It’s Like Jimmies on Top of the Ice Cream; Creating a Learning Space Using the Interactive Board

I really need to move back to New England, no one knows what jimmies are down here, (If you’re in New England and still don’t know, we need to have a chat.) What I’ve come to realize over the years working in the field of education is that not one educator has the same access to technology. Some have the really expensive interactive TV while some are grateful for a computer that has the ability to answer emails. It’s all different no matter where you look. The big question I get a lot is “Do I need an Interactive board to teach?”, the best answer? “Heck no,” Teachers are known for being scrappy problem solvers. You can still teach your technology-centered students without the latest and greatest. There is always an alternative to work with…..but if you have one? Oh, friend, you’ve got a gold mine of opportunities to use it with. You’ve already got the most delicious ice cream of lessons, the interactive board is the jimmies on top that make it even more fun.

Now I’m sure you’re saying “I do have one! But how do I set up my classroom expectations to make sure we can use it successfully?”

I’m glad you asked! Here are some tips and tricks for using an interactive board in the classroom;

  • Your rug seating should have clear pathways for walking. Interactive means students are heading up to the board to actually touch it. If you are in a space with tables and chairs, set them up where there is plenty of space to move around. If you are sitting at a rug or have an open floorplan, I put painters tape down at the beginning of the year where I needed the open aisles so students knew the expectation. After a month or two, you can start to pull it up when they get used to it.
  • If you have the option, mount the board at waist height for your students. This is important especially if you are teaching littles. Interacting with the board means they actually have to reach it. If for example, you teach preschool and your board is mounted at your height, they won’t be able to reach much unless you have a step stool or wand available.
  • Make sure to orient your board at least once a week. This is an important thing to do for most boards because it keeps the accuracy of the touchpoints good. This is usually a simple task that you could hand to a student once a week to do and will keep aggravation at a minimum.
  • Turn off your display when you’re not using it. Depending on the students in your classroom, you might have some “screen kids” who are driven by the power of the screen. Know how to quickly turn on and off your screen during times you are not using it so it can keep focus!
  • Cleaaaaaannnnnn it! Yup, if you’ve got fingers touching it, get some disinfecting cleaning wipes and get that sucker cleaned up on a regular schedule. You could even make this the responsibility of a student to do at the beginning or end of every class. After the last few years we’ve had, we don’t need to be spreading any more germs around than we have to.
  • Build in specific times when you use the board. That way you’ve set in the expectation we aren’t using it all the time, but when we do use it, it has a purpose. Have it going and put a message on there when students enter the room, use it to play an interactive game about what students are learning to help drive a point home. Do research together guiding students on how to look for answers, take a virtual field trip, or video chat with an expert. Show students the board has a purpose.

Want more tips and tricks for using projection systems in the classroom? Check out my book! It’s on Amazon!

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Counting my techie blessings

Have you ever thought you were just the same as everyone else in the world? You had the same things every other teacher across the US had? Throughout my first year of teaching I actually fell into the routine where I assumed and forgot about those who had less. I know it was kind of stupid to think that but when you’re in a district where every school has a projector in each classroom, netbooks are a dime a dozen, and students get designated computer time each week you begin to think every other district in the world has the same. After a recent trip to a music ed conference my thoughts were reverted back remembering all of the music classrooms I’ve been in that certainly could have used tech but didn’t have any. I was talking to a bunch of educators who were telling me they have never had a projector in there classroom..I’ve had the privilege of one in each of my classrooms mounted to the wall. Some don’t have access to computer for students..I have access to ComputersOnWheels anytime I want them. We are in a rebuilding stage in our economy but when a district like mine who has lots of low income families and not a huge budget can get special help to provide students with this equipment can get it, others can too. Of course the tech that one is provided cannot be a crutch used to teach and be the overall direction of the class. It is supposed to be there to enhance a student’s educational experience providing visuals and concept reinforcement activities for each child to better their education. I was so grateful for the technology I was given I had told my mother who also works in the district about it. She was so impressed by my stories and words she went up to the Superintendent (who happens to frequent the same gym she does at the same time every morning) about what I said and he was so surprised about how thankful I was.
All in all I count my blessings when it comes to technology in my classroom. I feel it’s overall helped me become a better person so I try to involve my students with it hoping to give them the same experiences I had…and I have to tell you, the thing my students remember most about music class this year?? using the computers!

Sing some songs

A great way to bring some different cultures into the class is to substitute  a few songs you normally would sing with your students with a few different childrens songs from other countries. Or translate a song you already sing to a different language as something special for the kids (  has a wonderful translator). This way your students get a taste of a different language without changing a lot of their set daily schedule.  Is a great site to get started on finding some new songs!