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Chalkboards With Brains 231

Posted by Zonk
from the i-hate-chalk dept.
theodp writes "Third graders at Columbia University's elementary school may never know the sound of fingernails scratching on a chalkboard. All across the country, dust-covered chalkboards are being ditched in favor of interactive whiteboards that allow students and teachers to share assignments, surf the web and edit video using their fingers as pens." From the article: "Bang uses the board to display a wide range of learning materials on her computer, from web pages to video clips. It is also used as a lunch-time reward for students: The children watched Black Beauty on the same screen that was used earlier for geography."
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Chalkboards With Brains

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  • I wonder just what the modern equivalent of "Teacher sux!" would be?
    • by One Childish N00b (780549) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @09:57AM (#12788697) Homepage
      Waay ahead of you - at my old college they had an overhead projector in my Media Studies class and my Media teacher had a love for putting everything in PowerPoint slideshows and a very weak password.

      A 10x10ft Goatse on the far wall 30 seconds into the first presentation of monday morning was a sight to behold, as were the reactions of my classmates. Maybe it was my maniacal laughter while the rest of the class was trying not to vomit that gave me away and got me frogmarched down to the principal's office, I don't know...

      Still, I got a week's holid... suspension out of it, so it wasn't too bad.
      • My high school has a couple dozen of these things. They each cost upwards of $2000, and the school never used them, except as regular white boards. There have to be some cool applications for these things, but 99% of teachers do not know how to operate a computer, let alone one of these sophistated projector touchscreens. What a waste.
  • Real value (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PhotoGuy (189467) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @07:55AM (#12788342) Homepage
    These interactive whiteboards are not just "gee whiz" toys, but once you get used to them, are truly powerful.

    For example, editing what you've written, brings a whole new aspect to writing on a board. Being able to "drag" a chunk of what you've written to make room for something you forgot or didn't have room for, is a life saver. Similarly, if you run low on room, you can scale everything you've written down a bit, and continue on without having to break up your work. Very powerful.

    Similarly, being able to flip back and forth between "pages" of stuff that wouldn't fit on one board, or after you've moved on, and want to refer back, is very convenient.

    Getting hard copies of everything on the board, another major value.

    The previous generation with which I'm familiar, took a bit of practice to use, so some folks in our company didn't take to it; but I'm sure the technology (esp the software) has evolved, and kids pick things up more quickly than adults, anyway.
    • Re:Real value (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ebuck (585470) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @08:30AM (#12788443)
      I've left my university years ago but have recently come in contact with a few people who are still in school.

      One was very excited about all of the presentational gadgetry at her community college. Luckily she had some very good professors, but sometimes the gadgetry failed at inopportune times. Othertimes the gadegtry took over the presentation (think of slide shows / powerpoint presentations where you stop listening to the orator because the slides compete).

      A month ago, she started taking classes at my alma mater. She was very happy to find that the professors didn't seem to be harder than those of her community college, but a bit worried that there was almost no special presentational hardware. For those who wonder, the material was primarialy displayed on an array of sliding chalkboards. Interestingly enough, her grasp of the material improved.

      Now there's at least a million reasons why her understanding of the material may have nothing to do with the presentational medium; however, those who took (or were forced to take) a speech class can understand immediately why low tech often makes the best presentation: You don't compete against your material for the audience's attention.

      With a chalkboard, there's not enough time to lay out every detail, so the presentation focuses on big ideas, drilling down into details where necessary, tied together with occasional diagrams. This puts the burdeon of explaining the material on the orator, who is likely well versed in the material. Basically you are getting the information from the expert.

      With presentation mediums of higher fidelity, the medium presents so many details that the orator (if one is even present) a distraction. The downside is that you have to personally discover the pitfalls of what's not spelled out in the medium, and you fail to get feedback on ideas that you might believe plausible, but are poorly founded due to conditions outside of the scope of the studied material.

      At one end of the spectrum you have professors, at the other you have books. I wouldn't want to read a text while someone was talking to me, nor would I want to listen to a professor while I am busy watching a movie / reading a book. High content presentational medium has its place, but without personal feedback, correction mental misperceptions cannot be made as they form which can be equally destructive to understanding. Oddly enough, the same high content presentation competes with the person most likely to be trying to teach us something.
      • Re:Real value (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheGavster (774657) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @08:55AM (#12788529) Homepage
        Requiring the speaker to push the material without leaning heavily on a Powerpoint presentation or similar also prevents one of the things I've been most frustrated with since starting at my current institution, the tendancy for a class traditionally presented in a large lecture to be broken into many small sections taught by professors not necessarily familiar with the material in order to 'reduce class size'. It's frustrating to have a professor who you know is really good at what they do trying to present someone else's Powerpoint slides on a completely different topic.
      • Re:Real value (Score:2, Informative)

        by danheretic (689990)

        One was very excited about all of the presentational gadgetry at her community college. Luckily she had some very good professors, but sometimes the gadgetry failed at inopportune times.

        I realize you're speaking more generally here, but as to the interactive whiteboards (at least the kind we use in the College where I'm an IT guy), if they do suffer "gadgetry failure", they're also fully functional as regular whiteboards. In fact, some lectureres use them only as such. It's just nice to have the choice.

    • Re:Real value (Score:3, Informative)

      by aslate (675607)
      These interactive whiteboards are not just "gee whiz" toys, but once you get used to them, are truly powerful.

      Our school got a grant of £30,000 to be spent on interactive whiteboards, at £3,000 each. Only 3 teachers ever use them, one uses it simply as a projector, one switches back to using it as a normal whiteboard frequently as it's easier and the other has lots of problems. He erases something, it pops back up when he starts writing again, undo then undoes the last minute of text and then
      • The problem here is that most teachers (most people for that matter) find it hard to rethink their jobs based on new technology. Computers are everywhere these days, but most people past a certain age -- those too old to have grown up with the technology -- are thoroughly intimidated by them. If they use them at all, they only use a few features they've timidly learned. Ever notice how many word processor users can't tell you what most of those buttons and menus actually do?

        About ten years ago there was a

        • So the big problem at your school would seem to be that the teachers "own" the new smart whiteboards. To them, education is just students sitting passively while the teachers lecture. If they went to a more participatory model -- which is a good idea, even without the technology -- the story would be rather different.

          No, it isn't. We're not lectured at but taught interactively actually. The problem is the teachers don't know how to use them, and those that have find that they're more of a hinderance. They
    • They had these at my old school. Of the 8 or so teachers who taught me, there was only one who used the things to anything like their full potential.

      Most teachers, like most normal people, are fairly clueless about computers. I am really not sure that foisting techie stuff upon them is the best approach to improving education.
    • Nah, they're toys. Teachers spent about 2 weeks mucking around with new features when my school got one for every classroom (seriously) then just used them as whiteboards.

      They only have use for younger years teaching (Interactive is good for younger years), it classes, and running videos on. It's nice to centralise everything to one point, but they're touted as the greatest thing to happen to the classroom.

      I would have preferred the textbooks it took half a year to get my maths class to a smartboard.
      • G'ha.

        Your school--EVERY school--should stop buying and selling textbooks. They should be buying and distributing texts, either billed individually or as part of tuitition, and letting students print the books if they have a need.

        Especially if the school requires every student to have a wireless laptop. Textbooks are expensive, drain money from the school, and aren't even all that good for what they do. (How many times has your teacher said "read Chapter 5, 2, 21, and 17, in order" or something similar?
        • I'm all in favour of giving all the kids laptops, but they'd get stolen.

          How do you propose distributing texts to 1,500 children from the ages of 12 to 16, given that not all of them have internet access?
          • I'm all in favour of giving all the kids laptops, but they'd get stolen.

            Just like textbooks do?

            The replacement cost of a student's yearly school library is well over $200 in any given year. There are any number of ways to get sub-$200 electronics into student's hands, especially when you factor in the inevitable discounts for volume and educational use. You could probably even get it below $150, which leaves a healthy 1/4 of the original cost for the texts--which is more than fair, given the continuall
            • Umm... textbooks have little resale value, and where have you got that $200 figure from? A lot of textbooks are reused year to year.

              Plus even sub-$150 electronics aren't going to hang around for long. They will be damaged or sold just because they're expensive and belong to the school.
  • Detention (Score:5, Funny)

    by FidelCatsro (861135) <fidelcatsro@gma i l .com> on Saturday June 11, 2005 @07:55AM (#12788343) Journal
    It would make detention fun , you could write your 100 lines on the blackboard with a simple script then surf the net till the teacher returns
  • shudder (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ... the sound of fingernails scratching on a chalkboard.

    Ewwww!
    Don't do that! You might as well have included hello.jpg in the story!

    Now, think of your breathing.
  • "Bang uses the board to display a wide range of learning materials on her computer, from web pages to video clips. It is also used as a lunch-time reward for students: The children watched Black Beauty on the same screen that was used earlier for geography."

    nothing like an unauthorised public performance to get the MPAA on your ass... perhaps they should have checked the little license that is shown when playing the dvd... the one which defines what constitutes home use...

  • This is a rather interesting concept. I'm at university now and the professors have a bunch of seperate equipment in the lecture halls. There's usually an overhead (with horrible refresh rates I might add) connected to the projector. You can also connect your laptop to the projector. Of course you need the screen to be down for this, which always covers the black or white boards. Some of the larger lecture halls have side black or white boards which makes it a bit easier to work out problems on the side whi
  • No more getting caught putting pieces of chalk into the slits of the erasers. Bummer. The oldest trick in the book is now gone.

    Of course on the brighter side you do open up the opprortunity to hack the whiteboard and insert funny images onto the screen on the most opportune time. And then there's accidently surfing to whitehouse.com by the teacher.
    • Umm...
      Fast People Search
      Whitehouse.com is the fastest way to search through public records. Please check back soon to get connected to professional instant nationwide public records. With these powerful tools you can search for anyone in the United States. Find out criminal records and more.

      Millions in the Public Record database.
      Find out anything about anyone.
      The guy running it didn't want his kids to be made fun of, so he sold it off.
  • "The children watched Black Beauty on the same screen that was used earlier for geography."

    And that is supposed to be reward ? Poor Kids.
  • I really, really like the old-school really black black-boards. When I was visiting princeton I really liked how the entire physics department is full of old blackboards in every office and on all corridors together with *do no clean* notes to inform cleaners not to clean a really cool equation you discussed with your colleague on the corridor.

    I know is kind of wanky, but nothing can replace the coolness of real blackboards. I really hate that mu department has just these new white boards and that my offic
    • This is essentially a large tablet PC. I wonder how much it costs. The manufacturers pages I checked did not include prize lists.

      This might work for a small classroom. The pictures indicate however that these boards are too small to be useful in a larger class. I doubt one can read the small written text. The boards can not be made much larger because kids have write on them. This limits the distance to the screen.

      I think there are cheaper alternatives: the projector attached to a computer can be u
    • I HATE them. Chalk on board is almost as bad as nails on board, to me, anyway.

      Whiteboards are much better. And, chalk in the eraser is even worse - could really screw it up ;-)
  • Chalkboards and whiteboards are just tools - this is sort of a computer touch screen which is big enough. The concept remains the same - write something down in big enough letters for everyone to read. Now the extra advantages of this is that you could just bring your chalkboard stuff saved and written from last year if you're a teacher. Which is a good thing if you're teaching Geography with lots of maps - but suppose you're learning algebra , this could be a bad thing . Procedure gets replaced with result
  • Not new :) (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MattWhitworth (858990)
    We've had interactive whiteboards for several years in our school (in England), and it's not desperately new technology, although a special pen/stylus has to be used where we come from. I think it's fully justifiable spending that kind of money on new whiteboards because there's a wealth of information out of the Internet, and you would spend an unimaginable amount of money buying textbooks containing just some of the information. Of course, whiteboards aren't a replacement for the teacher, but I'm betting
  • have been very popular in Britain recently... They really don't perform very well on their own, because all they are are projectors with touch sensitive screens. It doesn't change the way teaching is carried out because the teacher is still turned away from the class to work on the board. (In fact, he/she has her back to the class for more time because more time is spent using the whiteboard)

    A system which does work and has *gasp* -- found a use for tablet PCs -- is where the teacher has the TabletPC and wa

  • I thnk a real pity about this is that it seems to require the room to be so dark. can anyone think of a solution for this?

    As someone who suffers fom poor eyesight, I hate to see people abuse their vision like this.
    • Great point!

      I also wondered who the hell decided that the kids should be sitting in a dark room all day long. Money speaks I suppose. Who cares whether it hurts their eyesight and probably even their health (sunlight is good, remember?).
      • Plus, gods know it depresses the hell out of me when I spend all day in a dark, windowless office, and walk out to go home and realize that I just missed a gorgeous day...

        All the more incentive for me to join the idle rich!
    • They work fine in normal light if you buy a half-way decent projector. Direct sunlight on the screen is a problem, but it is with a black- or white-board as well.
  • old (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zlyoga (834337)
    This is kinda old news. My school's been using these to teach geometry for a number of years. They're pretty neat. If you bump into them though it messes up the ability to write on it and it's a pain in the behind to recaliber.
  • Purpose? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NilObject (522433) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @08:45AM (#12788490) Homepage
    So why should cash-strapped schools spend thousands (millions?) of dollars on yet another piece of only semi-useful technology instead of attracting more and better teachers, repairing or replacing crumbling buildings, or funding music and art education programs?

    Mod me a troll or whatever - maybe I'm just bitter and cynical because schools flipped out over computers and the promise that because kids were now doing math facts on Asteroids they'd be doing university-level numerical analysis before they got their drivers license. For what? Nothing. Schools invested millions and now are trapped in contracts with Microsoft for millions so kids don't have to pick up a pen and pull out a sheet of paper.

    Kids don't learn better when you put something on a screen that someone sold the school with inflated promises in order to make their monthly sales commission. They (we!) learn better when we have good teachers with adequate supplies of basic essentials like books and teaching materials and we have an open mind.

    America (the rest of the world too?) has got to stop this culture of worshipping the kids and bending to their will because something is "hard" or "boring". Kids whine about something and the country spends millions to accommodate them. Math is hard? Good, tough up kid because the rest of the world is tough and isn't going to bend to your will. Stop buying thousand dollar machines to add flashy videos of cartoon characters doing the bumb and grind to the multiplication table.

    I whined about math being hard and used the crutch of calculators until I did A.P. Calculus AB/BC without a calculator. The best thing that ever happened to me. Then I realized the importance of getting to the details and nitty little things of a subject like math. When you can push yourself through difficult things, you build your ability to do tough things in the future. It sounds strange, but because I labored through calculus without a calculator, I'm a better computer science major. See? Character building!

    Recalling the best classes/teachers I've ever had in my 15 years of public school and college now, the one's I've walked away with the most from have been the ones where we stuck to the basics: calculus without calculators, marching band without PDAs strapped to our heads, literature without ebooks, science without lame and detached "learning" computer programs, etc etc etc.

    Don't get me wrong, I love technology. I'm a computer science major and I still have lofty ambitions of improving the world through computer science. But a computer is a tool to learn information. It shouldn't be the information.

    A $2,000 blender does not a better chef make. A $2,000 computer does not a better educated kid make.

    (This was a rant that spiraled out of control quickly. I blame the caffeine...)
    • Re:Purpose? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop (214511)
      You would be suprised how many parents would just kill to get these things in their schools. Totally irrational, "gotta have a 2006 Excursion for Johhny's soccer practice" kind if irrational. It's all about status.

      I live in a town with 4 elementary schools. The fourth was just built about 3-4 years ago. The other three are from the 50's-early 70s. Parents who don't deal with teachers on a regular basis are flocking into the new district. The "new" school already has trailer out back because its overcrowde
    • Re:Purpose? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by po8 (187055)

      You should be suspicious of this rationale, since it is ridiculous if carried to the extreme. Books and chalkboards, after all, are only "technological crutches" for learning, as are heated and air-conditioned classrooms with artificial light.

      The bottom line is that something like 80% of the expenses at a typical American high school or college are salaries. If you can spend $2000 on anything that makes a classroom teacher being paid $30000/year even slightly more productive, you've probably won. After a

    • Re:Purpose? (Score:3, Informative)

      by advocate_one (662832)

      "So why should cash-strapped schools spend thousands (millions?) of dollars on yet another piece of only semi-useful technology instead of attracting more and better teachers, repairing or replacing crumbling buildings, or funding music and art education programs?"

      different funding sources with specific rules as to what each can be spent on... ie. you can't take funds for IT and use them to pay better wages to attract better teachers or to improve the building fabric... the money for those whiteboards ma

    • How does a calculator help *anyone* at calculus?

      I didn't get really good at swimming until I learned to do it without bread!!
    • One of the least privileged school districts in my county purchased a set of Smart Boards for their math department. Aside from just buying them, however, they committed to learning/creating best practices for using their equipment. The results were

      1) The equipment streamlined the process of teaching, leaving teachers more time to work with students during the period
      2) The technology gave kids more opportunity to interact with the material
      3) During planned absenses, teachers were able to record lectures an
    • "They (we!) learn better when we have good teachers with adequate supplies of basic essentials like books and teaching materials and we have an open mind."

      Actually, I suspect it has a lot more to do with how much the parents value education. Motivated students can learn a lot from crappy teachers (I've had more than a few).

      In any case, the largest operating expense for a school is salaries. And a whiteboard isn't going to come from the salary side of funding. Grants in many cases.

      Better tools CAN make be
  • I work for an educational institution and we just happen to have several of those SMART technologies boards. I've seen them in action and maintained them and it seems like it just degenerates into another tool that teachers can use to lecture, except now they can use Powerpoint in class.

    The students, on the other hand, rarely seem to get any value out of it unless the teacher doing the teaching is really goood, which brings us back to the core principle: Good teachers can convey knowledge with very few whi
    • "Good teachers can convey knowledge with very few whiz bang doohickies."

      Yes they can. But if you give the students a choice between a chalkboard and powerpoint, they prefer powerpoint. Even if they don't do any better. Rather amusing.

      In the end, if you can get it, and the teachers want it, why not? The good teachers can do amazing things with the tech.
  • Ive seen and used these a fair bit. Often its best use is browsing website, theres some great material out there for education and the electronic whiteboard can really help. Great if you want to show a demo of some software, better than getting a class to huddle round a computer. Great for media related subjects, I've seen some very powerful videos on a whiteboard. For the most part a projector would do just fine. But on a couple of times I've made use of the interactive nature. The best fun has been a 3D
  • by l3v1 (787564) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @09:21AM (#12788587)
    ...which makes a good teacher, it's the teacher's abilities. I've met very many bad teachers and lecturers in the past. The bad ones couldn't do good teaching no matter what technology you give them. The good ones would be good with or without those tools.

    As others also said, kids [as we are talking about elementary schools here] can be very well taught without unnecesarry tech equipment. Why I say unnecessary ? Because if not used well [you know, tech for tech's sake] they can turn out to be more a distraction than a helping tool.

    Also, making kids familiar with technology at an early age _can_ be good. But not when these are the _only_ tools they meet. I hope they can find the best balance somewhere in between.

  • We have boards like these at college and they work very well. They do pretty much what they say they do, you can write something, start again with a completely blank board, recall whatever you wrote to start with, call up a picture, graph or other data and annotate it but we are hit with the disasterous probelm that the teachers, despite using them on a reegular basis still find them difficult to use and I often end up board as my teacher tries to remember where he saved the video clip used to illustrate st
  • by Linker3000 (626634) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @10:04AM (#12788712) Journal
    Does a complete installation have any form of UPS for the board and management software? At least with regular whiteboards or chalk boards you could carry on working if the power failed or there was a glitch/spike.
  • "All across the country", they say. Sounds like somebody's been snorting a little too much chalk dust.

    Here in Portland, OR, they're trying to figure out how to replace the 3-year, 1.5% income tax that expires next year. When you're firing teachers and cutting classroom hours, you probably don't spend much time evalutating interactive keyboards.

  • Educational Value (Score:2, Informative)

    by sirgallihad (846850)
    At my school, the whole place is getting smart boards as part of a 3 year plan. What my school is doing that is diffrent is that before giving teachers a 3000$ touchscreen and saying "Use it, because it will make us really good on paper" , teacher are reciving lessons on how to operate the boards, and how to integrate technology with teaching. This also applies to our new laptop program, which is following a similar plan for application. This goes to show that not all educators, as you claim, are just gi
  • The children watched Black Beauty

    And you call that a reward? :P

    Hmmm this gives me an idea.

    "SILENCE!!! Or I'll show you the [censored] on the screen!"

    (Kids shut up and gasp in horror)
    (Professor calms down, clears his throat and beginst to talk) "As I was saying..."
  • It will increase the effectiveness of the teacher by, MAYBE, 2% and increase the cost of equipping the classrooms by... um... $5000 per classroom? A quarter of a million bucks?

    For gear which will probably become obsolete in five years?

    At a time when schools are having problems buying textbooks?

    And teachers are being laid off?

    Better they should fix the boilers. And rehire some teachers.
    • "It will increase the effectiveness of the teacher by, MAYBE, 2% and increase the cost of equipping the classrooms by... um... $5000 per classroom? A quarter of a million bucks?"

      Well, even if we assume your random (made up) values, that works out to about $200 per student (assuming 25 students per class) or $40 a year (if they become obsolete in 5 years. I suspect if you could raise test scores by a few percent for that amount of money a heck of a lot of districts would be willing to spend it....

      "At a tim
  • What will the kids throw instead of chalkboard erasers? Batteries?

    In this case change is bad.
  • by hotspotbloc (767418) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @11:12AM (#12788973) Homepage Journal
    Three problems:

    Durability: All it takes is one pissed off kid stabbing it with a pencil to kill it. What about scratches? Assuming (hopefully) there is a clear screen protector most schools will wait until one can barely see through it before replacing. The screen protector would most likely cost a few hundred dollars and would need to be replaced once a year. Also repairing a big screen monitor like this is difficult and would require two people to pull it off the wall, deliver it to wherever it will be repaired and reinstall. Atleast three hours per person.

    Obsolesce: Every few years these things get better and cheaper. $20k today is $10 in three years with a better picture and more features. In five to eight years these monitors will either sit in a pile like PII computers today or hang on the wall dead.

    TCO: Between the initial cost, screen protectors and a short lifespan compared to a standard whiteboard these things IMO are way too pricey for the average secondary school.

    Why not go with a LCD/DLP projector and a Mitsubishi DiamondTouch input device? A DiamondTouch "tablet" handles multiple, simultaneous input (two people can write on it at the same time), is incredibly durable and requires much less maintenance than a backlit screen. One could last for 10+ years handling input while the projector is updated every few years. IMO the TCO would be much lower than a huge touchscreen. As for durability it can be easily washed and very cheaply recovered. Since the sensors are on the sides and not behind the writing area it's rather immune from the "pencil penetration" scenario. Also Mitsubishi has been really good about driver support for GNU/Linux (along with MS Windows and Mac of course).

    Will a backlit screen is nicer, a top lit projector and the above tablet IMO is a more realistic solution.

    DiamondTouch Hardware [merl.com]
    DiamondTouch Applications [merl.com]

  • I teach algebra in Orange County, CA, and have been using one of these for most of the last school year. My school has probably 85% of the classrooms equipped with these, with the remaining 15% due to get them early next year. I use a Smart Board [smarttech.com] with a 12" PowerBook and an Epson LCD projector*. It is front projection, which can be a pain (especially when my clueless 7th and 8th graders look directly into the beam), but I do enjoy using it. With the Smart Board and a PowerPoint** presentation, I can co
  • It is also used as a lunch-time reward for students: The children watched Black Beauty on the same screen that was used earlier for geography.

    I'm not sure where the "reward" is in this... Except maybe in the apperciation of irony in that the geography lesson may have actually been more entertaining and had better cinematography?
  • We had 30 of these! (Score:3, Informative)

    by sigemund (122744) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @12:48PM (#12789327)
    When I graduated college, I went back to work as a sysadmin at my old high school. When I got there, they had just completed their first year with four smartboards as a trial. The year I arrived, we opened up a new building with 13 new SmartBoard Systems. There are several different companies that do this stuff, but the SmartBoard is kind of the leader in the industry -- http://www.smarttech.com/ [smarttech.com]

    The total setup runs around $15 grand, plus or minus depending on what you do with it. The projector is the most expensive part, at around $5-6000 for a really nice one. The board itself runs around $2000, for the basic model. To make it easier to start up, we had a touchpanel on the wall with various functions on it - turn on projector, show computer, show video, show laptop, blank screen, increase volume, etc. That really helped make the whole setup a lot easier to use for people.

    Since we had them for so long, we had a pretty good understanding of what works and what doesn't.
    The neatest thing about the SmartBoard is that you can kind of make it what you want. If you want it to just be a whiteboard, it can do that. If you want it to be a glorified powerpoint viewer, you can do that. If you want to really get into it, you can start to do all sorts of cool interactive applications with it. Smart Technology's software has improved markedly in the past few years, and the new version allows you to embed all sorts of multimedia objects, and best of all -- Flash! There is a TON of potential with the new capabilities.

    Because it is so versatile, it integrates very easily and very smoothly into existing classrooms. Teachers typically find it very easy to use, provided you have done a good job with setup. Maintenance can get to be time consuming -- teachers rely on these things every single minute of the day, and they have to be working all the time. But there are like two-dozen points of failure. Then there's the projector -- the bulbs cost about $500 each, and last about 1400 hours. Maintaining the SmartBoard setups consumed probably about 20% of my time overall when I worked there.

    Through my four years there (I just quit in May to go to grad school at CMU), we eventually ramped up to just over 30 of them. Every teacher wants one, and most teachers used them pretty well. Is it $15,000 well? Probably not, but the students really like them, and a dedicated teacher can REALLY do a lot with them.

    I taught for two years, in both a SmartBoard classroom and a non SmartBoard classroom. I taught programming, and having the ability to show the programs on the board and edit code on the board was just fantastic. At one point, I did get moved to a classroom without a SmartBoard and with just a regular old chalkboard. Personally, I preferred using the chalkboard, but really just because: a) if you want to use the smartboard well, you should be prepared for class -- I was never prepared, b) I write a bit too fast and too sloppy for the SmartBoard to pick it up well, c) I like having a LOT of space on which to write, d) playing with chalk is fun. If I had more time to put into the class I was teaching, I would've really gotten a lot more out of the SmartBoard capability when I had it.

    A lot of schools are faced with increasing pressure to bring computers and "technology" into the classroom. The primary thrust has been laptop programs. Personally, I think the laptop has very little place in a HS classroom. Our neighboring school did the laptop program, and they had some up and more down with it. The laptop creates a barrier inbetween the teacher and the student. In theory, it creates a more self-driven learning approach. But in High School, 99% of students are not self-driving their learning, they are playing games or on AIM most of the time. And the support costs for a laptop program are astronomical. In contrast, the SmartBoard is a teacher-driven approach that restores the focus back to the front of the classroom and the ma
  • I'm an actual teacher [mrquinnsclass.com] at an actual school, and after getting caught using powerpoint in class, the region bought me a smartboard. I've been using it for about three months, and the following sums up what i've found.
    • it's cool, but a bit touchy for classrooms -- there's a lot of activity, and if something gets bumped, i have to recalibrate, which takes away from the rhythm of the class. this is fixable, but at a public school, simple fixes (bolting things down, mounting them) are that difficult last mile
  • Third graders at Columbia University's elementary school

    Columbia University has an elementary school?
  • I invented these in 1988, while drinking a bottle of Mouton-Rothschild with my dad.

  • Meanwhile, at City College of San Francisco, the teachers are fed up using "dumb" whiteboards that require endless numbers of dried-up ink markers, refuse to be wiped clean, or end up with permanent marks which interfere with their code presentations by introducing "fake terminators"!
  • This is more of the same crap that companies have been dishing out since TV was invented. Back then, TV was the miracle classroom device, letting one teacher give lessons to hundreds of kids without actually being there. That didn't work, and this won't have any real benefits for kids either.

    Read The Flickering Mind [amazon.com] by Todd Oppenheimer for a detailed analysis of the problem of technology in the classroom, especially in K-8 classrooms.

    From the article:
    "If a kid wants to research boats they can do a Powe

    • "Kids don't need to be spending their time learning fucking powerpoint or word."

      That reminds me of the first time I saw advertising for Powerpoint in the 90s. I had no idea what possible advantage it could have over a whiteboard or large pad of paper, except maybe a more permanent capacity for saving things. Then I saw an actual presentation, full of flying arrows for bullet points, and cartoonish characters scratching their heads in puzzlement, and I realized its true value: It's for making your ideas ent
  • by Legion303 (97901)
    This will last right up until an enterprising young person figures out how to background goatse with the caption "---- Teacher".

"You don't go out and kick a mad dog. If you have a mad dog with rabies, you take a gun and shoot him." -- Pat Robertson, TV Evangelist, about Muammar Kadhafy

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