It’s not just me (Smart Boards)

I’ve been catching up on some podcast listening. Here’s Audrey Watters talking to Steve Hargadon on their weekly podcast back on January 29:

…I think there are lots of systems in play that don’t actually want…I mean the folks who sell you interactive whiteboards don’t really want the content to be accessible elsewhere because then why the hell would you buy an interactive whiteboard?

And here was me recently on the relationship between software and interactive whiteboard hardware:

…here’s something strange about Smart Boards. [The ability to capture student work is] not a feature of the board; it’s a feature of the software. But Smart fancies itself a hardware producer, so it hasn’t designed the software to do much of anything without the board.

If we were designing the ideal piece of software to do what you’re suggesting, I’m not at all convinced that it would require a Smart Board to run on, and I doubt that it would look very much like Smart Notebook at all.

I taught myself to use a Smart Board. I have presented professional development sessions around Smart Boards. I have used Smart Boards in my classes-including College Algebra and math content courses for future elementary teachers.

I’ll say it directly. An interactive whiteboard is a crummy tool, massively overpriced. The software has been designed to sell the hardware, rather than as an excellent interface that stands on its own.

In short, Smart Boards suck.

There is a small amount of meaningful additional functionality that an interactive whiteboard brings to the domain of classroom presentation media. In math, this has mostly to do with manipulating visual images-moving this rectangle onto that one to compare their areas and the like.

Here’s a crummy video of the one lesson I really do want a Smart Board for. It’s from Connected Mathematics: Bits and Pieces II.

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6 responses to “It’s not just me (Smart Boards)

  1. You can achieve the same effect with paper cut-outs & magnets. It will cost a lot less, and will work on any metallic surface. Also, you can have students cheaply and easily recreate the same effect themselves.

  2. Almost the same effect, dwees, almost the same effect. The infinite replicability of the Smart Board version, together with the convenience of storage, search and retrieval, are important factors in the electronic version’s favor.

    But point taken (and I think I have made clear that I am in no way trying to defend or promote Smart Boards or other iwb’s here).

  3. Christopher, I remember doing the Tupelo township activity in our methods class and wanted to present it in a similar way for my 7th grade interventions class. I realized that a Smart Board would be an excellent way to present this – using the infinite cloner tool to help show comparisons in size. Unfortunately, at this time I was at a school without Smart Boards or any other interactive whiteboard … interesting that you used this lesson as an example of when it would be effective! :)

  4. I politely disagree with your opinion. I have had great success utilizing my Smart Board. I am a special educator who primarily works with students having severe and multiple disabilities. Though I’ve not once used the board’s included software, I have great interactive and multisensory lessons that keep my kids, many of whom have significant attention defecits, totally focused and engaged. Claiming you can replicate the same interactive qualites available with a Smart Board through the use of magnets and cut outs is completely absurd. I create google docs with hyperlinks, use many interactive websites, and have students participate in many peer editing and scanned text projects. Creativity can go a long way to enhance the possibilities of instruction. Saying the Smart Board “sucks” makes you sound like someone who has never been in a classroom or a teacher with boring lessons. Also, your article sucks.

  5. Now wait a minute, Kevin. Saying your article sucks is not a polite disagreement. I also used the term but not with a concomitant claim of being polite. In fact, I was being quite rude.

    See, I have presented a critical-view professional session on Smart Boards as examples of classroom media several times. Each time, people come away with the idea that I am promoting Smart Boards. It’s strange because I try very hard to remain neutral and to foster a critical view in which teachers question their uses of various classroom media. So this time, I decided to make a strong statement. Perhaps stronger than necessary, but certainly strong enough to get the point across.

    Kevin, I have no desire to take away your, or anyone else’s, Smart Board. If you have found productive uses for your Smart Board that justify the several thousand dollars your school/district spent to install it, then by all means you have my blessing (which, of course, you do not need).

    But I would argue that your case is a rare one.

    And your rebuttal doesn’t refute my central claim; that Smart Notebook is designed as an afterthought in order to sell expensive hardware, rather than from the ground up for optimal instructional use.

    But again, I am glad you are making good use of your Smart Board. May it serve many happy and productive years in your classroom. Best wishes and happy learning to you and your students.

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