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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Technology Combined with Good Teaching Leads to Success

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

Kevin Miller's picture

Yes, districts need to provide more training and time to practice, but at the end of the day, the teacher has to roll up his/her sleeves and figure it out. I hope you all would expect the same of your students? You get an overview, some guided practice, and then you are set free to explore and make meaning on your own. If you care and/or are interested, magic will happen. If you get stuck, your commitment will help find solutions. I'd like to see some research on teachers who refuse or are hesitant to integrate technology into the classroom to see how many other research-based methods are missing...

Alexandra Lotto's picture

I have a Polyvision eno board and think it's the best board I've seen. I've had experience with many types - SMARTBoard being one of them and think this board is by far the best.

Ed's picture
Ed
JAVA

I agree with this article completely. They best way to learn is by using audio/visual equipment. In my school, we have about 10 of these SmartBoards that we are constantly using for learning. They are great tools to use in the classroom and an even better tool to help the students learn more effectively.

JTobias's picture

Teachers need to take initiative in implementing tech resources in classroom, especially those that have greater access & tech support from their school districts. Time is always an issue that everyone is up against but pay off is worth it in terms of student success and motivation. Marzano points out that balance and focus on content is imperative. Marzano's research indicates that teachers with 2 years of tech training/experience and 75% consistent use of interactive whiteboards & voting tech have best results. In today's high tech world it only makes sense to integrate technology across all content areas and to actively use any technology that is available in the classroom.

Judy's picture

I found this article very interesting in that using a Smart Board can increase student achievement. Over the past three years I have used a Smart Board to teach a variety of subjects. I totally agree that it is a balancing act using a Smart Board to deliver a lesson and that it does not equate to being an effective teacher. Effective teachers use a Smart Board to enhance a lesson. I have witnessed the teacher that never had any training and uses the board as part of a grandiose observation lesson in order to impress an administrator who is amazed merely by the use of Smart Board. Which reinforces the need for ongoing professional technology development in conjunction with effective teaching practices.

Judy's picture

I found this article very interesting in that using a Smart Board can increase student achievement. Over the past three years I have used a Smart Board to teach a variety of subjects. I totally agree that it is a balancing act using a Smart Board to deliver a lesson and that it does not equate to being an effective teacher. Effective teachers use a Smart Board to enhance a lesson. I have witnessed the teacher that never had any training and uses the board as part of a grandiose observation lesson in order to impress an administrator who is amazed merely by the use of Smart Board. Which reinforces the need for ongoing professional technology development in conjunction with effective teaching practices.

Johnny Hamilton's picture
Johnny Hamilton
Ed Tech Consultant, SMART Board Trainer, Author of Online CEU Courses

As an ed/tech consultant, I have seen similar gains in student achievement when there has been sufficient training. But now there are more options for teachers to get training that will give them inservice and CEU credit good toward salary advancement and recertification. With online CEU courses, teachers can get the training they need to be successful at their own time, place, and pace (www.2ites.com).

In addition, there are new technology tools that are changing the rules about how training can be delivered- resulting in increased efficiency and effectiveness. A free eBook shows how teachers and administrators can benefit from these new rules at www.2itedsol.com/newrules.pdf.

Johnny

Kristin's picture

I found the most interesting thing stated in this article happened to be summed up in the last line, "if you give magic BBs to teachers who want to hone their craft, great things can happen." I see in a lot of districts, interactive whiteboards are being installed in all classrooms, thinking that if they install them and give a bit of professional development, that student performance will increase. According to Heather Wolpert-Gawron, teachers have to WANT to hone his/her craft. Without the desire, this type of technology is a waste of money. If properly used however, teachers can use these tools to enhance the topics they are teaching and ultimate tailor his/her lessons to best meet the needs of the students.

Jason Hugues's picture

Hi Heather,
I couldn't agree with you more. Technology + Teaching = Uncertainty, but Technology + A well-trained, passionate, creative teacher = Endless Growth and Possibilities. I've always believed that technology is not the ingredient that improves lesson novelty and delivery, it is quality professional development and the desire for successful implementation. This article not only confirms my belief, but stresses the importance of the age-old adage, Practice Makes Perfect.
The article stated that the research showing the correlation between technology-use and student achievement is irrefutable. But achievement, engagement, and involvement really increased when a teacher was properly trained. Without training (and practice of what is learned), technology is useless.
I really agreed with the statement that the focus should be on content and student learning. If a teacher simply thinks that "bells and whistles" will automatically increase student achievement, they couldn't be more incorrect. There needs to be a balance between technology and good teaching, otherwise the distraction of technology will outweigh the benefits.
You can't just give a carpenter a trailer full of tools and expect them to build a house. They must know how the tools are used and in what situations they should be used. The same goes for the teacher who is "building and shaping" a child's life.

Jason Hugues's picture

Hi Heather,
I couldn't agree with you more. Technology + Teaching = Uncertainty, but Technology + A well-trained, passionate, creative teacher = Endless Growth and Possibilities. I've always believed that technology is not the ingredient that improves lesson novelty and delivery, it is quality professional development and the desire for successful implementation. This article not only confirms my belief, but stresses the importance of the age-old adage, Practice Makes Perfect.
The article stated that the research showing the correlation between technology-use and student achievement is irrefutable. But achievement, engagement, and involvement really increased when a teacher was properly trained. Without training (and practice of what is learned), technology is useless.
I really agreed with the statement that the focus should be on content and student learning. If a teacher simply thinks that "bells and whistles" will automatically increase student achievement, they couldn't be more incorrect. There needs to be a balance between technology and good teaching, otherwise the distraction of technology will outweigh the benefits.
You can't just give a carpenter a trailer full of tools and expect them to build a house. They must know how the tools are used and in what situations they should be used. The same goes for the teacher who is "building and shaping" a child's life.

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