I feel smart for learning about Smartboards!

To be honest, before working in a K-6 school library as a library technician, I’d never heard of the Smartboard. The extent of my knowledge of classroom technology stopped at whiteboards–the thing on which you write using a special marker. With ink. So when I learned of an interactive board on which you could actually browse the Internet, edit and save information, watch videos, etc., I was wowed out of my socks. However, it turns out that the Smartboard’s been around for a while…and used in elementary schools! I mean, it sounded (and certainly looked) cool–but how useful would it be, really?

After seeing how our teacher librarian uses it in the library, hearing how other teachers use it in their classroom, and after watching some how-to videos (here’s one of an actual reading lesson with kindergarten students, thanks to mrsodonnellK), I’m only starting to realize how useful the Smarboard is as a tool to enhance group learning.

3 specific reasons about which I’ve read, and with which I agree, from the Smarter Libraries wiki page (“Interactive Libraries: Using SMART Tools to Touch the Future”):

1) It engages all types of learners: visual, auditory, kinesthetic.

I notice this in the way that our teacher librarian uses the Smartboard during storytime. As she reads, she uses the Document Camera to display the picture book’s illustrations, thereby allowing our younger students to visualize the scenes as they’re being read aloud. This is especially effective with visually detailed books, such as those of Jan Brett. Students are invited to point out things they notice in the pictures or to share what they think the pictures reveal about the story or characters.

2) It encourages interactive vs. passive learning.

I think that if used selectively, the Smartboard really makes a big difference in making the lesson accessible to students (or faculty during training sessions), especially if the lesson is about an otherwise uninteresting or less engaging topic. As an example, the teacher librarian pulled up our library catalogue to show students how to use it. I’d recently edited the “Title Details” of some books to include links to authors’ or books’ websites. The teacher librarian had this great idea that in showing students such a site, we could introduce them to literacy-related terms such as: author, illustrator, series, award, etc.

title details3) It enhances technical learning.

I’ve realized how useful it is to have a visual and interactive display while teaching something that applies technical skills or that is technology-related. A couple of times I’ve had the experience of co-hosting information sessions for our teachers about the various databases to which the library subscribes and how to access them. Along with the handouts, the teacher librarian and I have pulled up our library catalogue and each database to show the teachers where they can find information relevant to their particular classroom lessons, the cool features of each resource, etc. We’ve also connected to our Overdrive library to show teachers how to login with their library card number and browse the collection of eBooks and audio books.

How exactly do you use a Smartboard? How else could you use a Smartboard? Check out these great resources that I was introduced to by my Information Technology for Library Technicians course at Mohawk College:

  • Smarter Libraries wiki page–it’s got very helpful resources on what a Smartboard is and the tech details you need to know, lessons uploaded by teachers for sharing, interactive websites to explore on the Smartboard, etc.
  • This youtube video on how to connect your Smartboard (seriously, this is helpful. The few times I had to troubleshoot a Smartboard issue I was all “Which cord goes where? What’s a ‘VGA cable’??”).
  • Tutorials & resources from the SMART people themselves (while most of the training sessions are for purchase, there are free pdf guides to various Smartboard features, tips and tricks, etc.).
  • A 2-minute tutorial on the basics of writing and saving on the Smartboard–quick and easy!

Some of this information may be useless to those already active Smartboard users. However, I’m writing for people such as myself who’re only just discovering the possibilities of technologies used by classrooms and school libraries. The simpler, the better, so that we can learn and embrace new ways of learning without being afraid of them 🙂

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