SMART tweets

12/18/2007 11:48:00 am

We've just completed a unit of study in my grade 12 Pre-Cal 40S class. I call the kind of lesson we had today a "workshop." I prepare a series of problems as slides for the SMARTboard. The class is divided into groups of 3 or 4 students each. (Actually, this class is very big. All groups had 4 students and a couple had 5; not ideal working conditions but we do the best we can with what we've got.) They collaborate in their groups to solve each problem. Whenever they feel ready, anyone in the class spontaneously walks up to the SMARTboard and shares their solution. Other groups continue to solve the problem and analyze the work on the board for errors and "good form".

I'm really proud of how they work together and engage with the content and each other. It wasn't like this from day one but we've been working together for more than three months now. I was admiring their work today and wanted to share it. (In the back of my mind I was also thinking about how I would answer a question Ben Hazzard had thrown my way from this week's SMARTboard Lesson Podcast.) Anyway, I tweeted what they were doing as they did it. Ben Wilkoff suggested (tweeted) I share it here. Thanks Ben!

When the young lady working on the last problem hit a snag, several people spoke up to help her sort it out. Eventually, as time was running out of class, I helped them finish it off. After they solve each problem the first questions I ask are:

So, what do you all think?

Have they got that right?

How does it look?

Anyone want to change anything?

Any questions students ask are redirected to the student(s) who shared their work. They usually correct any errors with little or no prompting from me. If I do notice any errors they have missed I'll say: "There are X errors there. Can you find them?" or "This is good but it would have lost a few half marks. Can you see where?" Most of my comments focus on the wee technical details regarding how their work should be presented. I also point out the sorts of common errors that come up in tests and exams.

When I plan my lessons I try build them around these ideas:

Watch it. Do it. Teach it.

How can I make their thinking transparent to each other; and me?

They should touch the SMARTboard more often than I.

So, this is one way I use the SMARTboard in my class. It's just one piece of a larger whole in the way we use technology to support student learning. I'd love to hear what other folks do with their Interactive White Boards (IWBs).

Your thoughts?

Photo credit: Where's Batman?

You Might Also Like


  1. Sweet! I'm sharing with our math teachers. Their Promethean boards are being hooked up today...

  2. Cool! I'd love to hear how they use their IWBs in their classes too. ;-)

  3. Thanks for the timely post. I'm doing a whole ONE hour SMART board training with some non-techy teachers in January. They're getting a third SMARTboard, but have been using the first two minimally. Maybe I'll use a similar approach with them. I like the idea of spending the 60 minutes with them touching the SMARTBoard more than me.

  4. Thanks for dropping by klm! I think that's definitely the way to go. The more someone uses the technology, the more they'll be engaged with what they're learning.

    Let me know how the workshop goes. ;-)

  5. Glad I did. I follow you on twitter (klmontgomery).

  6. Great post. I especially like having them touch the smartboard more than I. I am trying to plan my math (with fourth graders) more around that idea.

    I have also been working on "math talk" with my students. The younger ones need more structure to help guide their questions. But even after a week or so, they were becoming very good at asking the right questions to help the "presenter" correct an error or justify a correct answer.

    I have found the SB to be great for teaching classification of objects. In geometry for example, I had many examples of triangles and had students dragging them to different parts of the page to classify them.

    I am having a hard time understanding the purpose of tweeting while students were working in groups. Were they seeing your comments? Was this a way to collaborate with colleagues in your building?

    (ps-I'm from ACSD14 in Colorado, you visited us this summer.)

  7. Hi Karen! (klm)

    Hi Jeff! Yes, I remember you well. You wear glasses and sat in the back row with two ladies, Tonia and ... rats, can't remember her name. ;-)

    I don't tweet for my students, I tweet for myself. I was very proud of the kind of work they were doing and how they were doing it. I felt a need to share that with other teachers who would understand my enthusiasm. My twitter network never let's me down with stuff like that.

    Another, reason: serendipity.

    I never would have written this post if I hadn't tweeted my pride in my kids. It wouldn't have occurred to me. So far, from the few comments I've already received in the short time this post has been up, it looks like more folks than just me have benefited from my writing it.

    This is just another example of the many benefits of working in/with/as a network. Will posted a few days back something like this too.

    Still thinking about how best to articulate this to someone who hasn't experienced it.

    This may sound corny: It's like a frog trying to describe air to a fish. The frog can move comfortably in both air and water. The fish has no experience with air. Although, in time, amphibians evolved from fish ... technology accelerates that sort of evolution.

    Don't know if that made any sense at all. I'll keep thinking about it. ;-)

  8. Nice Post Darren. Glad you like the idea of See one Do one Teach One.


  9. Any ideas on how to do this without a Smart Board?


    Document cameras?

    Twitter for students?

    Or in your estimation, would the IWB be the best solution?

  10. @Chris: Thanks!

    @John: The IWB makes doing all this easier but it can still be done without. You could write the questions on the board and have students come up and solve them. It's easier with an IWB because you don't waste time writing on the board. It's easy to duplicate problems (slides) and see how several different students tackle the same material or, better yet, have different ways to solve the same problem.

    Without an IWB I suppose you could take pictures of the board and upload the images to the class blog. With an IWB it's easier to preserve and post to the slides to the class blog; which is what I do.

    The principle of "Watch it. Do it. Teach it." can be woven into the way any teachers teaches in their classroom. A class blog can be leveraged to make students thinking transparent. Wikis can help too.

    IWBs change things. If having an IWB in a teachers classroom doesn't change the way they teach, they should give it to somebody else.

  11. So it sounds like you were at the end of a unit and they worked on the problems. What was the unit on and how many problems did they get through? Sounds great!

  12. Hi Mrs. D.

    The unit was conics. Here are the slides from that particular class. You'll see we got through three problems.

    I find that teaching this way means that "I" solve fewer problems each class, but "the students" learn more from the few they solve/teach. Engagement is higher and more students are involved and attentive as they analyze each other's work. I find they're learning more.

    Thanks for dropping by. ;-)


  13. I just discovered your blog. This lesson looks to be a good use of the technology. Too many times, I've seen teachers use the SmartBoard just like a chalkboard. Better technology means an opportunity for better learning.

  14. Anonymous13/1/08 09:48

    Thanks for dropping by Willis! Ever since I first got the SMARTboard I've felt that if it doesn't change the way I teach then there's no point in having it.
    You might find it interesting to see this growing collaborative presentation shown (at this moment) 24 Interesting Ways (and tips) to Use Your Interactive Whiteboard.

  15. Anonymous18/2/08 21:17

    I found the concept of the SMARTboard to be a very interesting one. It seems as though students are very much engaged by the ways in which the material is presented and they are able to gain a lot more from this sort of activity than if they were to simply sit through a lecture, as was discussed in a related blog on the site. I feel that there are very many people who do not wish to embrace, let alone consider, different methods of instruction for the students within, as well as outside of, the classroom. What they fail to realize is the myriad of ways in which alternative approaches to teaching can be beneficial for both the student and the instructor. It is important to understand the great necessity that exists to reform what is taking place within the realm of education. I commend the efforts put forth by educators such as yourself who are willing to take risks, try new things, make mistakes, and, most importantly, be better educated as a result. It is difficult to teach and employ what we do not know, and we are better people for having attempted something that may exist outside of our comfort zone. Traditional ways of teaching have brought us this far, but I can’t help but think of what we’re missing out on being stuck in our ways and not pushing for the necessary reform that should be implemented into our curricula as of right now. In our course Issues in Secondary Education, our professor constantly reminds us of the importance of teaching yourself and how she is merely a guide in our learning process. This is what we should all instill in our students and in anyone else who is willing to listen and learn.

  16. Anonymous9/10/08 16:15

    I think that this is a great, hands-on way for the students to become better involved with newer technology in the classroom. This is a great idea and will increase each student's proficiency and confidence in familiarizing themselves with the technology. I am not overly confident in my own knowledge and children have a strangely unique ability to figure things out when it comes to technology! Thank you for sharing

  17. @Angela & s.rhodes I don't think I've described much about technology in this post. The SMARTboard serves only to help us archive the students work for later reflection and my use of twitter ties in to my own professional development. What I did in this class, as Mrs. D. suggests above, isn't something any teacher anywhere couldn't do as well.

    The main difference lies in the uses of technology around what were were doing in class and my insistence that the kids do the work and corrections, not me. With that said, I don't think that's a small difference. The technology use around the regular class routine we've established :

    • allows kids to review what they've whenever they like, including months in the future as they prepare for exams.

    • allows students access to the specific content of the day's lesson as they work through their homework.

    • allows me as a teacher to concretely see what kids are learning and how they understand and misunderstand what they're learning.

    • allows parents to peek inside the classroom on a daily basis so they know what their children are learning.

    • allows me to weave my own professional development seamlessly into my day, side-by-side with my teaching.

    • can you think of any other affordances opened up by this?

  18. We have a sixth grade building and every classroom has a SMART board. The teachers have worked their lessons into the SMART board system so well, when the bulb goes out, they have trouble adjusting back to an overhead while we get the bulb changed. The lessons are exciting and the teachers train other teachers in the district when they get SMART boards.

  19. Yes, it's very frustrating when the bulb burns out ans we do not have a replacement on hand. ;-)