SMARTboard? Sure. SMART Teaching? I’m not convinced


November 6, 2010 by readlisaread

So, ok, I admit it.  I only looked at a couple of resources in the “Exchange”, and I always tell my students not to judge until they have looked at lots of information, perhaps I am being hastily judgmental…..however.

In Flanders Field, the poppies grow....

In Flanders Field, the poppies grow....

A cloze exercise?  For Grade 9 Social Studies?  On the poem “Flanders Fields”?  Really?  Followed by Comprehension Questions.  Are you freaking KIDDING me? Here’s how this little adventure went down….

I am teaching grade 9 social studies for the first time this year.  It’s not, perhaps, the most gripping of all curricula: “A survey of the span of time in European/North American history, 1650 to 1800”   Once you lop off a few heads in the Bastille, the exciting stuff is kind of behind you.  One of my goals this year, however, is to connect trends and events, ala “What we don’t learn from history we are forced to repeat” (to paraphrase).   So, next week being our lead-up to Remembrance Day, I wanted to take a look at the Holocaust. As always, I try where I can to multi-purpose my activities, so my plan was to do a SMARTboard demo lesson, a bit of background writing on the Holocaust, and do some work together to edit and extract main idea, make notes, etc.

Now, I don’t have a SMARTboard in my room (however, I did make a Wii-Smart board, and it’s fairly stable).  I haven’t spent a lot of time creating products in SMART Notebook, and have spent very little time in front of the Real Thing. So, my plan was to take the kids over to the library, use that Board to do my lesson, and then we have the library for the research and writing part. Awesome.

Next, I navigate to the SMART Exchange to look for pre-made lessons on my topic. *scratchy-record noise sound effect*.

After SMARTboards hit the scene and created an uproar, it wasn’t long before the skeptics started their own backlash.  It basically went like this: “SMARTBoards are the best for student engagement and improving teaching practices!”  “Uh, no. Good teachers are always engaging no matter what they stand in front of, and just because kids are interested in the new Bright-Shiny, that is no indication that they are learning more”.

I can be skeptical, but I also love the Bright-Shiny.  So, I was determined not to fall into one camp or the other until I’d really had some time to see it through.  We have 3 SMARTboards in the school.  One gets moderate use, one gets occasional use, and one gets used not at all.  Hmmm…..engaged students and improved teaching practices?  I think not….

Anyway, the upshot of all of this is, I thought I would really give it a good go with this activity, I went to the bank to find a lesson already created by an Engaging Professional….and arrived at a very fancy and high-tech Cloze Exercise and Related Comprehension Questions on one of the most moving and image-rich poems of the 20th century. Oh no wait, one of the Questions did ask “Do you think the poppies were particuarly chosen because the colour red could represent blood on the battlefield?”


Bright-Shiny: 0

Skeptics: 1


  1. Great post! So true! SmartBoards are a great convenience for the teacher — a convenience whose expense I find hard to justify when weighed against the minimal increase in student learning.

    SmartBoards also reinforce the teaching model of “teacher talks, students listen.” Most of these electronic whiteboards are only interactive with ONE person at a time.

    Shouldn’t the students be interacting with EACH OTHER instead?

    I blogged about a better method that I use with my students. These $2 whiteboards are WAY more interactive than a $2000 SmartBoard:

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dean Shareski, Catina Haugen. Catina Haugen said: RT @shareski: Another SmartBoard Skeptic RT @LisaRead: New blog post on the Bright-Shiny: […]

  3. […] original here: SMARTboard? Sure. SMART Teaching? I'm not convinced | It is all … By admin | category: exchange 2000 anti spam | tags: abbr-title, always-tell, […]

  4. readlisaread says:

    Thanks for the comment Frank. I just about edited out your last sentence, but just in case it wasn’t spam, I followed the link first– So glad I did! So thank you again for the resources, too!

  5. David Truss says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I loved the Grade 9 Socials curriculum when I taught it (about a dozen or so years ago)! 😉
    After the French Revolution, we spent a lot of time (too much time) on the Industrial Revolution and I guess I’m just nerdy, but I found it fascinating & shared my enthusiasm as best as I could.
    I’m totally with you on the SMART boards being more “Bright-Shiny” than meaningfully engaging (as can be seen on my post, linked to my name above, which you commented on- thanks)…
    But I also caution against judging any tool by how others decide to use them. My first few experiences seeing people use VoiceThread were horrible, but this is a GREAT tool when used correctly.
    It sounds like you really have the right approach and so now as you play with different tools, I encourage you to share some great examples here on your blog and anywhere else that you can… then when the next set of newbies come along, they’ll have something they can learn from and not be stuck as you were, rolling your eyes at the poor examples that are polluting the digital edu-sphere. 🙂

  6. readlisaread says:

    Thanks Dave. It becomes hard not to get jaded! The flip side of that is jumping on every new thing going. Like WORDLE, for example, which I LOVE, but rarely use anymore, because it’s so overused.

    Thanks for the props, and yes, I will keep on enjoying the Bright-Shiny 🙂

  7. David Truss says:

    Thank you Lisa,
    And as for being jaded at times… my blog is littered with jaded posts. LOL
    Here is an example I just dug up from December 2006, which is comprised of other people’s jaded thoughts!
    The reality is that the education ‘machine’ moves too slowly and from ‘our’ vantage point, that can be very discouraging at times… but there is so much good going on too, you’ve got the right attitude, keep enjoying the Bright-Shiny 🙂

  8. […] Next, I navigate to the SMART Exchange to look for pre-made lessons on my topic. *scratchy-record noise sound effect*. After SMARTboards hit the scene and created an uproar, it wasn't long before the skeptics started their own backlash. More… […]

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