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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

Cindy Honeycutt's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great article

Allyssa Andersen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Over and over again, it seems that districts decide that once a new piece of technology comes in that they should take away the old stuff. And, usually without the teacher's consent. When will the time come that districts realize that stopping current practices cold turkey for the new ones is not feasible for most teachers?
I've had my SB for over a year now and I'm now starting to see the benefits of having lessons to repeat. But, I still use my white board for stuff and my overhead projector for different activities (centers or my flyswatter game that I would never use the SB for). It's important to have a variety of tools, not just one--even if it's a really cool one.
I'd ask the district to mount your board in one part of the room and put back your traditional board as well and make it your goal to do one activity on the SB a day and increase it as your comfort level increases. And, even when you are comfortable, still don't give back that old board! Kids need variety.

Stukey's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

You are correct in that it does take alot to find interactive items for the class and it can become overwhelming. One idea I used this year was allowing my students on their own time find some interactive games for my class. Before any unit, I tell the students of the topics we will be covering. For any student who finds me a credible site for that unit that involves interactive games, interactive activities, etc will recieve 5 extra credit points for that unit. I now have sites for the units I will be teaching. The students who find the site are able to share it with the class. I have found some awesome sites this way and I wasn't wasting my valuable time preparing lesson plans searching the internet. Students love getting involved. Also, if you have your overheads or papers you use on lessons, invest in a scanner and just scan them into your smartboard notebook page. You can write on them just as you would an overhead. Don't let yourself get overhwhelmed with it. Trust me your students will love helping you learn all the neat tricks that are available. Don't be afraid of messing it up. The best thing is to just get on the smartboard and begin playing around with it. Truly you cannot hurt it. :)

Rebecca 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

At least you got 5 hours. I only got 1.5

haumb's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

So is iphone like a mobile phone which you could talk?

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unlock iphone 3g

Lara E. Gandara-flynn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Linda...
If you have access to Promethean Planet it will be a LIFESAVER for you! There are tutorials, resource packs, and other teachers' flipcharts you can look through and tweek to your needs. These work with the ActivInspire and ActivStudio software, though, and I don't know if that is what your district has or if there are other resources available for different software. Good luck and hang in there! It is worth the work!

Kate Martin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I too had little training. My lifesaver was having my laptop to do work at home. Start small and add more as you gain more knowledge. The first year I focused primarily on reading (A focus helps calm that overwhelming feeling.) Each Sunday I would spend 2-3 hours making the next week's SB activities for the reading story. Our reading series has pdf's of the transparencies that I captured to Notebook...then added interactivity and spice to those. No...I didn't get paid but it sure makes my lesson planning easier this year. I share these with my teaching partners...they seem to appreciate it. However, the greatest reward was the enthusiasm for learning seen with my students and how much more fun teaching is...made those hours well worth it.

Lee 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm with you , Linda. I've had less - and so am not using to capacity - still haven't figured out how to get sound from computer through smartboard - BUT
Type as you go with students, whenever possible - they see the words appear - it's kind of "magical reading" - also, Sachiko, a 2nd gr teacher at our school has the greatest set up - she put the projector alone on a book shelf, set up the desks in a U and put the elmo/her computer cart beside the Smartboard - now she sees and interacts with student while they "do the work" - It only happened yesterday, so I haven't caught up to her with my Kinder students yet - don't give up! Slow down. :) Lee

Asma Aamer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Well, as an ETAC Ambassador,I feel its very difficult to convince traditional teachers to bring change in their teaching strategeis.It shows more resistance specially when technology and new type of resources are involved in bringing that change.But , I have experienced that use of technology decrease the teacher's burdon and subject related problems.I havnt experienced interactive boards, but i really wished to make use of this tool as a part of my teaching.I know the magical wonders in learning by use of interactive boards.Learning takes place within seconds by using it.It makes thinking a spontanous act for students.

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