Jakarta-based English Language School

By: Bob Indo

My school has been running a trial with Smart interactive whiteboards. We are a forward-thinking language school in Jakarta with a desire to push the boundaries and a willingness to embrace classroom technology if , and only if, it's proven to be genuinely useful.

With the cost of these devices falling steadily and the range of functions increasing, many schools around the world are turning towards touch-screen interactive white boards and similar educational technology. Not wanting to be 'left behind' but also not wanting to waste money, we decided to run a 4-month trial with a Smartboard, which has now come to an end. As a school manager I had 3 main questions in mind:

1.Can teachers quickly and easily adapt, and can they learn to utilise the full potential of the equipment?

2.Do interactive whiteboards improve the quality and effectiveness of the teaching happening in my class rooms?

3.As the only language school (so far) to use the Smart board in Indonesia, will their usage attract more word-of-mouth marketing and therefore be a cost-effective long-term investment?

1.Can teachers quickly and easily adapt, and can they learn to utilize the full potential of the equipment?

I am deeply interested in technology and computers (and their role in education), so I was an easy sell for the Smart representative in Jakarta. However I knew that not all of my teachers would be so quick to throw away their white board markers. I should have had more faith, though, because after a few short training sessions and a few trial lessons, even my most technophobic teachers were navigating the board with ease. As the most basic function, all teachers are instantly able to use the new white board as they would have used a traditional board. Within hours, teachers are incorporating photos, sounds, Internet browsers and interactive activities into their white board work. Success.

One complaint from teachers was that the 'Smartboard's recognition of their pen' was too slow, resulting in messy handwriting. This wasn't a Smartboard problem, it was a computer program. After a clean up, defragmentation and slight hardware upgrade, the computer controlling the Smartboard was running lightening-fast and I received no more complaints.

I am now confident that teachers can learn to use these devices quickly, although some teachers obviously make the transition more smoothly than others.

2.Do interactive whiteboards improve the quality and effectiveness of the teaching happening in my class rooms?

Put simply, yes.

Just having these devices in the classroom makes the room a more fun, exciting place to be. Students' attention is drawn toward the board, even before it has been switched on.

Once running, students and teachers can enjoy interacting with the board in ways not possible with conventional boards. Pictures, movies, interactive exercises and text can be produces and manipulated very simply by anyone. The Smartboard has added a great deal of richness to the learning experience at my school, and access to the Internet on the board has been invaluable. I'm not sure how we ever coped with tricky vocabulary before we were able to use 'Google Images' to flash up a picture within seconds. We also regularly use news websites to add real current affairs texts to many of our classes.

In terms of improving educational quality, the Smartboards have been an overwhelming success.

3.As the only language school (so far) to use Smartboards in Indonesia, will their usage attract more word-of-mouth marketing and therefore be a cost-effective long-term investment?

This has been hard to prove. The boards are not cheap, and must be accompanied by a computer and LCD projector, so this is a question i'll continue looking into. We have had the Smartboards in place since the beginning in some classrooms and conventional whiteboards in others. Almost all students (96%) stated they preferred the interactive white board to the conventional board. The same students also stated, though, that the most important factor affecting their level of satisfaction was the quality of the teacher and the teaching itself. Interestingly, there was no particular demographic (young/old/male/female) which preferred learning with the interactive white boards more than others.

Among students we have a very high level of satisfaction with our teaching staff, and a very high re-enrollment rate. The school, Aim for English www.aimjakarta.com , is thriving and word-of-mouth marketing is flourishing, but it's impossible to say that this has been due to the Smartboards alone. For us, the trial has been an overwhelming success and we plan to invest in Smartboards for all classrooms during 2007/2008.

If you're thinking about investing in these devices, don't think that it will be the answer to your school's problems. However, if used in conjunction with great teachers, touch-screen interactive whiteboards can be a powerful marketing tool and, more importantly, can greatly improve the quality and effectiveness of education at your school.

To see the Smartboard in use, take a look at www.aimjakarta.com

For more information about our school, contact

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