Two Generations of Whiteboards
A few weeks ago I learned that my room will be used to teach one section of math. I don’t mind admitting that at first I was horrified at the thought of my room being inhabited by those cold human calculators that reside on the floor below me. Then I learned that a new piece of technology called a Smart Board will be installed in my classroom, which you can see in the photograph. The board on the left is your traditional whiteboard while the smaller board on the right is the Smart Board. Actually, it’s not a whiteboard at all, but a computer. It is wired to a projector attached to the ceiling and a laptop. The Smartboard is essentially an extension of the laptop. You can project movies, graphs and other visuals onto the screen, but it also allows you to write on the screen itself with special pens. This is why the product is so popular with math departments. I can use this as a traditional whiteboard. [Notice the special writing utensils for the Smartboard on the left.] Anything written on the screen can be saved as a file. So, I can project a painting, table, or any other image for my class to analyze, have my students point out various details which can be marked, take notes on the image itself, and then at the end save everything as a file on the computer for use later. How cool is that?
I am lucky to be working at a school where there is money for technology, but it is important to think through how it will be used before jumping in. All too often teachers become seduced by the bells and whistles without considering how or whether it will enhance one’s teaching. I am fortunate in that I will be able to experiment with the Smart Board at my own pace. As you can see I still have my trusty "old" whiteboard within easy reach. I’ve said it before that I consider myself to be a "meat and potatoes" kind of teacher. Give me a historical document of some kind and a classroom filled with curious students and I will give you a decent history lesson. Regardless of the technology it always comes back to that simple point.