Why do SMART Board™ Implementations Fail?

Why do SMART Board™ Implementations Fail?

by Allen Wolmer
It is a shame, really. All that money spent on computers, projectors, and SMART Boards. And so much of it being unused or underused. Even when there is robust infrastructure in place (LANs, PCs, Servers, Tech Support, etc.) it still happens. Why?
My experience using and training other teachers how to use SMART Boards has shown me that there are a few critical but often ignored aspects of deployment that can impact success:

  • The implementation and training must be tailored for each grade/subject combination. The ways an elementary school Language Arts teacher teaches, and what those lessons look like, are quite different from what a high school Math teacher does, and what those lessons look like.
  • The focus of the training must not be on the Board itself but rather on how it is integrated into the education process. This includes classroom instruction, differentiation, and creation of online resources, e.g. “flipping”.
  • The transition to using the Board must involve as little effort as possible, at least at first. As teachers become acclimated to using the Board, they will not view enhancing their lessons as an undue burden. If, on the other hand, teachers perceive using the Board to be a lot of work, then the probability of success is low.
  • Finally, rather than training every teacher how to use (and implicitly expecting them to use) every feature and tool in the SMART Board and its excellent software, SMART Notebook, training on only those features needed in the particular classroom makes the acquisition of these skills by teachers easier. It is rarely spoken out loud, but when teachers are presented with a new              technology, they may fear that they may not be able to master it. Rather than embarrass themselves by failing, teachers may avoid using the Board instead. That is when one sees SMART Boards being used as projector screens for PowerPoint presentations.

My experience from teaching high school math (Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus) with a SMART Board, and training other teachers as well, is that a deployment plan featuring Lesson Evolution has a higher chance of success than will otherwise be the case.

For now. Aside from addressing those critical deployment issues, what else does this method do?

  • If a teacher has multiple sections of the same subject, the lesson can be replayed using simple tools that pace the lesson and focus the students.
  • Lessons naturally evolve, as additional examples are added in the classroom, with no more effort than writing on the Board, which the teacher would have done anyway.
  • In a similar manner, lessons can be easily differentiated with almost no effort.
  • Time is actually saved in the classroom, as the pace of the lesson is no longer determined by the speed with which the teacher can write, but the speed with which the students can learn. In my classroom, this usually amounted to a 30% reduction in time required for a given topic. This allowed for enrichment, differentiation, and exploration.
  • Additional technology, e.g. on-screen calculators, animations, etc., are added by the teacher as/when teachers are comfortable doing so. At that point, this work is neither actually nor perceived to be a burden.

Below are examples from a number of my own Calculus lessons. The initial pages are from the 2007-2008 school year, and the page labeled 2010-2011 is from the school year. You can see the evolution of the style and the increased effectiveness through the use of simple SMART Board tools such as the Screen Shade and Table Cell Shades. In addition, each lesson has been enriched by the addition of multiple pages.

                                                                                            In summary, SMART Board deployment must take into account the multiple teaching styles in different subjects and grades, must not impose a substantial burden on teachers, and must allow teachers to smoothly transition to the technology at their own pace. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Al Wolmer is an engineer by education who has been fortunate enough to pursue his passion: teaching and training. He is a SMART Exemplary Educator, SMART Certified Trainer for Notebook and Math Tools, and for the past eleven years have been the Head of the Math Department at Yeshiva Atlanta High School. He is also an AP Calculus Reader for the College Board. In addition, Al has presented at numerous regional, national, and international conferences on the effective use of SMART Boards and SMART Notebook software in the high school and college mathematics classroom.


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