My colleagues who don’t have a smart board often ask me, “Just what does a smart board do?” My answer is always, “Anything I tell it to!” What I mean is this. Good teaching outshines good technology any day, but in the hands of a savvy user, the technology will undoubtedly enrich the teaching and learning. It can be used to individualize teaching through differentiation, foster communication and cooperation among your students, and bring experiences into the classroom that would otherwise be impossible or too expensive. You can use the board and its software tools in whole class, small group and one-on-one learning experiences. Here is a list of some innovative and ways I’ve seen teachers using their smart boards.

Learning Centers and Formative Assessment

Don’t worry about your smart board being dirty. That just means the kids are using it! Put an interactive activity on your smart board and include it in the rotation of learning centers during your literacy or math block. Check your software or tools for individualized templates that allow you to check the students’ work for understanding and drive future instruction.

Virtual Field Trips or Experiments

Take your students on a field trip to an impossible place, such as Mars or inside the human brain. Let them experience a science experiment that would be too dangerous or difficult to do in the classroom. Software and websites like Gynzy have 3D objects and virtual manipulatives for a hand-on experience, and they also allow you to integrate multimedia tools, such as video, animations and music, into your lessons.

Flipping the Class

This is a new kind of experimental teaching in which the teacher records a video for whole group, direct instruction, which the students watch for homework. Then, during class, the teacher works with small groups or individual students on problems and projects based on what was taught in the video. This is called flipping the class because what is normally considered class work is done at home when students are watching the video of instruction. Conversely, what is normally considered homework, practicing and applying skills taught during instruction, is done during class.

Make the Abstract Concrete

Use software like Gynzy to find plug-ins that generate animations that represent abstract concepts more concretely. This is particularly useful in math and science, where students often need to visualize an algebraic function or a physics concept in order to be able to grasp it and apply it. Search your software gallery for 3D objects, or download them from an online image library.

Give Your Students Control of the Board

They will learn more if you let them do more, so get out of their way and give them access to your software to create presentations or projects that demonstrate their learning. Even though only a few students can work at the board at one time, they will learn so much from working together, not only about the concept you’re teaching, but also about good presentation skills and collaborating with a group of peers. Instead of being passive recipients of information, your students will work collaboratively to interact with the content.

Augment Your Lectures with Multimedia Content

I am definitely a proponent of making my students responsible for their own learning and giving them opportunities to enrich their experience by working collaboratively on projects. But even so, sometimes the best instructional method is direct instruction, so I have to make them sit and listen to a lecture so I can explicitly explain something to them. To keep things interesting, I try to enhance my lectures by integrating them with multimedia content on my smart board. For example, I can differentiate my instruction by appealing to different learning styles if I add an audio or video clip to my presentation.

These are just a few alternative uses of the smart board of which I’m aware. How have you seen teachers using their smart boards in unconventional ways?