Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Not Too Smart

Apparently I got book memed a week or so ago and missed it completely; I realize it now only because D was playing geek and tracking links or something and pointed it out to me. My apologies; I'll get to work on it. Thanks to MrsDarwin for thinking of me!

A tech innovation widely coveted by school teachers today is a jazzy computerized 'blackboard' sometimes called an Active Board or SMART Board. It has some advantages over that the methods that went before: No chalk dust, no neuron-destroying hallucinogenic marker ink, no more collection of early Jurassic visual aid projectors that must be passed room to room and used with the blinds pulled down. The boards are controlled from the teacher's computer, and everything each class needs may be posted on them. Teachers can post and remove notes for each class they teach without having to erase and rewrite several times a day. The coach with the illegible handwriting can finally be understood. Films, pictures, charts and graphs are available with a keystroke. Maps can be kept up to date cheaply and easily--no more reminding the students to ignore those two Germanys, East Pakistan where Bangladesh should be, or that "Here be Dragons" in the more remote parts of the Indian Ocean. It's Powerpoint for the Converse All-Stars set; K-12 tech for the tech generation.

There's one bad meatball in this electronic smorgasbord, however, which we encountered the first week of school. Hon. Son #2 found out about it the hard way during his beginning-of-term Algebra pre-test the second day of classes.

When one of these silicon marvels is on but not being used to present information, the screen has to default to something neutral. This isn't a problem if that is a nice relaxing still picture of something. But often, it's the moving screen saver on the teacher's computer. Not everyone, it seems, has caught on that this can be a problem.

Hon. Son's Algebra teacher has a screen saver with a motif honoring her alma mater. That's fine as long as it's just on her computer screen--but not if it's playing life-size on the board behind her during a test or while she's lecturing! Hon. Son, who has no previous experience of SMART Boards, wasn't very smart himself that day. He was so thrown off by Ugga the Georgia Bulldog prancing back and forth across the classroom wall that he didn't finish the test before the bell rang.

School is in its second week now, and Hon. Son, not generally a distractible sort, says he is (after multiple repetitions of the dog act) able to tune it out completely. I wonder, though, if this space-age study aid will end up creating as many problems as it solves. I'm not sure, for example, that his older brother, who has learning disabilities and is easily distracted, would have made it through high school if he'd had to grapple with aquarium fish, cartoon characters, and fireworks dancing on the note board in front of him in every class.

We spend huge amounts of money (you could look it up) on school programs to assist special-needs students. Imagine all those programs, all those learning specialists, being mooted by an interfering bit of machinery and froufrou!

Most people will have difficulty focusing on a task when the environment is filled with distractions; some are especially sensitive and have very low tolerance for anything moving or making noises around them. If teachers want to be effective, they need to keep this in mind. Teachers, would you set up a television set tuned to Cartoon Network in the classroom during a lecture? No? Then please, please, spare your students the Smartboard Show as well!



Blogger The unconventional mother said...

Wow, I would be totally unable to handle that. When I was in graduate school and I had supervisions sessions I had to ask my supervisor to turn of his screen saver on his computer since I am easily distracted. I can't imagine on a "smart" board. I am sure there are students there who are bothered by it and just not speaking up

8:55 AM  
Blogger CMinor said...

I'm still working on a way to tactfully bring it up to the teacher. Pray for a miracle.

10:58 AM  

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