George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Technology Combined with Good Teaching Leads to Success

Heather Wolpert-Gawron

ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA
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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."

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Heather Wolpert-Gawron

ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA

Comments (135) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Vin Seunath's picture

Hi Jordan,
SMART Response is fantastic. I can help you with this. Send me an email with contact info or look for free PD resources on

Sonja's picture

I have an interactive whiteboard in my classroom and I agree that teachers need training on how to use it properly. I feel that I need more training to be really comfortable teaching with it. I try to use it as much as I can because I am one of the fortunate teachers in my building with one in my classroom. I know that the students really enjoy using it as well. I am thinking about using the student response clickers in my upcoming unit, but I am a little apprehensive because I haven't used them with a class before.

Ginger H's picture
Ginger H
3rd Grade Math teacher, North Carolina

Today I took my first Smart Board training. I am taking a follow-up class tomorrow. I am very apprehensive about using a Smart Board, and I know I will need additional training. Every classroom in our school is suppose to have Smart Boards installed over the summer. I am going to walk into my classroom in the fall with a new Smart Board and the new Common Core Curriculum. I hope to be able to focus on the content and not the bells and whistles of this new technology. Several of the teachers have had Smart Boards for the past several years, and they say the students love the interactive use of the Smart Board and that how it helps to keep the students engaged in the lessons being taught. I know I can go to these teachers with questions or help as needed. I know once I get use to the Smart Board and the wealth of information available at my finger tips I will love this new technology. Our motto at our school is,"Determined to Succeed" and "Whatever it takes" for the students to be prepared for a global society.Wish me luck:)

Nick's picture
4th grade elementary teacher from Melrose, Minnesota

I am finally receiving an interactive whiteboard this school year. I am very excited because I will not only have access to so many great websites and tools but I also can use the Classroom Response System. The feedback from the CRS's will be instrumental in my day-to-day lesson planning.
I am excited to see this article include research from Marzano. Having trusted sources provide data to prove it does work is reassuring. We all know preparing and struggling through new technology can and will be frustrating at times, but having the reassurance that it will pay off is great.

Jon Moore's picture
Jon Moore
11th and 12th grade English teacher from Shepherd, Montana

Fabulous data to support what some have been doing for a long time. An interactive board with a voting system has streamlined my formative assessment process and helped keep our learner goals directly in front (literally and figuratively) of my students. Now if my school would not have adopted two separate companies hardware things would be perfect!

zep's picture
Education Specialist

The data was of course very deniable. The outcomes would be dependent upon the type of teacher and type of student involved; this is very similar to the "silver bullet" approach of the latest fad, PBL. While it certainly may be extraordinarily beneficial to some, no approach works for all students. Speaking personally, if I'm in a Math class, please don't waste my time with conversation, projects, or a white board, teach me the math I'm there to learn straight up, nothing more than a good old fashioned blackboard and piece of chalk will suit me just fine. The bottome line, all kids are different because all human beings are genetically unique, and even twins have divergent life experiences which shape them, no approach works for all kids. The solution is there is no one solution, different kids need different approaches, including the whiteboard tech, yes, as a "silver bullet", no.

Neal White's picture
Neal White
Grandfather of 2 preschool students, 1 first grade student in Atlanta

I am glad to see some positive posts for using technology. Of course the teachers will need more training, but make no mistake the students of today and future already are using technology more complex than the SmartBoard. They learn to use more technology advanced devices the same way their 77 year old Grandfather learns. By trying. Forget being timid. Dive in and enjoy the experience.

sonny3's picture

Currently I am teaching Pre-K, and am blessed to have a SMART Board in my classroom. It is an amazing tool and is great for keeping students interactive with peers in learning. I do agree thought that their needs to be training and of course we still need to use our teaching strategies to get the most out of the programs, and to instill creative learning. I thank Vin, for resources for SMART tech. I will definately look at them, I love new resources!!!

Ruth Fingerhut's picture

I don't have an interactive white board and I don't have a lot of the current tech benefits. We in urban settings are on the other side of a digital divide in many cases, with our students also not being able to access the most basic tech learning at home, either. We need solutions for our setting, that aren't so high end that we can't afford them or utilize them. Maybe if something was designed for a third world country it would work for us.

Bonnie Yelverton's picture
Bonnie Yelverton
5 years after credentialling still difficulties finding Science job in Southern California's San Bernardino area

Ever since I started hearing about teachers as facilitators, not the great experts, and letting students struggle to build concepts, not feeding it to them, and students working in small groups to learn through PBL or guided inquiry, I've started to wonder if the interactive white board is so necessary anymore. Clickers can only be used with T/F, or M/C, which is "facts" not concepts. I can see teaching students to use the interactive white board so they can use it to demonstrated their own thinking... and of course you need a well-trained teacher for that.

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