Friday, October 21, 2011

Do Smartboards Make You Smarter?

There's a lot of controversy in my school over who gets rooms with Smartboards. Some people love them. Some fear them. Me, I can't afford to care one way or the other. After all, I'm trailer trash, and the only technology out there is the iPad I carry in my bag. And yes, I use it. I can't draw my way out of a paper bag, and when an ESL student asks me what a fax machine is I can pull out a picture on Google images and there you go.

If I had a Smartboard, I'd use that too. There would be an advantage in that I wouldn't have to walk around like a kindergarten teacher with a Dr. Seuss book showing the picture. And I'm sure with time I'd figure out other ways to use it too. But I don't need it. I don't need the iPad either, though I love it. I've drawn preposterous things on the board and then had kids come up and improve on them, showing me what they could do. They're usually delighted to mock my lack of artistic ability.

If I did actually need a Smartboard, I'd be less of a teacher. What the hell would I do in the inevitable instances the ancient DOE computers went down? Well, I could write on the board. And if I didn't have a board, I could buy some tape and tape paper to the wall. I think being a good teacher requires being able to improvise, to think on your feet. All the great teachers I've had were very smart, could argue their subjects in great detail, and none had or even imagined such a thing as a Smartboard.

How many crappy Powerpoint presentations have you been subject to? How many times have you sat through some tedious presentation of Lord knows what while some insipid so-called educational leader read it aloud to you? How many times have you wondered, "Geez, why doesn't that idiot print out this nonsense so I can read it in the 2 minutes it likely doesn't even merit before throwing it in the trash?"

Technology is a great tool, and I'll use it if it comes my way. I've seen creative and funny uses of tech. But it doesn't make you a better teacher. And it's still garbage in, garbage out if what the presenter offers happens to be garbage.

Yes you can use it. And yes, if you use it, it may help. But you can do well without it too. For those who can't, it likely won't matter what they come up with, no matter how cool they think it is.
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