SmartBoard is a large touch-sensitive board that uses a sensor for detecting the users’ input when working on it. This tool presents teaching material in an interactive manner with a revolutionized finger-touch capability. Smartboard lesson templates are created via SmartNote book, which is free and easily downloaded on the Internet. It has revolutionized education, providing a dynamic interaction with students in the classroom who can accomplish several tasks by touching or writing on the screen. This tool has a lot of interesting functions, such as writing with digital ink that is available in four colours, creating game boards, inserting a timer, videos or any file or picture.
Dr. Mary Ann Bell, an educator in the field, argues that ‘‘The board can accommodate different learning styles. Tactile learners can benefit from touching and marking at the board, audio learners can have the class discussion, visual learners can see what is taking place as it develops at the board’’(http://www.teachers.net/gazette/JAN02/mabell.html). This is significant, considering that the teacher needs to adapt to the different learning styles of his students, if he wants to foster an effective environment for leaning. For instance, Smartboard is tactile, which captivates the attention of students who prefer to learn by themselves by manipulating things or objects. A good way to integrate the content of the course for these types of learners is to have them come at the board and carry out tactile tasks, such as writing or touching the board to reveal an answer to a question that was previously asked. Audio leaners can also benefit from the Smartboard in the classroom, as it can insert music, sounds or a recorded dialogue. For example, teachers can present listening comprehensions via this tool, and these learners benefit from that aspect of the software. Visual learners easily follow what is being written or showed on the board, and they are less distracted because they know exactly what they are supposed to do. A good example in a classroom is to put a timer to indicate how much time students have to carry out an activity. This way, visual learners can manage their time more efficiently because they only need to look at the board to know how much time remains.
A great advantage of this tool is to have immediate access to online resources. Katherine Bradley from Demand media explains that ‘‘Using interacting whiteboard technology enables high school teachers to integrate the lesson with a variety of instructional modalities quickly and easily. A teacher can call upon a segment of an online video or news headline to help reinforce a social studies unit. A virtual field trip becomes possible.’’ (http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/advantages-having-smart-board-high-school-classroom-11981.html). Instead of having to open a new page and to go on Youtube, Smartboard enables videos to be directly uploaded on the files, which saves a lot of time. Smartboard thus regroups online videos and presents them in an organized manner. Including videos in a classroom of English as a second language is very beneficial for students, who can have access to more input of native speakers in the target language. For instance, teachers can show videos to have students hear different English accents around the world, or to provide information about the English culture in general.
Furthermore, lesson activities become more realistic and interesting than in a traditional classroom. Lise Buyer from ABC news went to visit the Nichols School in Buffalo and was surprised to notice the efficiency of the Smartboard. ‘‘Instead of a dry lecture on conjugating French verbs, kids in Sheila Zamor’s middle school class didn’t just learn to “mange fromage,” but rather watched as the whiteboard transformed from a hand written grammar lesson to a discussion of how tu, nous and vous would order the different the varieties at the finest fromageries in Paris’’ (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=4278772 ). Traditional grammar lessons are therefore replaced by relevant conversational knowledge through the use of the Smartboard. In fact, functional language or mini-dialogues can be easily inserted with this tool, which provides students with a point of reference to initiate appropriate conversations in English. The communicative approach to teaching is therefore fostered, as students rely on the model of a dialogue that is given on the Smartboard to acquire the grammatical structures and to convey meaning when speaking with another student. This technique is especially suitable when carrying cooperative learning activities such as Inside-Outside Circle, in which students have to discuss about a subject with a partner. Images or vocabulary can be provided on the Smartboard, so that students only need to look at it once to elaborate on a specific topic. Thus, Smartboard enables cooperative learning activities to be carried out effectively with concrete visual support or functional language. Grammar can also be implicitly incorporated in dialogues, which can serve as a model for students to imitate in real conversations with their classmates.
Smartboard has a positive impact on important factors for learning, which are motivation, problem-solving and performance. Michael J.Weimer from West Noble Middle School has observed that ‘‘students who use technology tend to improve their performance and problem-solving abilities while increasing their motivation toward reading’’(http://downloads01.smarttech.com/media/sitecore/en/pdf/research_library/k-12/the_influence_of_technology_such_as_a_smart_board_interactive_whiteboard_on_student_motivation_in_the_classroom.pdf). Since students are asked more often to solve problems via the Smartboard, they develop a sense of accomplishment, which eventually leads to increased motivation. An example of a problem-solving with the use of Smartboard is to prepare an activity in which students need to decide to only bring two objects on a desert island, and to reach a consensus in teams. With this approach, different objects can be included on this tool, so that students can inspire their argumentation from the visual support that is given to them. Because students develop high motivation towards problem-solving learning via the Smartboard, they eventually increase their performance. Students are likely to perform better if they are highly motivated since motivation is intrinsically linked to performance. Therefore, Smartboard creates a positive vicious circle between effective problem-solving, self-confidence and achievement.
Finally, Smartboard also fosters learning for students with physical disabilities because of its touch-sensitive surface. In fact, ‘‘It allows all students, even those who cannot hold a pen, to write and interact with content using the finger-touch capability. For students who have trouble using traditional keyboards and mice, the touch and click ease allows them the opportunity to interact with a computer.’’ (http://www.brighthubeducation.com/special-ed-inclusion-strategies/55013-advantages-of-using-smartboards-for-students-with-special-needs/). This is very important to consider, because more and more physically disabled students are incorporated into regular classrooms to facilitate their integration into society. In traditional classroom lectures, teachers often fail to give an equal learning opportunity to these students. In this case, the tactile aspect of this tool facilitates general learning, as students only need to touch the board to move pictures on the screen. Thus, everything that is usually done with a pen can be replaced with the finger-touch capability on the Smartboard. All in all, Smartboard provides an effective solution to better integrate physical disabled students in the learning process, by giving them the opportunity to be valorized and praised via their capacity to accomplish tasks with their hands.