Friday, May 15, 2009

SMARTBOARDS in the Reading/Writing Workshop-Thoughts and Questions

So, I have been thinking a lot about Smartboards/Interactive Whiteboards. They seem to be all the talk these days and I am loving learning about all of the new tools available. We have a Promethean Board at our school and I used it in the library for a week a while ago.  It was very fun and I loved lots about it.  The kids were totally engaged, of course! I could see so many possibilities after playing with it for a bit. I would love to have one for my classroom and for my family room--it is quite impressive. A little addicting, actually.  I can see why it is all the talk these days.

The thing is, I have spent lots of time online searching for great uses of the Interactive Whiteboard.  I think there are pretty amazing things that can be done with it to support literacy, especially in Reading/Writing Workshops.  I can also see huge possibilities for early literacy in general.  There must be people out there doing lots with interactive writing, shared reading, revision, etc.   But most of the samples and things that I am finding are pretty traditional things--a more interactive whole-class chalkboard, I guess.

So many literacy teachers have been looking for the same types of things--clips of Interactive Whiteboards being used in ways to support the way we know kids use reading and writing.
I visited a friend's classroom who did some great things with book previewing (She should  start her own blog so she can write about what she is doing with the board--hint, hint..).  Several teachers in our school are using it in very smart ways.  But the examples I find that really match what I understand about literacy development are not that easy to find.

When we visited our daughter's orthodontist a few weeks ago, I noticed that he has a very cool (small)  Smartboard in his office. He used it to show us our daughter's x-ray, to jot things down and play with the x-ray a bit.  It was very fun to see it being used. But I left there thinking hard about the size of the boards that I am seeing in schools. 

I loved the size of the Smartboard in the office--it was about the size of a 40 inch TV.  I started thinking about all that I could do with a board THAT size in class. I could use it as I do the easel--for minilessons, in small group work, kids could use it in booktalks, etc.  After seeing that small board in the orthodontist's office, I started to think of so many possibilities. I know that they are also possible with the larger board but a different size invites different work, I think.  The possibilities I imagined with the large interactive board focused more on whole group things and limited a bit of the way I thought about its uses.

So, here is what I am wondering--
Why aren't more of the Reading/Writing Workshop people out there writing about ways they use the boards to support literacy development?  How can we somehow collect great clips and posts of great uses of this tool in Reading/Writing Workshops?  I imagine it is out there but, why can't I find these samples easily? Am I looking in the wrong places?

Are Interactive Whiteboards for schools only available in the larger size? Has anyone invented a SMARTEASEL yet?  If so, where can I get one and how much are they? I have seen the tables but would love to find a SMARTEASEL.  Is there one out there?  

Does the size of the Interactive Whiteboard that I am seeing in most classrooms invite more whole class teaching because of the size? Or are lots of people using it with small groups, book talks, etc. I can see huge implications for student-led booktalks and am hoping to do more with that next year.

If anyone knows of sites or blogs that focus on Interactive Whiteboards in Reading/Writing Workshop or have answers to any (or all) of my questions, please let me know. I am fascinated with this tool and see huge possibilities. It seems that for people using this tool well, it is just embedded in all that they do, so they don't mention it much.  It is just an invisible part of their teaching just as all of the tools are.  But I am one who learns and thinks from seeing good teaching and I would love to find more clips/posts that show these possibilities in the Reading-Writing Workshop. I would love to find a place where Reading/Writing workshop teachers can go to see the ways in which people are using these.  (I know the National Writing Project is doing some great things with tech in general in lots of places.)  
Please share!



    It's a start anyway...

  2. Franki, I have had a Smartboard in my room for a few years now and use it constantly. But then I do blogs as you know. I think it is interesting that you ask about a SMARTEASEL because one of the things I think of is my blog as chart paper --- that is, we do tons of brainstorming and all sorts of stuff on the blog as a class (using the Smartboard)that I used to do on chart paper. (I find it a lot easier generally to type than to handwrite in front of the kids, but the way.) I also love, love, love my Smartboart for annotating. If you search my class blog ( you can find examples of this with Charlotte's Web, Mourt's Relation, and Pilgrim Broadsheets. Yesterday on my other blog (educating alice) I posted about about conference presentation I did a couple of weeks ago about blogging with kids and gave a link to the wiki we did that may be helpful in a related way.

  3. Great--thanks, Monica. I will find those. I can see using it all the time once you figure out all it can do. Thanks!

  4. Haven't found the mini-board yet, but check this out--especially the little doohicky he shows off in the the last couple of minutes:

  5. Franki,
    There's a really nice little article in INSTRUCTOR about whiteboards this month. It's probably more basic than you need, but some interesting stuff about student engagement, especially for struggling readers and writers.

    A couple of years ago, I saw Penny Kittle at a conference. She had a notebook computer, that projected onto a screen. She did an amazing writing lesson in front of the group, then had the piece already saved on her computer. I don't know if she has a blog, but she might be doing some stuff with hs writing and whiteboards.

  6. Please keep us posted about the information you find. I used the SMARTBOARD in our building a few times this year, but I wanted to branch into using it in my Reading Workshop and I looked for resources online to help get me started and had no luck. There are so many things online for the SMARTBOARD that just feel like a fancy worksheet to me.

  7. Franki,

    I share your thinking too about Smartboards and need to explore this tool. I'm interested in following your thoughts and learning. My ortho used a smartboard too and then I realized I needed to learn more.

  8. Although we have had Activboards in our classrooms for a few years now, this is the first year I've absolutely viewed it as a necessity, and not just an expensive whiteboard. I use it throughout the day to teach interactive lessons, manage my literacy centers, view our own book blogs and post comments (blogging is a new experiment--they're loving it so far!) perform math problems using Activotes (which gives me instant feedback) and on and on. I can also download pre-created flipcharts at the Promethean Planet website ( and edit them to suit my teaching style. I can't imagine going back to classroom without one now!

  9. This is really interesting. We do Reader's Writer's workshop here and we are planning to add a lot more Smartboards next year (only a few now). I want to follow your discussion to see what you find. I have been collecting links in Diigo, but not seen a lot about R/W wkshp uses, just like you. Thanks for raising the question!

  10. Franki,
    I found your blog very interesting. I am a first grade teacher in Maryland and I am working on my Masters; Integrating Technology in the Classroom. There has been a great deal of talk about SMARTBOARDS, whiteboards and the Promethean boards. I have not heard of the smaller size. It would make a great tool for the small groups that I hold during reading. We do have something in our school called an ELMO. This is a machine that will save what you project onto the screen like an overhead. The difference is that you can insert a book, page, or object under the camera like device to show the students. Again this is mostly for whole group. However, you can create, modify and reuse what you use during your lesson for another time. I will be on the look out for your SMARTEASEL. When I read about the Dentists using this technology, I thought, we really need to find a way for us to use it in our small group instruction. Do you know who the manufacturer of the board from the dentist office? Maybe this company makes a SMARTEASEL.

  11. Frankie,
    I recently taught 5th grade reading remediation to a group and used the Workshop approach to reteach specific strategies. What I found useful was to use the ELMO in compilation with the SmartBoard. I began each day with a read-aloud under the ELMO--we were dissecting texts together, sharing what we had written down on post-it notes, etc. It was so powerful. So, to use the Smart Board during your Literacy Workshop, I would highly recommend writing a grant for the digital picture projector, AKA, ELMO, they are simply amazing.

    Perhaps the most powerful thing that happened during my 5th grade experience was when I had the students share what they had written on their post-it's with the whole group using the ELMO. It promoted high self-efficacy for the kids and some of the struggles were learning "the ropes" from these kids who were willing to share. I mean, if the workshop is about community at it's core, then this is it!! :)

    One other idea that does not require the ELMO technology and is AWESOME for teaching reading strategies is to go to this website:

    What an amazing resource. For teaching inferring, for example, students can drag sections of text across the board, use the color pens to write their own thinking, and then share with a group. There are also videos of real teachers re-teaching strategies to a group of kids. (It's a little corny, but very neat...)

    I hope that you take time to visit that website. It is the BEST online strategy practice tool that I have found. :)

    Buenas Juertes!

    Indianapolis, IN


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