For the past several years, I have been fortunate enough to have a media cart in my classroom… Her name is Louse and with her, I have learned countless strategies and creative ways for integrating the laptop, projector, speakers, and document camera into my everyday routine.
I have presented many workshops for teachers, and offered support pages (MEDIA CART) for attendees. In my workshops, I was proud to share ways in which students and teachers could get maximum value out of their technology – without the use of interactive whiteboards.
Fast forward to last May. Hello SMARTBoard! I found myself even more lucky, to have been one of the first in my building to receive a child-height-level SMARTBoard in my classroom. Was I able to perform all of the wonderful activities I had used before? Absolutely! However, I couldn’t help but feel I wanted more out of such an expensive piece of equipment. I set a goal at the end of last year, to spend my summer searching for innovative strategies to get the most out of my IWB.
I searched the Internet high and low, and found many innovative uses for interactive whiteboards in classrooms all over the world. In my quest to find strategies for using the IWB throughout the school day, I downloaded countless presentations, watched endless webcasts, and read a tremendous amount of blog entries from teachers with super ideas. Come August, I had collected some great resources. Unfortunately, none of them spelled out exactly how I should manage the SMARTBoard in MY classroom as a learning center.
Thankfully, September is a month where teachers spend time teaching routines and expectations, and my students were able to interact with our board each morning as we took attendance. Quickly they learned that if they tossed their name from the bottom of the board, it would bounce off the top and (hopefully) land on the lunch choice they wanted. They also learned what to do if the board did not respond. They learned what to do if the editing boxes showed up. They learned what to do if they inadvertently brought up a menu. They learned how to rotate their names. They learned… while Mrs. Brooks has horrible hearing, she has incredible eyesight, and always noticed when they were off-target. HEE!
Before I knew it, October rolled around, and my goal of having each student touch the SMARTBoard in a meaningful way, 8-10 times per week, was hanging over me. I quickly realized – while currently each student was using the board 5/week, the “meaningful” part was quickly evaporating, because they now had the hang of attendance-taking!
How is it that one takes the leap from where they feel comfortable, to where they stretch themselves and learn more? By taking a risk, of course!
I still remember the day I sat my students down and leveled with them – I told them I wanted to use the SMARTBoard as a daily learning center – a SMARTCenter, so to speak. I told them how I was totally and completely terrified. The noise! The confusion! The movement! Did I mention the NOISE!??! I told them there would be particular students assigned to help them each week, and how important it was that we all work together to pull this off. That particular day was a math lesson, where reviewing measurement was the goal. I had students circulate through their assigned “number order”, where each one was given the chance to demonstrate his or her ability to measure to the nearest quarter-inch. As I worked with individuals and small-groups (my normal math routine), I was able to keep one eye on the work being done at the SMARTBoard. Though the noise level was a bit higher that day, I considered the day a success and announced we would bravely try this again the next day.
Since then, I haven’t looked back. We now use SMARTCenters during math and science lessons. Students have learned to rely on each other, and I have learned more and more ways to individualize instruction. I have observed real thinking and learning as I watch a student approach a difficult problem from across the room. No longer is the SMARTBoard a distraction in the classroom – it has become “Technically Invisible”, where students have come to accept it as just another tool. Our video demonstrates how we have come to manage a SMARTCenter in the classroom:
I have been inspired by my students to come up with new ideas and new ways of reaching them through the use of SMARTCenters. Learning is a process, for all of us, and I can only imagine where we’ll be, come June!! Stay tuned!
In fact, our year-long journey is being documented in our Technically Invisible blog page: