When we were growing up – and I’m talking about the youngest of us here – a computer lab was a serious deal. Being able to access the Internet meant huge things for teachers and even more, albeit more immature, possibilities for us kids throughout the otherwise mundane school day. Then when Smart Boards made it into our lives we really felt we had arrived face-first into some kind of future world classroom, even if it meant it was harder for us to pretend like we were paying attention.
But these days we have Smart Boards that fit in our pockets. We call them smart phones (see a pattern here?) and a growing number of our children have these on-the-go means to access the World Wide Web. Leading a classroom with a centralized means of communicating interactive information to students is becoming more and more difficult when educators must compete with individualized content providers. Combined with the increase in the number of children in the United States and elsewhere with personal laptop computers, the advantage, or rather the particular ingenuity of the Smart Board is a fading picture.
The goal of such technology has never been needed more, and it’s the integration of these competing means to inform students, whether in grade school or beyond, that will allow gadget-loving educators to achieve breakthroughs in education while maintaining the equally beneficial personal access to information that the latest generation is capable of using. I can’t say we’ll ever solve the problem of juvenile distraction in the classroom, but we should take important steps towards ensuring that the generation that’s going to be using personal gadgets like none before it embraces classroom technology that may seem as archaic to them as chalkboards do to us.
Dell and other major computer manufacturers are busy developing ways to allow educators to in a sense “hack” into the iPhones, iPads, and laptops that are taking over the classroom underworld. The ability to allow classroom information to be displayed directly onto the personal devices of students has been a dream of educators for years. Not so much out of joy over raining on the parades of their distracted students, but because teachers know there’s something about the comforting nature of a familiar device that helps their students consume knowledge more readily and more willingly. Corralling the classroom to move them to the lab breaks student concentration. Patrolling the rows to catch violators wastes precious time. Having to transfer saved work to home and back again can result in many a student forgetting to. Sharing your Smart Board content onto their personal computer not only cuts out the competition, it makes all these other problematic processes unnecessary. A student can feasibly be presenting her computer project from her laptop at her desk, through the Smart Board.
Smart Boards are still an extraordinarily vital asset to any classroom that says it operates in the 21st century. We can proactively protect their effect on student understanding by allowing our students to interact with them with their own devices. Mixing Smart Boards and smart phones is a nifty negotiation sure to make some smart students.