Friday, March 6, 2015

Technology Works for Me: Interactive Whiteboards (By Danette Lovelady)

*From the April 2014 edition of "Southwestern Musician" (used with permission)

The one tool that has made my classroom much more efficient is the use of a SMART Board interactive whiteboard to display my lesson information. Using an interactive whiteboard has revolutionized the way I present information to my students. I incorporate it in almost every lesson I teach. 

When I first started teaching recorder, one of the biggest challenges I experienced was keeping students on the correct page in their books. Now I display all our recorder songs on the interactive whiteboard. I never have to roam the room to make sure students are on the correct page or song because the music is clearly displayed on my board at the front of the room. With their attention on the board, it offers a much better way to teach the students how to read rhythms and the staff.

Like other interactive whiteboard options, a SMART Board is delivered with software you can utilize to create lessons formatted similar to a PowerPoint file. The software provides many tools you can use to personalize any lesson to meet the needs of your classroom. It comes with stationary, animated, and interactive clipart; a shape-making tool; customizable game and activity templates; and even the ability to embed sound files directly into your lesson pages, so you won’t need a separate CD player. With one touch of the board, a sound file plays. Here are some examples of how I use my board to create lessons:
  • The interactive whiteboard is great for displaying multiple short rhythmic/melodic patterns. Use the shape tool to create distinctly-colored boxes behind each music pattern so that each group of students can focus on their assigned color. Alternatively, you can color-code the notes themselves inside a neutral box.  
  • My favorite interactive tool in the clipart is an object dice—it allows you to put a photo, letter, number, or word on each side and customize the dice to your lesson. I display numbered rhythm patterns on the board when we are learning recorder, and use three interactive dice to determine who plays (boys, girls, group number, etc. on die one), what pitch is played (B, A, G, etc., on die two), and which pattern number is played (1, 2, 3, etc. on die three). They become much more engaged than if I simply said something like “Boys, pattern 2, note G.”
  • One of the game templates is for a matching game similar to the memory game. There is a grid of interactive tiles that disappear and reappear when touched. You can insert words or pictures under each tile, and students take turns tapping two tiles in order to make a match. I like to have them match a picture of a note/rest with its written name. You could do something similar with matching instrument pictures to instrument names, etc. There are lots of other possibilities.

Don’t Have the Money?

I remember reading articles like this before and thinking that it all sounded wonderful, but I couldn’t imagine how we could get funding to purchase something like that. To utilize an interactive board correctly, you need the board itself, a data projector, a computer, and Internet access. No budget I’ve ever had would support purchasing those things for my classroom. So I began researching grant options and decided to apply for a grant through Texas Commission on the Arts to fund the purchase. After several anxious months of waiting, I was notified that my application had been approved. The grant covered most of the cost for a large SMART Board and a data projector, and I was able to use some budget funds to cover the remaining portion of the purchase—just a few hundred dollars more. 
The thought of applying for a grant can be overwhelming, but getting the supplies and equipment you need makes the process worthwhile. If you have limited technology resources, a grant is a great way to provide your students with those things that your budget will not cover. While I use a SMART Board, there are other interactive white boards that offer these same features.

Whatever you implement, you’ll find that nothing compares to the confidence and the efficiency you experience when every student is focused on the correct place in the right music while you are teaching. 


Danette Lovelady obtained her B.S and M.M. degrees from Texas A&M University-Commerce.  She currently teaches general music and choir for grades 3-4 in Sulphur Springs, TX, and also serves as the worship leader for her church.  She and her husband, Aaron, who is also a music educator, live in Sulphur Springs, TX.  They have two school-aged children, Nate and Benjamin.