. Moaty said...

I hear your frustration. :) As a user of the Smartboard, one of the ways to make it interactive would be to set it up as a station for students to use either as they rotate around other stations, or as they finish their work. When students are taking notes from a Power Point presentation, they can take turns as individuals ir teams, using the Smartboard as a great review tool. Worksheets can be placed on the Smartboard, and children can come up and be the teachers, or "checkers" as the class is correcting or reviewing material. While teaching Geography, students can come up and manipulate maps, or play interactive map games on the Middle East.... Just some suggestions.

Tikvah Wiener said...

I agree with all your observations. While I've been using PowerPoint presentations on a daily basis for the past two years, I am about to use a Smartboard for the first time this coming school year. As I consider the ways to best use the medium, I agree with you and think PowerPoints are too restricting. They have to be completed before class and are not for the students to modify. Using them on a Smartboard turns it into a overpriced projector. Using Word or a Notebook seems like a way for students to be part of the learning process in class and then be sent the information they have completed. I'm planning on using a Smartboard in my English class to take apart texts and work on writing assignments as a class. Good luck with all your ideas!

Elky Langer said...

Using the SmartBoard as a review tool is a great idea, one I've been considering over the past few weeks. I was thinking of using it as a whole-class review tool. Using teams didn't really occur to me because I thought the SmartBoard would have a tendency to take over the classroom--it's that prominent. I'll give it a try, though, and see how it works. Thanks for the suggestion!

Tikvah, will you be working with Hebrew fonts at all? It's been frustrating trying to get the Hebrew into both Word and Notebook. I'm using Davka as my primary wordprocessor and the font differences (unicode vs. symbol fonts) can get very cumbersome.