Ten or fifteen years ago I got my first smartboard in my classroom. It was the coolest technology available at the time, and I would spend hours creating (and selling) my smartboard lessons. The software was not very user friendly, but because it was unlike anything we had available at the time, I gladly put in the extra hours so that I could use it with my students.
Now fast-forward 10 or 15 years, and not much has really changed with the Smartboard. They’ve made improvements and upgrades in the software, but they now charge $129 YEARLY for EVERY TEACHER (which would be over $8000 A YEAR for all the teachers in my school). They’ve also come out with boards that allow more than one touch at a time IF you can afford to drop another $3000 per classroom (at least) for a new board. That's $75,000 JUST for the classroom teachers in my school, not counting the $8000 for the software to run it, of course. I couldn’t believe that they would start charging teachers, one of their biggest customers, an astronomical rate when the education budget was being cut across the country. So a few years ago, we had to take a hard look at whether or not we should continue to funnel money into smartboards.
If we look at best teaching practices today, we see technology used to leverage creativity and discovery. Students are the ones doing the work and using technology as a tool to connect learning in deeper, more meaningful ways. It's no longer the teacher spending hours creating lessons that they present to the class. The students are getting the valuable experience through the process of creation. There are also MANY programs to choose from that are simpler to use than smart notebook software, and they allow more students to be actively engaged. With programs like PearDeck and Nearpod, every student has the ability to interact and give feedback during a presentation. With options like Quizziz and Kahoot, you can quickly gauge the understanding of every student in a fun, interactive way. And with tools such as SeeSaw, students can document their learning process for themselves, their teachers and their parents by capturing their learning in a digital portfolio. A smartboard can't do any of that.
The bottom line is, smartboards are a very expensive presentation tool. Although it is interactive, the one who interacts with it the most tends to be the teacher when only one person at a time can touch it. Even when students are the ones using the smartboard, it's one student at a time while the rest of the class watches. And while it’s handy to be able to touch the board instead of your computer during a lesson, that doesn’t really impact student learning. If we had $75,000 to spend, or even if we just had $8000, I'd rather spend it on more student devices and subscriptions that would give students the opportunity to have more authentic learning interactions where they become active learners.
That doesn't mean that we don't need to present information to the whole class or give explicit instruction sometimes, but I think there are cheaper ways to do that. For example, digital interactive notebooks are a great way to facilitate classroom discussions while still allowing every student a chance to interact and respond to the lesson. I created Observing Weather: A Digital Interactive Science Notebook using google slides (which is free!). A copy of this digital interactive notebook can be shared with each student and used to start a discussion about weather. There are 6 circle maps included for defining different types of weather. After discussing what students know about the different weather terms listed, they can share their background knowledge by typing words or inserting pictures into the circle map.
There are also 3 different kinds of interactive weather graphs students can use to graph the weather for the week.
A line plot:
And a bar graph:
As the culminating activity in this digital interactive notebook, students become a meteorologist and create their own weather forecast. I provided a short script for students to use or they can write their own.
They can use the green screen app by Doink to insert a background with a map like the meteorologists on the news, or they can pretend they are reporting on site in the middle of a storm. Here are some examples:
They can also use the app Telestory to create animated backgrounds for their weather forecast:
To create this digital interactive notebook, I created the backgrounds on powerpoint and saved them as jpegs. I inserted each picture as the background image so students don't accidentally delete it.
I made the movable pieces for the pictograph and bar graph by using this cool little trick from Alice Keeler –Google Slides: Make a Draggable Slide. I also used this tip from Nuts and Bolts Speed Training – Powerpoint Animations: Making Objects Appear and Disappear On–Click.
You can also download this Observing Weather: A Digital Interactive Science Notebook here.
I haven't found anything yet from the smartboard lessons that I used to create that I can't recreate in powerpoint or google slides. And now I can update those lessons by sharing them with students and including less content so students have the opportunity to do it themselves. Now it's your turn! Ditch those smartboard lessonso and try a digital interactive notebook instead!