Do we really need SMART Boards to teach writing well?

Last Friday, there was an article in The Washington Post entitled “Some educators question if whiteboards, other high tech tools raise achievement.”  This article reflects an on-going conversation Ruth and I have been having about how much technology is really needed to teach writing well.  (Annie, a third grade teacher who is the author of the “Write Now in Room 204” Blog, has written about this too.)  In fact, I’ve noticed that many schools are cutting the amount of professional development teachers are receiving so they can install interactive whiteboards in classrooms.

One particular quote stood out for me from the Post article:

“There is hardly any research that will show clearly that any of these machines will improve academic achievement,” said Larry Cuban, education professor emeritus at Stanford University. “But the value of novelty, that’s highly prized in American society, period. And one way schools can say they are ‘innovative’ is to pick up the latest device.”

So why are schools spending thousands upon thousands of dollars purchasing the latest and greatest technology for the classroom?  Rather than reiterate the reasons, do read The Post article, which explains the rationale, in depth, as well as the realities of spending money on multimedia items for classrooms.

I do think some technology is quite useful for enhancing writing instruction.  For instance, a document camera (and LCD projector) helps show students’ in-process writing in its original form.  Additionally, minilessons can be more meaningful when students can watch their teacher writing in her own writer’s notebook or on her own draft. Additionally, having a laptop, which plugs into an LCD projector is another tool that can help our young writers when it comes to utilizing Word, blogs, and other programs adult writers use with greater ease.  However, “good teaching is good teaching,” regardless of the amount of high-tech toys one has in the classroom.  Hands-down, I’d rather work with a teacher who valued conferring with all of his students on a weekly basis rather and only had an overhead projector and chart paper than one who valued didn’t teach well, but had lots of high-tech gadgets in the classroom.

Please share your thoughts on this subject!