Damn it, I got here and hated those freaking SMART boards, all that technology-in-the-classroom load of bollocks, ridiculous schemes dreamed up by industry to throw another load of books on the fire. I didn’t want to use them. I didn’t want any part. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just throw that hunk of touch screen crap out in the hall and give me a white board, some markers, and a few minds to tweak. I’d come to teach, not learn about computer programs.
At first, I refused to do anything more than use the thing as if were only a hugely overpriced whiteboard. I wrote and erased. I bitched when the tip of the faux marker didn’t dictate where the writing would appear, creating the weird effect of trying to scribble something and having it be four inches above my hand. Dotting an “i” was so difficult it made me sick. The pens would erase when I tried to write, or I would destroy entire words instead of make little cosmetic improvements, say shorten the tail of a “u” so that it didn’t look like a “y”.
Then, there was all the other computer crap that goes along with computer… crap. I waited a month for a techie to hook the thing up. Sometimes, I’d be in the middle of the lesson and crash, the screen would freeze, the children mocking me as scramble to get the system rebooted all so I could write ten colors. For two months, I showed my age, sure that SMART boards were the dumbest idea smart people had ever come up with, citing how when I was a boy, teachers only needed chalk and a surface.
However, when I’m wrong, and I was severely wrong this time, I’ll own up to it. As the months progressed, even if by accident, I began to understand it more. The Christmas came, and I was able to broadcast free YouTube holiday cartoons to my classes, which was miraculous, both in that they were available in Russia and didn’t require carting an ancient tv-video system from a weird-smelling storage closet. Like any responsible teacher, I started incorporating cartoons into just about every lesson.
The YouTube discovery only fueled more exploration. So, I learned how to freeze projections of worksheets, the same my students had done for homework, on the board so that we could complete them together, for all to see. I learned to make fifty colors with one marker, found a built-in timer with sound effects, and utilized an endless plethora of children’s EFL themed songs and lessons and stuff from YouTube. I remembered how much I hated refilling ink in markers for the old white boards.
The best was yet to come: interactive touch screen games, namely a little website called Barry Fun English. Gone are the days of having to copy, cut, and paste a dozen individual game boards and pieces. Online there are all manner of educational games (environmentally-friendly and for free no less), such that whatever grammar, vocabulary, or contextual drivel I am bestowing that day can be taught via the bells, whistles, and graphics of a computer game. My job got a whole lot easier.
I’m not ashamed to admit it: I use SMART features in every lesson of every class I teach now. We watch a cartoon weekly (with accompanying vocabulary lesson and quiz questions), we play Barry Fun English every lesson, and we use our books as sparingly as possible. In any given class, we spend about twenty-five percent of the time studying the old fashion way and the other seventy-five getting SMART. So, I guess the conclusion would be that I endorse this product.