Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Can You Repeat That?"

Way back when I first got the exciting news about this grant, and I started putting together a timeline, I realized that, practically speaking, it would be impossible to do research, finalize a purchasing decision, and revamp my curriculum in the space of a single summer. Instead, I planned to choose pivotal lessons throughout the year and to focus on developing those classes for the Smartboard. I knew I wouldn't have time for everything, but this way, I thought, I would have Smartboard lessons spread throughout the year.

Guess what? It didn't exactly happen that way. Instead of having selected classes on the Smartboard, I'm using the Smartboard every day. For the daily quiz and review. For every new concept we're learning. For text, and pictures, and music, and even a few videos.

I miss it when I don't use it. I know the students do, because during one class that (I thought) didn't really benefit from the Smartboard, one student raised her hand about halfway through and asked, "Aren't you using the Smartboard today?"

I like it for quite a few reasons, but the one I'm focusing on today is that all-time favorite question that I used to hear far too often in my classroom: "Can you repeat that?"

A lot of students get really focused on their notes. They don't want to miss a thing. Unfortunately, I find when they do that, they get the notes--but they miss the concept. The big picture gets lost in the details. A number of teachers have shared similar experiences with me, and I even know one teacher who refuses to allow notes to be taken during her classes (apparently she has a system, though I have no idea how she makes that work).

I wasn't about to ban note-taking, but I did want to find a way to give students the confidence that the details will be there for them--even if they focus on the concept. Interestingly, I find the Smartboard helps make that happen.

The details are up there, and they won't vanish--if I move to a new screen, we can always move back to the first one for a review. They can put their pens down for a minute, stop concentrating on getting the next word down, and focus instead on the concept that's being illustrated through the details.

From what I can see in the students' work, they really are getting the concepts and the details straight. Not always perfect, of course, but overall I'm impressed by how much they do understand.

And even more good news--while "Can you repeat that?" hasn't completely disappeared from my classroom, it's become a lot less frequent!

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