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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

Emily's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

To all the teachers & tech instructors who have contributed answers toward the cries of help from teachers:THANK YOU! Finding all these WONDERFUL instructions & anecdotal experiences is a GodSend for me! I have been so discouraged with my smartboard that I have totally stopped using it.
The brief intro to SB was inadequate; & was just that: a DEMO. We had NO time to get familiar with the SB; yet were expected to achieve mastery upon it in a nanosecond!

The "one-upmanship" & pride of those with more proficiency causes them to disdain (or perhaps be incapable of) explanations as to how they got to a comfortable stage of use with this teaching instrument. As teachers, our central core should be knowing how minds acquire knowledge; & the levels of learning needed to take a skill from zero to mastery. Rather than admiring those who are "hot-shots" on the SB, I marvel that they do not have the capacity to EXPLAIN the elements of the programs to those in the learning process.

The CARE with which I take my students through intro-to-mastery skill in ANYthing I teach contrasts sharply to monosyllabic replies from adults whose help I seek in SB advancement.

At my lowest ebb I found your comforting, realistic, empathetic, useful comments to the Edutopia article in my email! It is WONDERFUL to know I am not alone in the "quicksand"! It is WONDERFUL to find ANSWERS KINDLY OFFERED, intelligent solutions presented, hope rekindled, & practical advice in abundance! I AM SO GRATEFUL TO EACH TEACHER & TECH REP WHO IS RESPONSIBLE for THESE FANTASTIC REPLIES! You are stellar colleagues! GRATEFULLY! Emily

Amber's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

When I was in the classroom, observing this semester, I saw that the teacher was not using her SMART Board for anything but a chalkboard. Even that was amazing for the students. But then I found a SITE called with Software for all interactive whiteboards. I got a free download from the site and played with it on my own computer for hours! It was fun and easy!

check it out!

This site was great! Not only did they have the software that works on the boards, but they have posters that match the software for the teachers to hang in the class and also a book of small posters for the students! I can't wait until I start teaching so I can buy my own software and posters for my classroom.

Hydrolyze's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Just wanted to say hello all. This is my first post.

I came to learn some good stuff here.

saintdrone's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


I tried to add image but I don't know how to do this
Can anyone be kind to tell me how?

thanks a lot

Kyle Simon's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The classroom voting thing I get. Marzano loves assessment and data about student learning, but what does that have to do with an interactive white board?

That can be done with a projector and a screen that isn't interactive.


Jennifer-Tool's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

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Jeannine Lowe's picture
Jeannine Lowe
High School Business Technology Teacher

We live in an era where students are using the computer before pre-school. Our students are technologically savvy and they want to be actively involved with technology and their learning. The current trend is to use Interactive White Boards and teachers need to be trained to effectively incorporate this technology into their lessons. How many teachers will use this technology if they do not recieve the proper training? Is a one day workshop enough to provide them with the tools and knowledge to intergrate this technology into their lessons and have them feel comfortable using it? I think many teachers that have this technology in their classroom and are not technology savvy themselves will refrain from its implementation because lack of training. Where does that leave our students?

Jeannine Lowe's picture
Jeannine Lowe
High School Business Technology Teacher

If we truly want to engage our students and give them the tools to succeed in our society, we have to change the way we teach them. Before we can meet our students needs, we have to look at ourselves and change the way we teach. Teachers today can not teach as they did twenty years ago, but must embrace technology and fully integrate it into the classroom. Just because some teachers are not comfortable learning and using technology is no reason why our students should fall behind those that have teachers that embrace it. School systems should provide more than a one day training to help teachers feel comfortable implementing new tecnology into their classrooms. In addition, implementing technology is not enough to serve our students but we must create opportunities to allow students to learn things in new ways using technology so they can take ownership over their learning. Students must make connections to their learning in order for it to become meaningful to them.

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