Wednesday, February 03, 2010

3rd Graders Learn About the SMART Board

With some of our Scholastic Book Fair profits this year, I was able to purchase a SMART Board for the library at school. We couldn't afford the entire system but Scholastic offers the Interactive Whiteboard piece in their Book Fair Profits catalog. Since we have a projector and speakers in the library, I decided I'd add one piece at a time as we could afford them and I am glad that we did. It might take us a few years to get the whole thing pulled together but it works well for now.

As part of the purchase, I was entitled to a one hour orientation. Michelle Wolfe is our SMART Board rep and she contacted me to set something up. Instead of giving me the orientation, I asked her if she'd be willing to give an orientation to a group of 3rd graders. Michelle happily agreed.

Over the past few years, I have been thinking about how we can use these tools to meet the needs of our 21st Century Learners. I keep going back to the documents such as NCTE's Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment, ISTE NETS for Students, and Partnership for 21st Century Skills' Framework for 21st Century Learning. I've been reflecting on ideas in articles like "It's Not About the Tools. It's About the Skills". I worry that we are using some new tools in ways that don't really change learning for our students. This article about the announcements of Apple's iPad reminded me just how important this was. For me, the important points from all of these documents are the focus on creation, communication, purpose and audience. I want to make sure that the SMART Board in our library becomes a tool for students instead of a tool for teachers to give information.

My thinking was that if we want the SMART Board to be used as a tool for learning--as something beyond a teacher tool, it was important that kids be familiar with and able to use the board. So, we put together a team of 20+ 3rd graders who will serve as our initial Think Tank. They volunteered for the position, knowing it would mean giving up recess time throughout the year. They were quite excited about their first meeting learning all they could about the board. Michelle was great--introducing them to many of the tools available on the software. Many had not had much experience with the SMART Board so they loved the whole nature of the touchscreen.

We decided to place the SMART Board on a wall in the library that is a little bit off to the side. Because so many of the "walls" in our library are windows, we were limited in our options. But I think the place that we chose will work well. It is a spot where a whole class can gather if needed. But it is also off to the side so kids can work on the SMART Board while other things are going on in the library. It is not front and center.

The students who were trained will be able to play a bit with the SMART Board over the next few months. I think that tinkering time will be critical. I think it will take a while for the newness of the tool to wear off but I think that as they play, kids will have great ideas for the kinds of things they might create. Another tool to communicate their learning, to problem solve, and to design. I imagine they'll design games, figure out ways to include their own photos, etc. use the software to revise writing, storytelling, and more. I'll plan to meet with the team every few weeks to reflect on things they've learned, share some new things and brainstorm how the boards can be used to better support their learning.

I'll keep you posted!


  1. This was a really exciting post to read. Not because of the SmartBoard, per se, but because of your approach to it. If everyone using SmartBoards approached them this way we wouldn't be hearing the ed tech backlash against them. There is so much potential here and I can't wait to see what happens as the year continues. Thanks for sharing the process.

  2. We currently do not have a smart board--but do have some individual smart boards for teachers to use. Not many of us are trained on this system. It would be great to get some in staff teacher training in order to utilize it the way you are allowing your students to do. Keep us posted

  3. I have only just begun to learn about smart boards. My daughter's school ( middle school ) uses them and my daughter has positive comments about the learning. We do not have a smart board in our school but I am interested in hearing about their use.

  4. What a great idea to use students as your technology “Think Tank.” They are already familiar with so many of the SMART Board functions because they are growing-up in a world of text messaging, computers and interactive touch screens.

    Kudos to SmartEd Services Regional Director Michelle Wolfe for assisting the district in thinking outside of the box. Teachers see technology as a tool, but for students, it is a way of life. It is not just what you have, but how you use it. That is why SmartEd Services provides professional development training, such as the SMART Board lessons your students are currently receiving. As you can see, SmartEd’s professional development training is not “one-size-fits all.” It is tailored to meet the needs of the districts.

    SMART Boards are an excellent way to engage all learning styles: auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic and it is enhanced with hands-on lessons. This fact makes what you are doing with the SMART Board even more brilliant. Please keep us posted on your progress.

  5. This is a great post, and I hope that you and your kids are finding some great ways to use the SMART boards. My kid's school has been outfitted with these for about a year now, and they (the students and teachers) are still figuring out all the uses for them.


Comment moderation is turned on.