Debra Allain

Can you imagine teaching in your classroom without using the chalkboard, an overhead projector, chart paper, or pocket charts? Deb Allain has found these items becoming almost obsolete since a four by six foot Smartboard was installed this school year in her classroom. How has the Smartboard impacted Deb and her second grade students? I wanted to know what has her so excited about using this technology.

Chappel: What is a Smartboard?

Allain: A Smartboard is a four by six foot white board that is interactive with the computer. It can be operated by using a touch pad, keyboard or simply by touching the board itself. Students in all grade levels are eager to use it. It is much “cooler” to write on the Smartboard than on the chalkboard.

Chappel: How do you utilize the Smartboard in your classroom?

Allain: I use my Smartboard for three-fourths of the day. The attendance, daily class meeting and calendar activities are all done on the Smartboard. It’s so easy and interactive for the students. I take attendance by displaying the class roster and touch the icon for absent students. Each student is assigned a job utilizing the Smartboard. Every day I copy and paste news items out of email announcements so my students can read and discuss current events and highlight dates on the calendar I scan every month. The Smartboard’s tools have special markers that can embellish the calendar with smiley faces, rainbows or stars with just a touch point.
We have a weather station on top of our school building. Students go to our school web page, touch the icons to access the current temperature, wind-chill, and other weather-related information. Then the student returns to our class meeting page and moves an arrow to record the Fahrenheit and Celsius temperature and graph the weather.
A historian writes a paragraph reviewing work we did the previous day. The Smartboard has lined paper background displaying the student’s penmanship. The class reads the paragraph which provides many opportunities to integrate writing and grammar skills in a meaningful context.
At the end of the class meeting we recite a class pledge we wrote at the beginning of the year. After we recite the pledge from the Smartboard we begin the day’s lessons for Math and Language Arts.

Chappel: Students accessing, recording information from real-world sources, and discussing each other’s writing is such valuable learning. What other academic areas do you utilize Smartboard technology?

Allain: Math is another Smartboard program. I have scanned all of the student math journal pages so that students can be called upon to go to the Smartboard and complete a problem once they have completed their own page. We seem to have “races” to get finished and be able to show how to solve a problem.
The Language Arts reading program is easier to follow now that I have organized and scanned the student workbook pages and teacher transparencies that correlate to a lesson. At any point that I need to expand on a topic, I just add a page to a folder. Students take turns going to the board to write answers.
I also utilize the Smartboard during writing. To model how to write paragraphs we brainstormed ideas about our topic on the first page. Then I showed students how to write a paragraph using a graphic organizer. I scanned the organizer and created a second page. Next we webbed several main ideas and details students generated by allowing them to write on the graphic organizer before students wrote on their own. To model how to indent a paragraph I scanned lined paper and wrote a topic sentence. After the lesson I saved the pages to a file. I printed out copies for students that were absent at the same time so they would have the benefit of our class discussion.
For social studies and science I found a website that had interactive pages while we were studying land formations. The students begged me to go to the website. They wrote down information in their landform journals and played interactive games.

Chappel: The Smartboard seems to promote active learning and high interest. How else do you utilize the board for instruction?

Allain: I am always looking for ways to have students interact with the Smartboard. During the holidays the students had to decorate ornaments. Some students were having difficulty creating their own designs so I did a Google search. I only had to open a few web pages, touch the picture and drag it into the Smartboard page. The pictures inspired the student’s ideas and could be left up for everyone to view. The extra bonus is that I saved the page for next year’s plan.

Chappel: Efficient teaching and planning saves valuable time. How did you obtain a Smartboard for your classroom?

Allain: If you were to ask me a year ago what a Smartboard was, I wouldn’t have had a clue. My technology update began two summers ago when I took a two day UPWP Advanced Institute with Sara Beauchamp. I was ready to make significant changes. Then the technology teacher at our school applied and got the MI Champions grant. She asked me if I would consider attending the Macul Conference downstate in March, 2008 with four other teachers from our district.
I was overwhelmed at what there was to see and learn at the Macul Conference but the conference was my turning point. I found out that part of the grant required me to generate two lesson plans that incorporated technology in my classroom, attend summer training in Marquette, and do five hours of on-line coursework. So last summer I enrolled in Sara VanAbel’s four day Advanced Institute course. She taught me so much! I learn best by doing and she gave the class time and space for each of us to work at our own speed.
After my technology training I learned the principal had ordered Smartboards for the MI Champion teachers as a pilot program. To be honest I couldn’t see the advantage for second grade at that point. The eighth-grade teachers all received Smartboards under a different grant. The boards were up and running the week before school started. We were able to see them in operation and play around with them. The week before Thanksgiving my Smartboard was finally connected in my room. My vision widened as I began using the board with my class meeting and is still growing.

Chappel: What recommendation would you have for other teachers interested in Smartboards?

Allain: I would not want to go back to the old way of doing things. I am in a continuous learning mode. I am working hard to scan math and reading overheads and journal pages to be saved to our server system. Any future Smartboard teacher will be able to access everything I have done. I guess I am paving the way for others.

Chappel: Deb is pioneering a wave of technological advances in teaching that I hope many of us will be able to take advantage of in the future. Please don’t hesitate to contact Deb to find out more about what she’s learning about Smartboards or Sara Beauchamp to learn more about Advanced Institutes openings.

Interviewed by Ann Chappel