The mere fact there were 18 folks in attendance at a workshop, that was initially envisioned to have a maximum capacity of 15, speaks volumes of how many teachers in the province are looking for ways to enhance their knowledge when it comes to fully utilizing Smart Boards in their classroom.
As facilitator Garry Davis from the Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit indicated the session had an eclectic mix of participants ranging from basic neophytes to those considerably more comfortable with the technology, but still looking to supplement their knowledge level.
“Basically I wanted them to be able to practice because it’s important to have the time to experiment and try things, and go back and forth. We tried to cover as much as we could in a day – it could probably have been three days,” Davis conceded.
Recalling his own early days with using Smart Boards, Davis said it’s important for teachers to have time to experiment but he is well aware that’s a luxury not many teachers are afforded.
“It’s only once you establish a certain comfort level that you’re going to explore more and start to be able to utilize all that the technology has to offer, and it takes two or three days in order to fully read the manual and then if you move schools it doesn’t travel with you which can be frustrating and it can be like starting over,” he added.
Davis added that “we tend to spend money on technology and then not provide teachers with the time and support they need to use it to its full capacity. Putting these Smart Boards in classrooms is not the issue, it’s how they are used and maintained. Technology doesn’t change learning – only teachers do.
“As a result I would say as a generalization that they are underutilized, but part of that is how we do education.”
For his part Davis is convinced that if used to their full capacity Smart Boards can have a profound effect.
“There is so much that can be added to visualization of learning and it’s that powerful – or at least it can be. Technology is an amplifier, but the issue is how does it help in terms of better engaging students in learning. That’s always going to be the key,” he said.