Smart Board Training for Teachers: A Sustainable Model
Educators today confront many new obstacles. With the introduction of a new teacher evaluation process and the arrival of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), teachers are facing new challenges under tremendous pressure (The Teaching Channel, 2013). In addition, teachers everywhere are expected to incorporate technology into their everyday lesson plans and units of study as a tool to deliver these new standards. The issue, however, is that many educators lack the resources, ability or confidence to effectively leverage technology to utilize in the classroom. The purpose of this paper is to plan and allow for effective, meaningful and content-specific training for teachers to learn how interactive Smart Boards can enhance learning for students. The method for this analysis will include both online and face-to-face training for all teachers at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School (LOLMS) in Old Lyme, CT. In addition, Bloom’s Taxonomy will also serve as a critical reference point for allowing teachers to experience all levels of higher thinking during their training experience.
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The learning theory that will inform this experience is closely aligned with Jerome Bruner’s constructivist theory. In his 1960 text, The Process of Education, Bruner claims “We begin with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development” (p. 33). This claim supports Bruner’s belief that students build their own learning and can acquire knowledge at rates exponentially greater than their age may typically indicate. Knowledge is drawn and constructed from their own experiences and teachers are more facilitators to their growth (Bruner, 1961). Bruner may reference children specifically but his theory applies to adult learners as well. Allowing for independent exploration for the teachers in this training opportunity will yield an increased comfort level with this technology and a heightened sense of how this new learning could be applicable to their units of study.
Similar to Socratic learning, the teachers can be offered leading questions or tasks that allow them to strategically solve problems using their own capacity to question, think and analyze information. This can occur individually or collaboratively in pairs or small groups. The instructor acts more like a facilitator and provides the framework for this learning while fostering an environment that invites engagement and participation. A clear strength of this theory is the opportunity for the learner to build independence and autonomy by engaging in problem-solving activities and collaborating with peers on specific questions to be answered.
One of the key findings and trends from the NMC Horizon Project preview states that “…active learning approaches are decidedly more student-centered, allowing them (students) to take control of how they engage with a subject and to brainstorm and implement solutions to pressing local and global problems” (Johnson et al, 2012, p. 5). With new mobile and web-based technologies continuing to develop and impact the classroom, the opportunities for problem-solving and learning in a student-centered collaborative environment are promising. Interactive boards exemplify this approach and allow for interaction amongst multiple users.
It is also significant to note how Bloom’s Taxonomy offers a strong reference for assembling this training experience. Although Harris (2010) may argue that our technology-driven culture and specifically the internet offer easy opportunities to engage in most of Bloom’s higher level stages, educators can still ask much more from students than only to evaluate or create original work. It is in fact by the very process in which students or teachers collect, remember, understand, and apply information that there is engagement in the opportunity to learn. Technology in the form of software, apps, or hardware, is merely a tool that facilitates that learning. Therefore, it is the culmination and synthesis of all levels of Bloom’s technology which allows for learning and true creation to occur.
This process allows for applicable commentary on how people learn in different ways and possess multiple kinds of intelligence. According to Jackson’s interpretation of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, “… individuals learn in a multitude of ways… Any subject content can be enhanced, enriched, and updated from a variety of easily accessed sources which allow students to master the use of technology to access and share information” (Jackson, et. al., 2009, p.71). Jackson is trying to illustrate how the teacher must take into account the unique intelligences each student possesses. Without catering to each of these differences, there is a less likelihood for learning to occur. Further, Jackson explains “the use of technology should not occur without thinking about how people learn best… The instructor must also be able to structure learning activities to meet their learning needs” (Jackson, et. al., 2009, p.71). So, it is a process by which learning characteristics are identified by the teacher and then the appropriate steps are taken to help facilitate learning at each level of Bloom’s taxonomy. Allowing students to ‘jump’ to the creative stage without being responsible for participating in the earlier stages would be a disservice to any student and would not allow for a reliable final product.
The discussion then leads to one question: how can teachers be supported to create learning environments that account for multiple intelligences as well as higher order thinking? Means (2010) outlines and recommends several necessary components that contribute to student learning, one of the most significant being professional development for educators that is ongoing and most important collaborative as this can mimic the environment students can excel in. With specific software and training, educators and students alike have the opportunity to gather evidence, reflect in pairs or groups to peer-review and finally evaluate the authenticity and value of the learning experience. Forgoing this valuable opportunity would be counterproductive in developing a student’s social skills and would only allow them to engage in a one-dimensional online experience. Google and a multitude of other various resources are excellent at finding information but to extrapolate that information and truly analyze the findings critically is best accomplished with human input and interaction with colleagues. It is in the process of fine-tuning and sculpting one’s argument that allows for reflection and revision. Once this is attained, applications for creativity can be addressed and satisfied.
Learning Activity Proposal
All classrooms at (LOLMS) have fixed Smart Boards at the center of the room. The boards were originally introduced into the district beginning with the middle school almost seven years ago. Training for the boards and the applicable software has been minimal and infrequent for teachers. As a result, many have become frustrated and have grown reluctant to use this technology with students. This plan for training is two-fold and will allow for teachers to become familiar with Smart Board basics as well as an in-depth look at smart notebook software.
In effort to provide the most appropriate and informative instruction for the teachers, a survey along with dialogue will provide the starting point for differentiated learning. By contract, our current smart board vendors have agreed to provide a two-hour block of development for the teachers of LOLMS and this will serve as the starting point for this learning experience. Dates and times are currently being discussed as well as grouping and content of information to be shared. It is envisioned, however, that the staff of approximately thirty members will participate in a two-hour training session at LOLMS and be divided into the following groups: ELA/SS, Science/Math, Unified Arts, World Language, and an introductory or beginner course for teachers without a Smart Board in the classroom, or for reluctant or apprehensive users. Each group will be led by certified Smart Board trainers under contract from our vendor agreement however, one group comprised of teachers, will train the World Language teachers separately. The first 90 minutes will involve demonstration of ideas, concepts and tools teachers can use applicable to their content area. The last 30 minutes will be more hands-on where the teachers are at the boards actively investigating a specific resource or tool they want to learn about. A precise outline for activity will be determined in part by the findings from the survey along with dialogue from the teachers during upcoming staff and team leadership meetings.
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After LOLMS takes full advantage of the free training from the vendors, it will become the responsibility of the technology integration specialist to provide ongoing and informative training during designated professional development meetings. Online resources including videos and existing lesson plans will be researched and carefully selected to support training for each content area. In addition, and possibly the most crucial piece to the entire project, will be to identify and utilize proficient teachers to demonstrate to colleagues within their content area and across other disciplines. “Successful teacher education programs should include opportunities for collaboration. These sessions allow teachers to learn from each other as they exchange ideas and best practices and work on new strategies for driving student achievement” (The Teaching Channel, 2013, p 4). The power of peers and friends sharing with one another and allowing for content specific questioning is perhaps the most powerful tool for learning. Further, these collaborative opportunities can also allow for ways to satisfy CCSS and how they can be embedded into a lesson using an interactive board.
Although this training experience will be done primarily face-to-face, it is also important to note how future training for teachers may occur in an online environment. Teaching in an online environment allows for more facilitating than teaching in many instances. Traditionally and historically teachers have possessed all or most of the knowledge and disseminate that knowledge accordingly under the confines of a classroom setting. An online environment, however allows for more individualized learning where the instructor provides resources and information via discussion threads, blogs and a repository for handing in assignments. Further an online environment allows for grading, peer review and completion of assignments from home or elsewhere. Teachers and students may never meet face-to-face and this can be seen as a pro or con. An online experience can be significantly cheaper as well as provide for greater collaboration between students (Crawford, Smith & Smith, 2008).
Where there could be an established schedule for meeting face-to-face, there may also be designated online time inside of a learning management system (LMS) for collaboration and learning to occur. Teachers may assign several different journals to read or resources to explore and then require students to analyze or evaluate the information as it pertains to a common theme or leading question. Homework assignments or supplemental exercises to the classroom experience can be submitted online in a hybrid environment allowing for teachers to grade and give feedback in an online format. It also allows for the student, depending on the LMS, to begin to build an online electronic portfolio or learning space to demonstrate their learning. In a traditional environment, most documents need to be printed.
The potential for learning through this Smart Board training activity is promising. Attempting to build confidence and comfort level are of primary importance and will serve as the foundation for all training exercises. After the initial block of two hours of vendor supported training, professional development will continue on a steady and sustainable course at designated staff meetings throughout the year. Ultimately, it is the goal for more experienced and confident teachers to demonstrate and share specific ways to use Smart Boards and the notebook software seamlessly into daily lesson plans for students. In an additional attempt to create ongoing and embedded learning, resources will be shared on an individual basis via email as well as through a repository of ideas and lessons to be housed on our Microsoft 365 team sites portal. As evidence is gathered over time, teachers can refer to this resource center for new ideas and templates of lessons.
The technology necessary to complete this training will include a Smart Board in each classroom, the installation of smart notebook software, teacher laptops or a desktop connected to the Smart Board, and in some cases a wireless set up to enable teacher iPads to be connected to the Smart Board. IPads and apps offer a variety of new tools and creative approaches to many disciplines and instructional areas. Gaming apps have also gained tremendous momentum as a vehicle to engage students with the hope of improving understanding. The training activities will require teachers to have the smart notebook software installed on their laptops so lessons can be created anytime, anywhere. Finally, this software will also need to be installed on all desktops throughout LOLMS to enable students to view teacher created lessons.
With these requirements being met, student learning can become more collaborative with peers as well as teachers. The constructivist theory is in part predicated upon the individual taking ownership of their learning. This initiative can not only empower teachers, it can foster a higher level of engagement and participation for students. It has also been documented how students can begin to create their own Smart Board lessons and ideas to impart with fellow classmates and instructors. In Michael Wesch’s video lecture A Portal to Media Literacy (2008), the theme of creating this kind of digital learning environment for our students came to life in a different approach he took with his classes. He first questioned his students about learning and discovered that all the students enjoy learning just not within the confines of an institution like a school or college. They felt what they learn in general was not relevant to their lives nor applicable to everyday problems. Wesch also went on to discuss how the infrastructure of a large classroom is not conducive to discussion, problem-solving or collaboration. It serves as a place where an expert stands at the front of the room and disseminates information. With this valuable information Wesch decided to explore how he could create meaningful connections and significant experiences.
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First, Wesch explains how any instruction must be relevant to the students. One of his students was quoted as saying “students learn what they care about, from people who they care about and, who they know, care about them” (Wesch, 2008). Second, Wesch believes it is important to leverage the students in terms of knowledge and experience they can offer. Creating environments through technology that is collaborative in nature and fosters responsibility is one that creates more ownership for the student’s learning experience. And finally Wesch argues that teachers need to harness media and the Internet to improve and enhance the learning environment. Utilizing social media like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can make learning relevant and meaningful if the purpose and direction is clear. With this in mind Wesch try to create this type of environment by creating what he referred to as a ‘platform for participation’. Essentially he created a LMS full of social media, web-based applications, blogs and discussion threads where online learning can occur for all students. Students had the opportunity to create audio and video to share or to embed within various documents. The long-term goal for Wesch was to convince students and teachers to ‘go beyond the grade’ and search for real meaning and solutions to real problems.
With the new state standards serving as the backdrop for new learning opportunities like this, it is imperative that ongoing professional development be applicable to helping teachers understand these new standards. “The most important ingredient is the opportunity for teachers to collaborate and reflect together. To get common core implementation right, school and district leaders must take the time to ensure teachers have adequate resources and support to collaborate on the enormous shifts in instruction they are being asked to make on behalf of students” (Phillips & Olson, 2013, p. 37). With this being the ultimate goal, the structure is now in place to begin training for teachers so our students can benefit from more diverse and rigorous ways of learning.
How will teachers be assessed and evaluated? Prior to the beginning of training, teachers will partake in an online survey to identify current skills in areas of interest for growth. At the end of training the same survey results will be reviewed by the teacher through a new lens having learned new skills from the training experience. A chance to recognize exactly what they have learned will take place informally through discussion at our team meetings throughout the following weeks. In addition at future staff meetings, teachers will be asked to share or demonstrate what they have learned from their training experience with Smart Boards. It will also be encouraged for teachers to specifically demonstrate how they use this new learning with their students. This assessment will occur against the backdrop of national and state standards which will allow for common, measureable concepts to be evaluated for each grade level and individual. CCSS and The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) are the most applicable and appropriate standards for this training activity to consider.
Another kind of assessment could also be considered to ensure teachers are actually learning. Paul Curtis’ description for the New Tech model applies to students but could easily be leveraged to evaluate teachers. Curtis claims “At New Tech, we give an assignment multiple grades, all scored separately in our grade book using rubric-based assessments. A teacher might assess the understanding of content, how well the assignment was written, the critical thinking that was involved, and also the student’s work ethic. Rather than seeing grade-book categories such as tests, homework, and papers, students see categories such as oral communication, work ethic, written communication, collaboration, critical thinking. When you look at students’ grades, you can quickly tell if they’re working hard (by the work-ethic grades), or if they’re struggling with content and need resources or differentiation.” (Boss, n.d.) For this project teachers will not be graded with rubrics rather there will be a greater emphasis on demonstrating to students what they’ve learned and how their teaching is in alignment with national standards. However, in the future, rubrics could be used to hold teachers accountable and to ensure all students are receiving similar technology instruction and skill development.
Boss, Suzie. (n.d.) Comprehensive Assessment: What experts Say: Paul Curtis. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/comprehensive-assessment-experts
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Crawford, C. M., Smith, R. A., & Smith, M. S. (2008). Course student satisfaction results: Differentiation between face-to-face, hybrid, and online learning environments. CEDER Yearbook, 135-149.
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Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., and Ludgate, H. (2012). NMC Horizon Project Preview: 2012 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
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Phillips, V. L., & Olson, L. (2013). Teachers connect with technology. JSD: Learning Forward, 34(4), 3437. Retrieved from http://www.learningforward.org
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Wesch, Michael (2008, July 10). A Portal to Media Literacy. Retrieved November 28, 2013, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4yApagnr0s
Transforming professional development for 21st century educators
ISTE National Technology Standards for Students
A Portal to Media Literacy Video by Michael Wesch