Smartboard Jungle

Smart BoardBeing married to a teacher certainly reveals how much education has changed in the past 20 years. For starters, Sara teaches at a grade 6-7-8 middle school, something that didn’t exist in my school district when I was going to a k-7 elementary school and then an 8-10 junior high. Music programs contain Rock and Roll bands in addition to the traditional Jazz and Concert Bands. This development is promising, because as the baby boom generation gets older, who’s going to be left to teach our kids about The Who and Stairway?  Another thing I noticed when I first visited Sara’s classroom was that all the chalkboards were replaced with dry erase boards. Now it looks like even those white boards will be replaced by a new technology, the SMART board.

The SMART board is a large touch-screen connected to a digital projector. It’s hooked up to a classroom computer, and can display anything that you can put on a computer monitor. Because it is a touch screen, you can use either your fingers or the stylus markers included to draw or erase shapes on the smartboard. Here is my lovely wife Sara demonstrating.

Sara admits she was a little skeptical about the SMARTboard at first. When she saw it at a conference in Seattle, the presenter kept making mistakes with the machine in typical Microsoft product demonstration fashion. She was even more trepidatious when her school ordered one SMARTboard for each classroom. However, as she got used to the interface, she realized what a powerful tool she had. Her class has never known a world without an internet, and here was an interactive piece of technology that could be applied to hands-on, visual, or auditory learning styles. No longer would she have to deal with printing lessons on overhead transparencies, and she can even download Macromedia Flash animated teaching aids in a similar fashion to the iPhone app store.

“It’s quickly become a really useful tool in the classroom,” Sara said. “Even if you are not the best person with technology, you will be able to figure it out.”

Schools are constantly changing, just like the workplaces they are supposed to supply with labor. Once we leave grade school, we often maintain the assumption that methods and technologies used in education stay the same as when we were using them. Keeping up with the latest trends in education can reveal fascinating insights. At the very least, if you’re like me, you can envy all the cool toys kids get to play with at school.