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Do SMART boards make for smart students?

At Naperville Central High School located in the western suburbs of Chicago, interactive whiteboards — not chalkboards — are the centerpiece of many classrooms. The boards, which are known as SMART boards (named after the product’s leading manufacturer), are digital projections connected to a computer; marks made on the projections are visible on the board and saved in a computer file.

Need to Know was recently in Naperville, Ill., reporting on an upcoming story on some innovative practices as this large public high school and saw this technology in action.

In addition to the interactive whiteboards, the math department also uses instant response systems in classes to engage students.

But does all this technology actually help kids learn or does it just amount to a novelty?

Teachers at Naperville Central are among the believers. “My lesson plans before SMART boards didn’t change all that much from year to year,” says math teacher David Sladkey. “But now I have the power to change anything in there and move things around and insert, and that to me is exciting as a teacher.”

Scott Miller, the instructional coordinator for math at NCHS, was instrumental in getting the new technology into classrooms. “I now have, at my fingertips, a lot more opportunities for students to interact with something.”

The boards, which were originally developed for business applications, are a growing trend in education. According to FutureSource Consulting, which tracks the interactive whiteboard industry, “over the last 10 years interactive whiteboards have become the dominant classroom display solution, and in 2009 became a $1 billion industry.”

SMART Technologies, the maker of the SMART board, says its whiteboards are used in more than 1.5 million K-12 classrooms and by more than 30 million students globally. And they point to research that shows interactive whiteboards benefiting “student engagement, learner motivation and knowledge retention.”

But these bells and whistles don’t necessarily come cheap. SMART boards range in price from $700 (without the projector and computer) to more than $4,000 (still without the computer). The instant response system can run almost $2,000 for a set of 32 remotes and a receiver.

And while academic research on the utility of interactive whiteboards has generally been supportive – showing a preference by both teachers and students for the technology – there are some limitations, not least of which is the expense. Researchers have cited limitations as varied as lack of teacher training, sun glare and rapidly changing technology.


  • Donna

    Mr. Jump (Benilde-St.Margaret’s School, St. Louis Park, MN) has been using a SMART Board for several years to teach cutting edge engineering and robotics classes to 10th – 12th graders. The 200+ students he reaches each year are definitely helped through a) his gifting and b) the technology he’s using in the classroom.

  • Dejenie

    Not all people gaze to the sky and see what is out there out of curiosity. Learning new things comes in most cases out of curiosity ( not only by necessity ) and appreciation to the things that are out there. These machines/products therefore are to help and inhance teaching as stimuli agents–agents that are able stir curiosity out of students instantly so that they pose, wonder and be forced to decide to work the job needed to know the matter.

  • Kdurb

    By the end of the school year, our district will have a Smart board in every classroom. They will provide an opportunity for interactive lessons and a means to engage students. This technology and the speed with which it changes is something our students have lived with all their lives – schools may as well embrace it and use it to enhance what they do. Two important tips for schools hoping to implement this technology… 1) training. This is not something a teacher will be able to pick up in a few days – I will probably spend my summer learning to use my new Smart board effectively; 2) allow teachers to be part of the process when it comes to putting this technology in place. Our district didn’t consult with teachers before putting in “drops” for computers, projectors, and Smart boards… so our “drops” are in somewhat inefficient locations in many of our classrooms. The tech department put them in places that were convenient for them, but not for teachers.

  • Mrs_aguirre

    Look into using the Wiimote technology. It uses a Wii remote and an infrared pen with some software. About $100/person and the same smartboard usability

  • Katrinkurtjack

    I have used a Smart board in my foreign language classes and it is amazing how you can have examples of foreign culture; TV programs, newspaper headlines etc at your fingertips and accessible for students. You really don’t need textbooks anymore because authentic materials are so easy to incorporate into the lesson plans through the internet and Smart board technology.

  • Albert Bartlett

    I can e-mail a copy of an editorial I wrote a couple of years ago pointing out the serious shortcomings of conventional, non-computerized whiteboards when they are compared to conventional chalkboards.

  • Peanutmj

    I am a Maryland middle school teacher who has taught math both with and without a Smartboard. I also teach Social Studies, without the technology (this department doesn’t get the money or support because it isn’t “highly tested”). I was one of the first classrooms in my county to have an interactive whiteboard but when I moved to social studies and a different room, I lost my board. Now they have me move to a different room for my one math class specifically because of the whiteboard. One of the biggest drawbacks I see with our particular technology is that only one person can use the board at a time. Also, the time it takes to create activities and plans for the board is much greater than most teachers have. We share as much as possible but it is still time consuming. I do wish I had it for Social Studies however, because of the advantages mentioned above by Katrinkurtjack and others. If I had to choose however, between time to actually spend with my math students one-on-one- actual classroom time, and the technology of the Smartboard, I’d choose the time any day of the week.

  • francony

    hello, i’m a french physics teacher. I’ve built my own iwb and i use a Wii with an ir led. It’s ok.
    I let you see my work. Only using Moz Firefox for editing and save the sheets, eventually Chrome for printing on any plateform Mac, PC, Linux which accept Moz Firefox.
    What is different with my board is that i can save my lesson at the end of the course, so i can go on next day, opening the sheet where i left it (and my pupils can do so at home because my sheets are html files). And that is really new ! Included flash, videos, text … with handscripting.
    As an answer, i can say that i am so interested in my work that students like my dynamism and courses are going well.

  • francony

    i forgot my adress to let you see my work:
    i wish you a happy new year

  • Isaac M

    I used to teach at Brooklyn Technical High School and hated it when my class got an Interactive board . But I designed my lectures once and re-used them for years, was able to really make my session more interactive with this visual aid, and I’d highly recommend it to all educators!
    On a lighter note, It was amazing to see that after taking a punch from a kid and a big hole as result, the panaboard in my class still functioned just as well!

  • Elizabeth Ann Black

    Did you mean you created one similar or better than interactive smart board? If you did is it possible to replicate so that I can custom make my own? Please send me information.


    Elizabeth Ann