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Posts tagged ‘secondary’

Critical thinking, stupidity and SMART Boards.


I’m constantly surprised by the amount of adverts for beauty products or health foods on television that claim some form of validity for their boasts based on what could be described as very dodgy statistics or other data.

Putting to one side the ‘75% improvement in 2 weeks’ claim that is based on a study of 43 women who self-judge and don’t compare to any meaningful measure; the anecdotal evidence, “my mum tried ‘X’ and found that her skin looked so much younger that builders whistled at her as she walked passed”; or the even more bizarre collection of ‘science’ phrases that give an air of credibility to any product; putting all this to one side, here is a great opportunity.

A great opportunity to engage the pupils in maths, science or English lessons (what do those words mean, do they make sense in this context?). Using the adverts as a starting point and incorporating the SMART Board interactively we can focus not only on the content and skills but also on Higher Order and Critical thinking as we take apart the claims made by these companies.

What are the pedagogical benefits of using these adverts in a lesson?

One of the key benefits is RELEVANCE. These are adverts that the pupils will see day in day out and it is certainly something they will spend money on. If the material is relevant then this will;

  • allow all students to have an opion as they will all have seen the adverts, engage the pupils in the harder maths or science material to follow, motivate them to find out more, encourage them to take ownership of the material and continue to learn outside of the classroom

Also important is the incorporation of Higher Order Thinking. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy we can get the students to:

  • Analyse the content of the advert
  • Evaluate the content and compare this to other sources or data they themselves have obtained from experiments or statistical analysis
  • Create a critique or more accurate advert for the product (it’s a shame that the product in the new advert may be less fantastic sounding)

We will also be able to encourage the Critical Thinking of the pupils by forcing them to consider information they get presented with on a regular basis. I suppose the key issue is to equip the pupils with tools to be able to deal with this type of advertising:

  • Can we test the claims and do they hold up to a simple analysis?
  • Compare to what we know and see if the claims sound plausible?
  • Can we look to an authority for clarification of the claim?
  • Who wrote it and for what purpose (if it was a test commissioned by the company for the advert it may be less reliable)?

How do we incorporate Interactivity?

I’m not a Maths or Science teacher so my ideas are rather general and generic, but hopefully we can add ideas in the comments section for this post.

For any of the subjects I’ve identified links to adverts on YouTube or  to a recorded source or from a selection of adverts on the internet would be the simplest way to start, we could analyse the claims and look at how we might test these in a Science lesson or question the statistics in Maths. Using some simple activities like ‘Drag and Drop’ or ‘reveals’ we can introduce new ideas or hint at approaches the students might want to take in their own research.

What we have to make sure is the students are using the SMART Board and creating their own activities and sharing ideas.

Using Notebook software and the IWB to deliver this type of lesson will have several benefits:

  • Reducing the time taken to produce resources for the class – if you do them digitally they can always be updated, reviewed or altered as needed
  • The use of technology is something that the pupils understand and are comfortable with (this reinforces the idea of ‘relevance’ to them)
  • It gives plenty of opportunity for the pupils to come and present their ideas and interact with the material – taking control of the lesson and presenting ideas for the class to critique is very powerful.
  • We can engage the ‘multiple learning styles’ present in the room.

As long as we follow the design principles set out in Tracy’s recent post then the lessons we create will engage and motivate the entire class especially when we combine it with relevant and interesting material and give them the opportunity to question big companies who advertise on TV.

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Does Design Matter? Using Great Design to Teach Great Lessons


When teachers are first exposed to SMART Notebook and other visual presentation media, they love to explore all of the ‘bells and whistles’ of the software. They tend to go mad with crazy gradient backgrounds, spinning and flashing stars, adding fifty images to one page, and a myriad of unreadable (but fun) fonts, styles and sizes. OR they go the other way. Everything they have previously done on the OHP gets copied and pasted into a Notebook file, so you’re left with 12pt size black and white text that is unreadable from the back of the classroom.

Ultimately, the software is there for teachers to deliver great teaching and learning and the design of Notebook lessons (or any visual media) can beneficially or detrimentally impact on teaching and learning in the classroom. Like all forms of lesson preparation, consideration about HOW you present your information is just as important as WHAT you present. Try considering the following when developing your Notebook lessons:

1. Colours

  • The best rule when selecting colours is to keep it simple
  • Use bright, vibrant colours on title/ navigation pages and clear, high contrast, consistent colour for content pages

2. Fonts

  • Make sure your fonts are grade appropriate. Early years classes need fonts that replicate the way they are learning to form their letters. Century Gothic and Comic Sans tend to come closest to Australian handwriting scripts, or if you have a Foundation font installed on your computer appropriate to your state, consider using it.

  • Make it easy to see. Your normal font size should be about 36pt and minimum font size should be 24pt. A font size that’s appropriate for a handout is no where near big enough for projection in a normal classroom. If you can’t fit it on, you have too much information on the one page. Consider using interactive elements to layer and selectively reveal information. Also, some fonts are easier to read than others. What may be ok for a headline or title becomes tedious and difficult to read in the body of a text. Generally, ‘sans-serif’ fonts are easier to read than ‘serif’ fonts. (Serif fonts have embellishments on the letters).

  • Be consistent. Using different fonts, sizes and styles is confusing and distracting. If you are going to vary the fonts, use it for impact- sparingly.

For Notebook 10 Software:

3. Graphics

  • Is it relevant? If not, it’s distracting or confusing. Use images to illustrate ideas and develop concepts.

  • Just like text, graphics need to be readable. Can they be viewed from the back of the classroom? Is it large enough? Is the quality of the image acceptable? Does it make sense? Considering the effectiveness of images is important in getting the right message across. Which one has more impact on learning?

  • Model good practice don’t breach copyright and attribute. There are more and more websites that list images and media that are licensed under ‘Creative Commons’.  As a first port of call, these are the sites you should be accessing. Try using the Google Images ‘Advanced’ filter to find resources that have been tagged for sharing. It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of attributing work.

Hopefully these suggestions will stimulate you to consider not just the content of your lessons but how you present them in a way that’s accessible and engaging for your students. IWBs are a visual media and learning to design resources that make the most of the media can have a really positive impact on learning.

Resources from our latest Content Creation Seminar in Sydney


A recent addition to our professional development portfolio, we now run Content Creation Seminars around the country each school term. Content Creation Seminars run over a couple of days and teachers who are fluent in using Smart Notebook are invited to collaborate with other teachers to develop resources for use on Smart Boards. At out most recent CCS, the teachers contributed a range of Science and Stage Three resources which can be accessed at: http://www.interactivewhiteboard.net.au/conferences/resources.aspx

Here are a selection of the contributed resources:

Ingrid Russel from Lapstone Public School has developed an excellent resource on Exploring Modality for Stage 3 English. A tricky topic to teach, this Notebook supports students to recognise modality and use it effectively in their writing.

Chris Moon has also contributed a fabulous Notebook titled ‘Ages of the Dinosaurs’. This lesson is based around a collaborative design task to produce and adventure video on a prehistoric period.

For more information about Content Creation Seminars, please email Sonya Griffith at s.griffith@electroboard.com.au

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