Heather Wolpert-Gawron

The “Sweet Spot” in Interactive Whiteboards courtesy of Robert Marzano

By on March 9, 2009

CUE scored Marzano.  

As he began his keynote presentation on Friday at the 2009 Computer Using Educators conference, Robert Marzano confessed that he had been slow on the tech bandwagon, only recently researching enough to see what all the fuss was about. But by the end of test study, after test study, after test study, he soon realized that using certain ed tech strategies resulted undeniable successes in student achievement.

There are four strategies, he says, that are irrefutably changing the future of education, that, without proper adoption, would doom us to be “dinosaurs” in our practice.  

But he warned us that while there are “no silver bullets,” there are “silver bbs,” and a teacher must decide “which combination of silver bbs is best for [their] classroom.”

And of the four points he talked about, the leading teaching strategy that Robert Marzano felt was a true breakthrough in education (aside from the use of the internet which he is currently studying), was the use of the Interactive Whiteboard and its Voter-Response Technology.



On this, Robert Marzano was very clear.  This technology is the future of education.  His data was undeniable.  

     1. Of those classrooms employing these boards and using the voting technology, there was an immediate 17-percentile gain in scores.

      2. He also found that if a teacher were using the board for 20-30 months, there was, on average, a 20 percentile gain.  Thus, proving that with time and practice, a teacher can hone his/her skills to encourage even more student success.

       3. The “Sweet Spot” he says, the perfect storm of student achievement according to his findings, was when the technology was used by an experienced teacher, having had it for 2 years, using it 75% of the time in class, who has had training.  That teacher shows a whopping 29% gain in scores.  

But there is such a thing as too much.  Marzano went on to remind us that beyond this sweet spot thar be dragons, doing less for student scores, thus proving that you clearly “can’t take the human mean out of teaching.” 

To get the most out of the interactive whiteboard technology, a district can’t just give it to a teacher, and not to just any teacher.  The district has to train that teacher.  And, Marzano was quick to point out, that “weaker teachers require professional development in [both] effective teaching and the use of Interactive Whiteboard Technology.”

Success comes in finding that sweet spot and using it properly.  He stresses that, statistically, this successful strategy only works if:

     * There is clear focus on content, not just using bells and whistles.  The technology proves merely distracting otherwise.

     * The voting component is in place, keeping track of students who are getting it and those who aren’t, and using this feedback formatively.

Marzano believes that voting technology is a breakthrough technology, but it must be combined with teachers who know how to “milk” that data.

It was exciting to have Robert Marzano up there, standing behind the ed tech standard, evolving in his own theories.  But it was also comforting to have such a Godfather of educational practice reminding those before him in the trenches that, despite the negative press about education, statistics continue to prove that, “If you give magic bbs to teachers who want to hone their craft, great things can happen.”





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  1. David Cohen
    March 9, 2009

    Did he cite any study currently published? Did he mention what ages and subjects were studied, or what types of schools?

  2. Tweenteacher
    March 10, 2009

    He mentioned that this was the recent result from his funded studies of over 85 classrooms. There was a lot of statistical talk I didn’t understand, but he did discuss the control classrooms and how they at least limited the number of variables. For instance, he would take Teacher 1 and have them teach a lesson using an IWB and then go to another room and teach the same lesson with the same age group without an IWB. At least they took the teacher and lesson variable out of the equation.

    But, bottom line was, that you can’t take a good teacher out of the picture. The tool was there to improve, not replace.

  3. Mathew
    March 10, 2009

    Yes, interesting finding that there is too much of a good thing when it comes to tech in education.

    P.S. Sorry to have missed you at CUE (again) but I have no idea what you look like so I may have passed you in the hall and didn’t even know it.

  4. BILL
    March 12, 2009

    Interesting. I wonder which IWB and response device they used in the research?

  5. Lisa Thumann
    March 12, 2009

    I believe he used Promethean Activboards for the research as he does work with that company.

  6. tweenteacher
    March 12, 2009

    They used a Promethean Board. But he touted the technology in general. Thanks for the question and checking in at Tweenteacher.
    aka TT

  7. Shelly
    March 14, 2009

    I saw your Twitter post regarding Teacher Created Resources. I have considering submitting some thematic units to them; however, I’m afraid they won’t offer enough pay. I would love to discuss this company more with you. I also sell my products on another site. You might do well there also: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Signup?ref=promotingsuccess

  8. Sheri Edwards
    March 15, 2009

    For more discussion and collegial help on IWB, join Chris Betcher’s ning at:

    This article and this blog is being discussed there, as beginners and experts share.

    Thanks, Heather, for adding this concise Marzana summary.

  9. Mark R
    March 15, 2009

    There is a post keynote interview with Dr Marzano and Dr Pickering where they recap the main points of the keynote.


    For disclosure, I do work for Promethean as an educationalist, and it is great to have the influence of these great thinkers contribute to the company’s product vision and focus.

    I also think the points made are applicable to many other types of successful technology adoption in schools and they are also looking at Clicker/Responder technology and Internet use so the various elements that must work together to make for a substantial approach to technology facilitated instruction, assessment and student centered, online learning are being looked at.

  10. TechHelper
    March 19, 2009

    Wow! Thank you for sharing this information with us in the trenches. I am an instructional technology specialist at one of Georgia’s Educational Technology Centers where we provide TechEd professional development to our district’s teachers. It was validating to hear that what we have been teaching for so long and personally observing in classrooms has been given credibility by someone as renown as Robert Marzano. Technologies positive impact on students needed to be given time to produce the differences that he witnessed in his study. Your statement about IWBs and student response devices not being “silver bullets” is correct but just like bullets they are not effective if they are not placed in a firearm and the trigger pulled by someone. In this analogy, the firearm is the curriculum and the “someone” is a trained and pedagogically skilled teacher. This is the academic machinery that will improve the classroom characteristics of teaching and learning in the future!

  11. Andrewek
    December 4, 2018

    Hello. And Bye.

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