Eighty-one SMART Boards have been installed in Roberson classrooms over the last several weeks as part of a county-wide initiative to bring technology to classrooms. The boards operate with touch-screen capabilities and allow teachers and students to write on the boards, run interactive programs and save notes and screens for later use.
Technology facilitator Jared Brush has overseen the SMART Board transition at the school, and while he is excited for the new technology, he does not feel that it went as smoothly as it could have.
“I do think that it’s a good thing, but I’m not thrilled about the way that it was imposed upon teachers. A lot of teachers are still without the capability to connect to their SMART Boards. There are plenty of teachers that completely lost the use of the whiteboard space- at least before they could write on the screens, but now it’s just shining onto an expensive piece of equipment they can’t use. Those that can connect are having varying amounts of luck based on whether or not they are playing with it to figure things out,” Brush said.
The money to purchase the SMART Boards comes from a specified budget for technology purposes. According to Brush, the cost of installing a SMART Board is between $1,249, and $2,979 if the purchase of a Ben-Q projector for a classroom is required. Installation fees add on an additional $250 to $450, depending on the amount of technological changes needed in each room.
Official SMART Board training has been pushed back until the beginning of next school year due to the fact that many of the boards are still not functioning. Math teacher Cindy Hallman-Morris finds this frustrating.
“I wish we had a little more training, but progress is good. I haven’t done much but write on it. I’m sure there are lots of other things I could do with it, but that I don’t know how to do yet,” Hallman- Morris said.
“I wish there was more of a gradual implementation of the boards, coming to the interested teachers first to kind of build that interest level, and then maybe the more reluctant teachers would see the benefits before they were forced into the changes as well. For now, I’ve made a few quick tutorial videos that I have emailed out to the teachers, but honestly, teachers have no time. Especially this close to the end of the school year, they are not going to rewrite the way that they do things to incorporate the SMART Boards,” Brush said.
Math teacher Nathan Arvey supports the boards and believes that they make his class more interactive and interesting.
“Most of what I have done has been getting kids to be more interactive with it, since it’s a lot easier to get them to write on it than it was to get them to write their math on the whiteboard. For math, it’s great. It makes graphing easier, since you have straight lines, and it can measure angles really quickly. But, the novelty is starting to wear off, especially since they are in every other classroom, it’s not something special any longer,” Arvey said.
Despite the positive features that the new technology brings to the classroom, many teachers are upset over the forced change, and the loss of whiteboard space to write on. Chorus teacher Aleisa Baker was so upset over the prospect of the Smart Boards that she refused to have it installed in her classroom.
“When we sightread as a class, I need roughly 60 people to be able to read the screen. And right now, the screen I have is huge, and when they told me that the Smart Board would be half the size of my current screen, I told them ‘I don’t want that.’ I had to be able to project things as big as my current screen, and even then it is still hard to see for the people in the back. Plus, I paid for my whiteboard, and I didn’t want it put over that,” Baker said.
Junior Elvira Rad likes the Smart Boards, but feels they were an unnecessary cost.
“I think that if the teachers learn how to use them, they would definitely use them more and in more fun ways. But I think there were much better ways to spend that money than getting smart boards, like getting textbooks instead,” Rad said.
Brush sympathizes with the frustrations felt by teachers.
“It’s frustrating because I’m trying to keep it positive. I’ve had to wear the face of it, but that’s the way things go. Coming out of graduate school, we talked about school improvement, and how to do it and how not to do it. They all advised not to make these big changes without any teacher input, and that’s exactly what we have done. The good thing is that when working right, they work well and they have some very cool things that you can do,” Brush said.
Hallman-Morris agrees that overall, the installation of the boards was a good decision.
“I’ve been a math teacher for 22 years, and I’ve learned that if you don’t embrace change, you need to get a new job,” she said.