cc licensed flickr photo shared by LisaThumann
I was recently contacted about our purchase of SmartBoards for our school by a member of my PLN. She asked some great questions about why we chose what we did and how we trained our staff in their use. In Alberta, we have a government program that provides us money to ensure that every teaching space has a projector, so although that was covered, we ensure that we also bought the SmartBoard to have an interactive component in each classroom.
Whether you agree with SmartBoards or not, please read about how we ensured staff had training using this new technology in our classroom. It is something that I believe is essential to success with any initiative you have in your school.
The questions and answers are below:
1. Did your school participate in a trial before you purchased the boards? No…I have been in two school where we did full implementation. We usually started with 3 SmartBoards in the school, but they were so popular with the staff that had them, they all wanted one. We accommodated. I knew they were great and when I went to my new school last year, I bought one for every classroom.
2. Which boards did your school purchase and why did you go with one brand over the other? We went with SmartBoards partly because that is the standard in our division. From what I know, they have the most content created for them on SmartNotebook and other sites. SmartNotebook is a great program but I am sure that Promethean has something similar. The bigger the company, the more stuff will be created for it. Their IT support has not been stellar though. I would address this with them before you buy SmartBoards and set up your expectations ahead of time.
3. Did your school purchase boards over a few years or were they purchased all at once? What budget challenges did you face if they were purchased all at once.
We bought them mostly at once. I would say that within the two schools I was at, we had the rooms done with in 10 months although they may have fallen over 2 school years. We received money from our parent council in one school, but in the other, we bought them all ourselves. In my school though, I have 100% control over the budget. I also do all of the SmartBoard development myself with staff. I saved money by not bringing in outside presenters and the rule in our school was that no one was able to go outside the school for SmartBoard training that cost money. This way we could develop the program ourselves and save money that would go directly to purchasing the equipment.
4. Training is obviously important how did you go about training your staff? Did you train a few people who then trained others or did you send them out for training with the chosen company?
Great question that is the most important to successful implementation. Here is my thought process on this which I touched on above.
We did all the development in house with people that were strong in SmartBoards. We paid for subs to come in and gave each teacher 1-2 days (depending on the school I was at) and did all the training ourselves. We had no outside people come in as this would cost money. As the tech lead in my school, I would work with staff in small groups based on subject area and/or grade level. They would work on something together and we would build projects that they could do in the classroom immediately. It was also effective because blanket PD only shows you tools, but working with people in small groups we had the chance to go over how THEY could use it effectively immediately. I would show them how to find resources and staff would build units, lessons, whatever together. Not only were they ready to use it immediately in their classroom which would give them more experience, but they also strengthened relationships with partners in the school. PD was never given in bulk though. For example, teachers were given 2 days PD but were split into half days based on when they were available and felt comfortable using their classroom. This way it would not be too overwhelming learning to use this technology, but it would give them time to learn something and apply it. This also ensured that we could have follow up sessions.
As an administrator as well, this kept me busy throughout the year as I was pulled away from other things I had to do, BUT it is not right to have a new technology in the classroom and not give staff support on how to use it. The time put in was definitely worth it and I also had an opportunity to get to know my own staff better. Without the PD, you might as well throw away your money. As I did more work with my staff, it was great to identify people that had strengths with the SmartBoard AND knew curriculum better than I did in their respective classrooms. Once these people were identified, they started training others because they had a deeper understanding of the curriculum and how it could be implemented effectively using this technology. This also helped me build capacity within the school so it was not dependent upon one person, but a system was created. This was done over a two year period at one school, and we are in year two of the implementation at my current school.
5. Have your teachers adapted to the use of these boards?
YES! They are great at using them but their classroom is not dependent on them. I think what is most important is that students are using them more in the classroom. It is a great technology and many people will argue whether you should have them or not. I think that it is a great addition to the classroom and gives many opportunities to connect with other classrooms. It is great for sharing visuals and having students use manipulatives when working with different subjects.
Time is a currency that teachers never have enough of so if you want to have effective use of these in the classroom, you need to provide the time to play and connect. If you can accommodate sub days, I would do that. I would like my teachers to have lives outside of school so I try to do as much as we can during the school day and professional development days. It is also important that there are people on staff that others know as a “go-to” person if they are not comfortable doing something. That is the other problem with bringing in experts. They are there for a day and it is not easy to connect with them instantly. If they are in the school, they are probably down the hall.
Hope this helps!