Smarter than SMART: How important are interactive projectors in today’s classroom?

Monday, December 12, 20168:09 PM

Is the technology in your classroom being used effectively?

As a technology coach I like to think that I’m always using technology in the best ways possible, but it’s important to remember that there’s always room for growth. Sometimes, the tech just isn’t right for lesson, students, teacher, or class. And other times, we need to be taking more risks to be innovative and transformative in our technology use.

So where does the SMART Board (or your brand of interactive projector) fit into that divide?

In my teaching, I’m not sure that I ever really used the SMART Board effectively. It became a glorified projector, and while it was nice to use the touchscreen and write with the pens, it was never truly interactive in my high school English class. Often, it was miscalibrated or a bulb was dim, and all of the typical first-level barriers to edtech got in the way. It was used almost every day, but was simply a way to present my presentations to the class.

Then, when I went all in with Google, the big problem became the incompatibility between SMART Ink and Google Apps. I would have LOVED (and still would love) to write on my screen with the pens and to save my annotations and notes to my Slides or Docs. And yet years later, I’m still searching for a tool to help make this possible (follow the start of my search in Essential Extensions: Practical Chrome Extensions for Education).

Image courtesy of

In my district, we are in the process of reevaluating the role of SMART Boards as our projection tool. Teachers have clunky Dell laptops and most classrooms also have desktops hooked up to SMART Boards. Meanwhile, some teachers, like me, aren’t using them for their interactive features. When does the high cost of the SMART Board and the low impact of interactive projectors begin to interfere with teaching and learning? When and how can we be doing better?

That’s the questions that I’m asking myself as a teacher and coach, which led me to reflect down my history of edtech and SMART use. From the daily Powerpoint with limited SMART notes to today’s Google Slides and cloud-based apps, I’ve never really been a SMART Notebook user, but what are the tools that I’m missing out on? If my SMART Board disappeared tomorrow, what would I be losing and what would I gain?

We’re looking into exploring some alternatives for the future, both for laptops and projectors. Technology has so much potential but is too expensive to waste. To start our research and planning process, we asked the question in the title of this post: how important are our SMART Boards in the high school?

A screenshot of some of the question on our survey to teachers

I’ve seen great interactive lessons using SMART tech in elementary school classrooms. I know math teachers who swear by it. My colleague in English is a SMART Notebook Guru. But how important is it really? So, like with so much of data collection, we started with a survey to better understand how SMART boards are being used. The data wasn’t very definitive, but provided some insights. In the future, I’ll explore how we are--and aren’t--using our interactive projectors, how I’m loving playing with a Microsoft Surface PRO, and why I think the SMART Board is yesterday’s technology.

What do you think? What role do SMART Boards and interactive projectors have in our classrooms? How are and aren’t they being used effectively? What does effective use even look like? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.

You Might Also Like