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Technology Combined with Good Teaching Leads to Success

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Interactive whiteboards are the future of educational strategies, and without proper adoption of these and other technology tools, teachers are doomed to become dinosaurs in their practices.

Who says so? Educational research and practice expert Robert Marzano.

As he spoke at the CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference earlier this month, he warned educators, however, that although there are "no silver bullets," there are "silver BBs," and a teacher must decide which combination of silver BBs is best for his or her classroom.

But, unquestionably, the use of the interactive whiteboard and its voter-response technology is a true breakthrough in education.

The Research

Marzano recently divided 85 educators into two groups: One taught a lesson to students using interactive whiteboards and the other taught the same lesson using standard, more traditional tools. His data was undeniable:

  • Of those classrooms employing the boards and using the voting technology, there was an immediate increase of 17 percent in scores.
  • He also found that if a teacher had been given 20-30 months to hone his or her skills, there was an average 20 percentile gain.
  • The sweet spot, he says -- the perfect storm of student achievement, according to his findings -- was when a teacher was trained to use the technology, had used it for two years, and did so 75 percent of the time. That profile shows a whopping 29 percentile gain in scores.

But he warns that there is such a thing as too much technology. Marzano told the audience that beyond this sweet spot, dragons await in the form of diminishing returns in improved student scores, thus proving, he adds, that you clearly "can't take the human being out of teaching."

A Balance Is Best

To get the most out of the interactive whiteboard, a school district can't just give it to a teacher, and can't just give it to any teacher. The district has to train that teacher. And Marzano was quick to point out that weaker teachers require professional development in the use of both interactive whiteboards and effective teaching. Success comes in finding that sweet spot and using it properly. He emphasizes that, statistically, this successful strategy only works if

  • there is clear focus on content, not just using bells and whistles -- the technology proves merely distracting otherwise.
  • the voting component is in place, keeping track of students who are getting it and those who aren't.
  • this student feedback is used formatively to help guide future instruction.

Having Marzano carrying the technology standard is exciting. It proves not only the legitimacy of these strategies but also that all of us, even the best educational practitioners, can evolve in their own theories.

It is also comforting to have such a godfather of educational practice reminding those before him in the trenches that, despite the negative press about education, statistics continue to prove that "if you give magic BBs to teachers who want to hone their craft, great things can happen."

Comments (135)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Ashlee's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Patricia,

I had to laugh when I read your response because you sound exactly like my partner teacher. I am only in my second year of teaching and she is in her thirty-fifth. Students are always assisted her with her technology, especially her smartboard, and when they can't help her, she walks over to get me. I have the same issue with technology training in my school. The funding and resources are not quite feasible at this time, and I think that really hurts the teachers' abilities to develop the learning process in their classrooms. I just want to encourage you that you will certainly not become a dinosaur in the classroom because you have not given up on the technology. You are seeking help and information to make you a more effective teacher. I don't know what specific software program your school uses, but my school uses Promethean software. There is a great website, Promethean Planet, that offers great ideas for lessons and premade flipcharts.

Lindsay Clatterbuck's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My second graders love to play games as well. They love educational board games, card games, and computer games. It sounds like the web based math program you tested worked very well. My school has been using skillstutor, a web based program for math and reading, for the past 2 years. It is a good concept, but it doesn't have any "games" for the students to play. It will teach the lesson and then give about 10 practice questions. Some of the activities are more entertaining than others. I find that the children get bored with some of the activities and don't want to complete those anymore. I am curious as to how your program worked. Did your school end up keeping the program after your testing?

Kim Myers's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello Heather. I just recently got a Smart board in my classroom, but do not yet know about this voter technology -can you enlighten me? Thanks, Kim

Heather WolpertGawron's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, being a pioneer is a mixed bag. It is both exciting and frustrating. I too am cut off a bit from my department's collaboration time because I need to spend it working my IWB as the only ELA teacher in my district with one. But I am slowly building a library of lessons that can be used to help the next teacher get a leg up so that we may have more time together when that time comes. I would recommend starting with the Interactive Whilteboard Revolution ning. It's really a "little VLC that could." I find when I'm frustrated, I go there and it recharges by IWB batteries. Thanks for the comment and good luck!
-Heather WG

Jennifer Bates's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

With being at such a diverse school, do you find that students have access to a computer and use this program a lot at home? Also, what grade level does it go up to?

Heather WolpertGawron's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Did your board come with clickers? They are the individual remotes that allow a classroom to all click their answers to a multiple choice or True/False question. A teacher can stand at the board and know from looking at the results immediately how many got the answer correct. It allows for on-the-spot assessment and re-teaching. Talk to your principal to get your suitcase of remotes if you don't have them. They could also be in another classroom, in a closet somewhere, being "shared." Go hunt them down, and check back with any questions you might have.
-Heather WG

Carol's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I appreciate your comments about trying new things. I am getting a Starboard soon and am scared to death to use it! Your comments remind me that I shouldn't be afraid of new things. From what I understand this is finally some technology that goes beyond being a gimmick and is actually a very useful tool. I feel encouraged after reading some of these posts.

Heather WolpertGawron's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Congrats on your new board. Just remember to use the tutorials and book to look back at how to do things time after time. You will not get how to do the fancy stuff the first time around. Also, this is really important, find ways the kids can use it. Don't worry, they won't break it. They will love and protect it like you do. Even if it's as simple as "Who would like to come up here and...?" But I have Trevor, my go-to first period kid who sets it up every day and calibrates it if necessary. I have the kids help sign in the remotes. I have the kids pull in the backgrounds they want to represent themselves as they speak. Choices are all about critical thinking, and ownership is all about giving over some of the authority. Some of the excitement is in the fact that the students are the ones seeing how the board is being used in all the rooms in which they live. So they are my eyes and ears to cool stuff that's been discovered when time for collaboration is limited.
Take care and thanks for commenting!
-Heather WG

Jennifer Dalgarn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Our school recently tried to obtain a few smart boards for our classroom teachers. Unfortnately the company picked the schools that recieved them and ours was not one of them. The stats on student improvement do not surprise me at all because today's students are really into technology and as Jennifer Bates said in a previous post they love anything that involves technology. Their lives revolve around it with the game systems, computer work they do, and of course the good old TV. Technology grabs their attention and keeps the sooner we can incoporate it in the classroom the more student interaction we can expect.

Jennifer Bates's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


The Mimio sounds really neat. Did you buy it yourself or did your school? How affordable is it and where could I purchase one. I don't think my school will be buying one anytime soon so I would love to get one if I can afford it.

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