During my time at Virginia Tech as a grade student which began the summer of 2011 and will end in the spring 2012, I learned and understood the importance of technology in the class room. We discussed the issues of technology in the first classes I took. Then I had a class in the fall that focused on different technology tools used in the classroom. Finally in the spring we had to research one technology tool and see the effects of its use. To say that technology is important for the future of education is an understatement. Students in today’s world are intertwined with technology and do not even realized how much. They know how to use cell phones, computers, the internet, and technology tools that even their parents do not know how to work. We as educators need to incorporate technology in our classrooms if we want to entice the students and keep them interested in our subject’s information. My goal for my student teaching experience was to understand technology in a practical setting. For the past months I learned about technology through classes, theories, and seminars but what is it like in the real world as a teacher in a regular school? Also I wanted to completely understand how teachers today use and implement technology to motive students and to help them process information.
In my Action Research paper I researched the technology tool called Smart Board. The Smart Board is a tool commonly found in most school districts and counties across the state of Virginia and throughout the nation. Even though Smart Board is used across the state, it doesn’t mean that it is used consistently and identically in all schools. Some teachers do not use it, some use it as a projector for Power Points, others use it as a chalk board, while others use the Smart Board template and have their students interact with it. There are many uses for the Smart Board and it is an ever evolving tool.
I could have researched numerous topics about Smart Board due to the many different tools it provides. My topic popped in my head one day when I was talking to my co operating teacher at Shawsville Middle School. My teacher is pretty savvy with Power Point, but, by his own omission, not so much with Smart Board. He uses the Smart Board as a projector for Power Point and occasionally uses the Smart Board templates. I asked him why he doesn’t use the Smart Board more often and his answer was “Because the Smart Board caters to one student and not the whole class.” I asked him to explain what he meant and he ranted that the Smart Board is a great tool but it is hard for the whole class to interact with it. This is when I got my idea; can I find ways for the whole class to interact with the Smart Board? My research question for my Action Research Plan is: How can Smart Board be used to engage students and have the whole class interact with it?
- Description of Context
In the spring of 2012 I completed my student teaching experience at Shawsville Middle School in Montgomery County, Virginia. I am teaching US History (1865-present) to 7th graders. During my student teaching experience I personally taught two units, the Cold War and the Civil Rights, while observing the end of the Great Depression unit, World War II, 1950s-present, and reviewing for the SOL.
Shawsville Middle School is a unique and special place. The teachers here are like a close family and help each other all the time. The 7th grade team, which consists of the English teacher, history teacher, science teacher, and math teacher, has one main goal and that is to work together. If I ever had a question I could go ask anyone of them. I could also ask teachers from the 6th grade team or 8th grade team for help as well. The principal at Shawsville is amazing. He lets the teachers teach and does not worry about little details. As long as you are teaching in line with the curriculum and SOL’s and are not causing any problems he will leave you alone. He is personable, easy to talk too, and is always available. My cooperating teacher is amazing. He gave me constructive feedback and will support me in anyway. He has given me resources, ideas, and tools for me to succeed as a student teacher. My cooperating teacher also let me do my own thing and allowed me to try different activities and tools. He was been dealing with students teachers for the past six years so he is really experienced and supportive. Overall my experience at Shawsville Middle School has been better than what I expected it to be.
Technology at Shawsville Middle School is a complex issue. I would say the technology is in par with other schools. They have a Smart Board, internet access, projectors, computer labs, computers in classroom (for teachers), computers in the library, and other small tools to coincide with technology. The amount of technology that the school has is pretty impressive but there are problems. The first is that the internet access is slow. It takes a while for items to load, download, and to pop up. For the teacher and student this can be pretty frustrating. At this school you cannot stream videos as well because that would make the internet run even slower or shut down. That means one has to download a video if they want to show it to their students which means one has to plan and be prepared in advances. Lastly, sometimes the internet does not work at all. This happened only twice during my tenure at Shawsville, but one has to be prepared and have a backup plan in place just in case. The technology at Shawsville Middle School is complex to label because they have many of the technological resources but they also have many problems in using these resources as intended on a daily basis.
- Description of Students
The students at Shawsville Middle School are like any other average child in the state of Virginia. My students are 7th graders which means they are between the ages of 12-14. I have about 70 students in four of my classes. The majority of my students are white but I have a few African Americans, Hispanics, and students of mixed race. As a whole my students are Smart and interested in the subject of US History. They have the ability to succeed in anything, but laziness is a major problem with this group. A big strength of my students is their use of technology. I am not just saying this for this paper; my students are really talented using the computer to learn and process information. My student’s interests are similar to most children their age; the social scene, their friends, teenage culture, sports, and school. Shawsville has a lot of open land and outdoor activities such as hiking, hunting, fishing, and camping interest them.
Most of my student’s goals are to graduate high school and to go on to college, but they have many obstacles in their way. Most of my students parents did not go to college and a good number of my students, even though have the goal of graduating high school, will not graduate from high school. A good number of my student’s parents do not have jobs or resources to support their children in school. My co operating teacher explained to me that Shawsville, Virginia is “either the number one or two trailer park areas in the state of Virginia.” Even though they have a rough home life that does not mean they are lacking in technology skills. My students have used technology since their early life. This generation of students understands how to use computers, the internet, Smart Board, and other web tools proficiently. In my mind they have a great knowledge of technology, even better than most of their teachers.
I decided to use all my classes and students for my research due to the nature of the Smart Board. I could not only use a few students or one class for this research because it did not work that way with the curriculum. Every student needed to participate and process knowledge during the days I used the Smart Board. As I stated in the above paragraph, these students are talented in technology and as you will find out were talented in the Smart Board too. These students have been using technology since they first started school and, I found during my research, that students have been learning from the Smart Board between 4-7 years ago, which is basically their whole or major part of their education. Overall, my students have been exposed to technology, especially Smart Board, so I do not have to worry about introducing a new tool to my students and they should have a good comfort level when using or learning for the Smart Board.
- Description of theoretical Framework / Activity/Lesson
My question for this research paper is: How can Smart Board be used to engage students and have the whole class interact with it? I am trying to focus on ways to engage my students in the lesson by having them somehow interact with it as a class. My idea and framework is to use the Smart Board as a tool for the students to learn and process information. I want the Smart Board to be a new and fresh way for the students to look at daily activities that they do. My co operating teacher and I have daily routines that we do. I want to see if I incorporate Smart Board in an engaging way that makes the students interact with it if it would improve their motivating and learning. Interacting with the Smart Board will be the difficult part in this research. The definition for “interact” is to act on or in close relation to another. The theoretical frame that best fits with this research project is constructivism. That is because I want the students to experience the learning process first hand by interacting with the Smart Board to understand the information. I want the students to test their knowledge that they just learned and to acquire new knowledge from the Smart Board activities that I planned. My view and definition of interact or interaction is that the students will affect the Smart Board. The goal is to find the different ways for the students to do this.
I want to try to have activities engage the class as a whole instead of just catering to one person. My plan is to use the Smart Board for a jumpstarter activity, a quick quiz, a major tool in a lesson, an exit slip, and a review session. We have done all these activities in a daily routine so the students are aware of them. I want the Smart Board to make the routine activity look and feel differently for the students to engage them. I think Smart Board is the perfect tool for this for two reasons: first the tool is in every classroom and is already a major tool for the students learning and, second, Smart Board is a hot topic in education in today’s world and I want to see what makes people so excited about it.
Once again I had five daily activities that the Smart Board would be included in- a review session, jumpstarter, quick quiz, a major tool in a lesson, and exit slip. Before I started any of these activities I gave them a Smart Board Survey to assess their knowledge. After every Smart Board activity I had them fill out a slip to assess the activity by asking them a question on how the activity went. I did these activities during the Civil Rights unit of US History and it took me two days to complete it. The main goal for learning was to review past information for the SOL, review past information after Spring Break, learn new information, and to assess if the information got through to them and they retained it.
The review session took place right after Spring Break. I wanted to find a way to have my student recall the information that they learned prior to spring break. I used the Smart Board and found different activities to review material with them. The first was a timeline of Civil Rights events and the students had to explain each one. One was matching Civil Rights terms and groups with the correct definition. Another was matching Civil Right leaders and the Acts of Congress with the correct information. I used the memory game to have them recall famous court cases, which the students had to explain as well. The students interacted with the Smart Board by explaining and describing answers, telling me where to move certain terms, and explaining what the correct answer would be if one of their fellow students gave me a wrong answer.
The rest of the activities took place the next day in class. The first activity that we did was a Quick Quiz. A quick quiz is a 6-8 questions quiz that assesses their knowledge from the current unit of study, this time being the Civil Rights. For the Smart Board Quiz Quick, I used a matching activity. We used matching the day before for the review so they understood the activity from the beginning. I gave them 4 minutes to complete the quiz and then the students graded another student’s paper. The students they gave me the correct answer and I moved it to the spot they told me too. They interacted with the Smart Board by taking the quiz and instructing me where to move each term.
The next activity that we did with the Smart Board was a jumpstarter. A jumpstarter is an activity that the students do every day at the start of class. It uses past information learned from the current unit of study, but it mainly consisted of past units that were already studied to get ready for the SOL and to instill important past knowledge throughout the year. For this jumpstarter I used political cartoons from different wars and the students had to match the correct war to the cartoon. I had a cartoon for the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. All those wars will be on the SOLs and political cartoons will be on it as well. We went through each cartoon one by one and the students interacted with the Smart Board by telling me where to zoom, describing the cartoon, and writing down the correct answer. We then went over it as a class. The students showed off their Smart Board knowledge during this activity. If I messed up or struggled at all they were either eager to help me figure it out or grew easily frustrated that I was not doing it correctly. This showed me the importance of fully understanding the technology you are using and the importance of knowing it equally if not better than your students.
Following the jumpstarter, we then started the lesson using the Smart Board as the major tool. For this lesson we discussed the “firsts”. Basically, in this lesson we learned about different people who were the first African American, women, or African American women to be the first to do something. The students took notes on a worksheet I made. The students interacted with the Smart Board by choosing who they wanted to learn about. I would randomly choose a student to pick a person that he/she wanted to learn about. Then, using the Smart Board, I would click the “tile” with the famous person name on it to clear it and discuss the lesson.
The last Smart Board activity that we did was the exit slip. An exit slip is use to assess if the student got anything out of the lesson. On the Smart Board the exit slip read: Tell me one thing you learned today about the firsts. Students could use their notes, like always, to answer this question. Usually they have a slip of paper that I would collect to write down the answer, but today I wrote down their answers on the Smart Board. I randomly called on different people and wrote down their answers in different colors. The students interacted with the Smart Board by recalling information from the lesson and telling me to what to write down.
- Data Gathered
I collected data for my research in five ways. The first gathering was through a survey (surveymonkey.com) that I gave my students on Smart Board. I asked them ten questions such as; if they enjoyed learning from Smart board, if they liked to use Smart Board more in school, if they focused better with Smart Board, and if it made them participate more. I used the Likert Scale to have them rate each statement (strongly agree to strongly disagree). They took the survey before class and I started the Smart Board activities a week later. The goal was to see what their preconceived thoughts were on Smart Board and I used these questions again when they evaluating the Smart Board activities.
The next way I collected data was interviewing my 7th grade team and principal on their thoughts on the Smart Board. I interviewed five people and asked them eleven questions dealing with the use of Smart Board in their class, prior training of the tool, and their thoughts on the tool itself. I interviewed them one on one and it lasted for approximately five minutes. The goal was to see what the current teacher’s thoughts, uses, and prior training of Smart Board was.
I mention in the last section that after each Smart Board activity I would hand out a slip to have my students evaluate the tool and activity. The students did the slip five times and I asked them five different questions. I modified the questions from the survey in the beginning to ask the students. This is to see how they answered somewhat the same question after seeing a Smart Board activity. I stressed to the students the importance of writing good responses (Not just-because it was cool) so I could collect and use the data. The goal was to get immediate feedback from the students so I could see their thoughts and feelings about the activity and Smart Board.
Another way that I collected data was my own field notes. I wrote the, immediately after the school day and explain what I thought about each lesson and activity. I wrote two sets of field notes; the first set was about my review on the Smart Board and the second set was about the jump starter, quick quiz, an exit slip and major tool in a lesson. The goal was to write down my thoughts of each of the activities, the student’s reactions, and my reflection on the day. I did this on the recommendation of my supervisor and I believe it was a great way to evaluate, reflect and collect data.
The last data gathering was through my supervisor, a graduate assistant, and my co-operating teacher. Luckily on both days of the Smart Board activities I had a graduate assistant or my supervisor observing me. I had my co-operating teacher on both days. After they observed me I would ask them their thoughts on the lesson, activity, and Smart Board. They would give me immediate feedback, thoughts, and ways to improve. The main goal was for professionals to watch and observe the lesson, the Smart Board, student’s interaction, the activities, and myself.
- Data Analysis
Overall the data I collected in the survey showed positive responses to Smart Board activities. The results were: it showed that the students overwhelmingly enjoyed learning from a Smart Board (92%), Smart Board holds their attention (66%), makes me more willing to participate (66%), makes learning more fun (85%), makes learning easier (66%), moving things on Smart Board makes me learn better (70%), makes me focus better (69%), makes me remember better (64%), liked to use it Smart Board in Social Studies (88%), and would like to use it more in school (74%). Overall this showed that prior to the Smart Board activities student liked to use, learn, and participate during Smart Board activities. According to my 7th graders this would also hold their attention, make learning fun and easier, and make them recall information easier, thus assuming this would make their grades go up as well as SOL scores.
The next set of data that I collected was from the interview. I interviewed my 7th grade team and the principal of Shawsville Middle School. The 7th grade team consisted of teachers of diverse subjects, education, backgrounds, experiences, and use of technology in their classroom. Although each teacher was different they all shared common beliefs about the Smart Board. Smart Board has been use at Shawsville MS for the past 6-7 years and the majority of the 7th grade team has been using the tool for the past 3 years. The interviewees overwhelmingly felt that the Smart Board makes teaching more effective, more engaging, and makes teaching and learning a more positive experience. I recorded different ways that the teachers used the Smart Board to have the students interact with it. The math teacher for example called up students to “touch” and “play” with it. The students love “playing” with it so much that the teacher has to use cards to call on students randomly or the students will get frustrated for not being called on. Other teachers have students interact with it by playing games or have the students direct the teacher to move things on the Smart Board. Some teachers found it easy to find ways for students to interact with it, others not so much. That could go hand in hand with their experience with it. Some teachers attended classes and seminars for Smart Board usage in the classroom to get experience with it. Others learned on their own, which is proven to have mix results. Teachers that have been using this tool for three years are comfortable with the tool, but new teachers are not. Overall the main theme that I came away from the interview is that the Smart Board is a great tool, helps out both the teacher and student in the learning process, and has more positives then negatives when used. On a side note, I plan on taking a Smart Board class this summer so I will have more experience and uses with this major tool. I think it is important for all new teachers to do so especially after interviewing the current staff.
Another way I collected data was by giving out slips to my students to find out their reactions of the activities we did in class. I gave out two slips, one being after the review activity and the other one on the following day after numerous Smart Board activities. I stressed to my students the importance of writing a good response and a majority of them did so. The question that I asked my students after the review was: Did the Smart board review make learning more fun? The students said learning was more fun due to the matching games, timeline, extra practice, because it was new, easier to learn from, and that it was interactive. The majority of the students liked it, but some did not. They didn’t like it because of the format, due to them not touching it, and because it was not working at times. Overall I found that the students liked the activity and they said they recalled information better when the Smart board was used.
On the following day we did the reminder of the Smart Board activities. This consisted of a jumpstarter, a quick quiz, a major tool in the lesson, and an exit slip. The question that I asked my students after the jumpstarter was: Did the Smart board jumpstarter/JDI make you more willing to participate? Then after the quick quiz I asked: Did the Smart board quick quiz make it easier to recall or remember information? After using the Smart Board as a major tool I asked: Did the Smart board lesson make it easier for you to learn the material? Lastly, after the exit slip I asked: Did the Smart board exit slip hold your attention? I gave the students about a minute to answer each question and the questions came from the original survey. The goal was to get immediate feedback from the students and find themes of their responses.
For the jumpstarter responses, most were positive and for the same reason-the pictures. The students liked looking at the cartoons and trying to guess what war it was from. The majority of the students liked it but some did not due to them not being interested in it or that they didn’t like the format. I can use this data by making my jumpstarter in a different format or try to find ways to make more students interested in it. Overall, the students liked it. For the quick quiz responses, once again it was positives. It was a matching quiz and it was in a different format then their usual quick quiz. The students said it helps them recall or remember information better due to the format of “seeing” the answers, being multiple choice, and it was easier for them to see. This information made me realize two things. First it is good idea to change the format of activities and second, it is helpful to make activities easier periodically. The new format of the quick quiz made students relax and enjoy seeing something due which could reduce anxiety. Making activities or assessments easier, such as showing all the answers, again reduces anxiety and makes them in a better mood. Overusing this could pose a problem, but once in a while it would not hurt.
For the major tool response question; did it make it easier for you to learn the material? The students overwhelmingly said yes. In this lesson the students picked who they wanted to learned about and I used the Smart Board to show who they picked. They enjoyed the different format and being able to choose what they were going to learn. Again, I am going to take this information and use it in my future teaching practice by making sure I use different formats when I teach. The students really enjoyed picking what they learned in the lesson thus makes it easier and enjoyable to learn. They were taking notes during this lesson as well. I understand due to SOLs this could be hard to do, but I used it during one of my “free” or “leftover days”. Overall, once again, the students liked it. The last response was about the exit slip and if it held their attention. For the exit slip I asked the students to tell me what they learned about today, and I wrote down their responses on the Smart Board. I received the most negative responses from the students in this one. The students said that it did not hold their attention and I could tell it did not during the activity. During the activity the students were talking and it was a struggle for them to stay focused. What was the reason for the negative responses? Was it because of the format that it was at the end of class, because of the amount of information they learned today, or was it something else? Overall the Smart Board activities I used received a positive feedback from the students.
For my field notes of the activities, and my co operating teacher, supervisor, and grad assistant observing, I found they all came back positive. My supervisor and grad assistant were happy with the lesson and liked my format, how it interacted with the students, and the process of information that they learned. My co operating teacher liked my lessons, activities, and my used of the Smart Board as well. My field notes of the activities were a great way to reflect. The two main themes I gathered from my field notes were that I wished I had the students come up to interact with Smart Board more and I was surprised how much more the students knew about the Smart Board compared to me. I will go into more detail in the next section about the fear of bringing a student up to play with the Smart Board. In regards to my student’s knowledge of this tool, I was surprised of their vast knowledge of it. If I made a mistake the students would call me out on it, offer their advice, or get mad at me. This shows the importance of new teachers taking classes to improve your Smart Board skills and to stay ahead of the curve.
- Findings Discussion/Reflection
My question for this research paper was: How can a Smart Board be used to engage students and have the whole class interact with it? The goal of this research was to use the Smart Board as a tool to engage students in the process of learning. Smart Board is a highly used tool in the world of education and the goal of this research was to find ways where the whole class can interact with the lesson, not just one student. The Smart Board would support student learning by interacting with the tool and keeping them engaged. I did this research at Shawsville Middle School during my last weeks while teaching the Civil Rights unit to my 7th grade students in my US History class.
In my research my students interacted with the Smart Board in five different scenarios; a review session, a jumpstarter, a quick quiz, a major tool in a lesson, and during an exit slip. The students interacted with the Smart Board by answering questions, directing me on where to move certain items, participating, and actively listening. I collected data in five different ways; the students took an online survey, I interviewed the 7th grade team and school principal on Smart Board, the students gave me immediate feedback via slips, I took personal field notes, and I had my co operating teacher, supervisor, and graduate assistant observe me during my lessons. All these methods helped me realize the student’s prior knowledge and use of the Smart Board of my students and the methods and feelings that current educators have on using Smart Board. I received immediate feedback from my lessons, the student’s reactions to the activities, and the use of the Smart Board. All of this evidence that I gathered leads me to believe that the Smart Board is capable of engaging students and helping them learn new information and recall old. The overall theme is that the Smart Board is an amazing tool to aide students and teachers in the educating process. Two negative themes are that the Smart Board is a vast tool with many different tools and activities inside Smart Board, and one need to be educated in the use of this tool before using it.
I believe that the students did move in the research and during my activities. The evidence that I have to show this is true is their feedback. Going into the activities I had my students take a survey to understand what they knew of Smart Board and what their thoughts were about it. Every one of my students liked to learn from the Smart Board and felt it made learning easier and more fun. They also have great knowledge and skill with the Smart Board. After the lessons and activities, in the big picture, the students enjoyed the activities and learned, recalled, and explained information. My observers of my activities, my co operating teacher, my graduate assistant, and my supervisor agreed with the above comments as well. Another example of my students moving is with their grades. During the Civil Rights unit the student’s grades were overall really good and their test grades and other assessments grades were equally as well. I cannot place the entire student’s achievement with the Smart Board, but it didn’t hurt their grades. During the activities the students were also engaged due to their eye contact, their participating, and their slips. All of the above reasons were how I saw the students move in these Smart Board exercises.
I think the Smart Board provided a lot of value in the activities and lessons. The two major ways that the Smart Board did this was providing a new format for my students to learn from and to have my students have a feeling of authority over these activities. The first theme, providing a new format, was a surprise to me. I did not think of that before starting the Smart Board research. My students enjoyed the Smart Board activities in one sense because it was new to them. They enjoyed learning in a different way and looking and analyzing information differently. They liked the review session because of the different activities, they enjoyed the jumpstarter because of the pictures, and they enjoyed the quick quiz because of the format and because of the answers. This shows me that students still learn visually and enjoy different scenery when learning. The Smart Board brought value to this idea and provided evidence that this is true. Students also benefited from these Smart Board activities due to the degree of authority they had over it. What I mean is that student had an authority over what they learned and controlled what I did. Students do not always, if at all, have authority of a activity, lessons, or teacher and this provided it. Students enjoyed having some power in the classroom and my research shows that if use properly, teachers should provide it.
In this research I found many themes that summed up what students, teachers, and other educators feel about Smart Board. Overall, from the survey to the slip, students like the Smart Board. They like it because it is new and its “technology”. Students in today’s world associate with technology without even thinking about it. They communicate, socialize, learn, and think through technology means. That is why they like the Smart Board because it fits into that mold. They like the Smart Board because of the many tools it has with it and the different activities you can do with it. My research supports these statements in many ways.
Teachers and educators enjoy using the Smart Board as well. The tool aids in the learning process, engages students, and provided another tool for the students to learn from. Everyone understands that teachers need to incorporate technology in their lessons to activate student’s brains, and this tool does so. The Smart Board appeals to a vast range of different teachers and their teaching styles. If one just wants to use the Smart Board as a projector or other minimal ways, one can do so. If one wants to use the Smart Board templates and premade activities, one can do so. If one wants to create their own templates, activities, and lesson, one can also do so. The Smart Board provides numerous different scenarios for the teacher to teach and for the student to learn. I wanted to see in my researched if Smart Board can engage students and if the tool can interact with the whole class. My research proved that one could. There are thousands of ways the Smart Board can be an aide and tool in education.
I only had one issue throughout this research and I mentioned it in the above section. I had a fear of having students come to the board and play with the Smart Board. This is because it could result in distractions, disruptions, and unwanted attention if not handled correctly. When one thinks of interacting with the Smart Board he or she will think of a student touching and moving items around. But I did not do that. My definition of interacting is to act on or in close relation to another. In my own words this mean that one object will force another object to do something with its force. Using that definition every one of my activities had the students successful interact with it by participating, directing, guiding, or communicating with me during the activity.
Can the Smart Board be use to engage students and be used to interact with the whole class. After researching this issue and question I found out that yes, one can do so in many different ways. I used the Smart Board in five different ways and in each way the Smart Board did so successfully. The Smart Board is an amazing tool and can be a device that can connect students to new and old information
- Implications for Future Work
If I was to continue researching this topic and tool I would do two additional things. First I would either narrow down the types of activity I would do or I would try out as many different activities. As I stated above in the paper, the Smart Board has thousands of different feature to help teachers teach and students learn. To continue this research I would ideally want to narrow it down to just one activity, such as quizzes, or angle the research to a different activity.
Another implication I would make is to have students come up and play with the Smart Board. I explained in the last section my fear of doing this and what my definition is for “interacting” with the Smart Board was. But to silence all the critics, I would do it differently this time. This is because I am more comfortable with the Smart Board, the content of the unit, my students, and behavior management. I think if I set high expectations with my students in the beginning many of my fears would not come true. This experience shows that the more you use the Smart Board and the longer you teach, the better and more comfortable you will be at both.