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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