From Chalkboards to Smart Boards? Has technology changed the way teachers teach?

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Technology is becoming more and more advanced. Items that are faster and sleeker are replacing items that we once used. These are anything, from things that are in our homes to things that are in our schools. Many schools have new technology that teachers use. This might sound great, that most schools have this advanced technology, but when we look deeper do we see any change over time? More specifically, do we see any change over time in the way teachers teach?

In this research paper, I will show what author, Larry Cuban, feels about teaching and the implementation of technology over time. I will look at a couple of his books The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920 and Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom where he says that how teachers teach has stayed the same over time and how he believes that more time can aid development and make teachers more comfortable with technology. I will then go on to look at a pretty recent addition to the innovative technology family, interactive white boards, also called Smart Boards, and show that teaching has also stayed constant with its presence in classrooms. Some of the evidence used is that teachers are still the most important part of teaching and that some teachers are more comfortable using old ways than new innovative technological ways of teaching.

Larry Cuban was a former teacher and wrote about teaching in articles and books. Cuban has shown interest in school reform as well as teaching and technology. Many of his works show this interest. (About).

In Larry Cuban’s book, The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920, he begins by telling us what teaching was like in the Progressive Era. Cuban describes teaching as something that challenges students to think. According to Cuban, “The teacher’s role was to be coach and advisor, not drill sergeant.” Cuban also states that teachers and students used to work collaborate on certain projects. (Cuban 210). This was what teaching was like many years ago. Does Cuban see a change in the way teachers teach with the introduction of technology?

Cuban first looks at the technological innovation of film. After film was introduced to schools, it was not used as much as it could have been. In this section of Cuban’s book he does not say much about the effect of film on teaching. Cuban mentioned a limited amount of evidence, one of which was a 1946 survey in which superintendents from urban and rural districts were asked about the use of films in schools. It was found that senior high schools were less likely to use film while elementary schools were more likely to use film (Cuban 214). Then in 1954, urban superintendents took the survey and it was found that, again, secondary schools were less likely to use films (Cuban 216). This suggests that the difference in school levels might contribute to the frequency of film use, back when it was first introduced in schools.

Cuban’s book then goes onto the radio, which was introduced in the 1920s. (Cuban 219). Similar to film, Cuban argues that radios were not used in school as much as they could have been.  A 1941 survey in Ohio found that elementary schools did not use radios much because of issues like price, and secondary schools did not use radio as much because of issues like scheduling. (Cuban 225). Even though schools did not use radio much, Cuban mentions that radios were more available than film because it was easier to get the hardware for radio ( Cuban 222).  Unlike the sparse information Cuban found about film and teaching, he does mention that in 1924 teachers and students would prepare weekly talks with the radio. ( Cuban 220). Cuban also mentions that radio was sometimes used as supplement to teaching. (Cuban 222). From this information we see that technological innovations have differences as well as similarities.

Getting more advanced with technology, we come to the 1950s, when some schools started using TV (Cuban 229). Similar to both film and radio, Cuban states that TV was not used as much by teachers. Cuban himself did a randomized study and found that of the 317 teachers he observed, only 2% used the TV. (Cuban 241). Of the teachers that did use them, Cuban stated that the teachers prepared the class to watch TV. After the class was prepared, the students would watch the TV while the teacher supervised. Then the teacher would welcome a discussion and give an assignment. According to Cuban, this shows that the teacher still has the dominant role with the addition of the TV (Cuban 229). There were also teachers that used the TV but for a different purpose; Cuban stated that some teachers used TV in the afternoon so that they, themselves, could rest (Cuban 247). Cuban concluded, “Television has been and continues to be used as an accessory to rather than the primary vehicle for basic instruction” (Cuban 249). What Cuban concluded about the TV in schools is similar to what was said about the radio being the supplement to teaching. (Cuban 249). Then there were teachers who did not use the TV at all; they were teachers who were comfortable with the rudimentary textbook and chalkboard. (Cuban 238). Again, we see similarities and differences between the technology used in the classroom.

To answer the question, Does Cuban see a change in the way teaches teach with the introduction of technology? we can see that Cuban answers, no. To conclude what he has to say about film, radio and TV, Cuban states that teachers’ teaching methods were the same. Cuban also summarized that in looking at the 3 different technologies, elementary schools were likely to use them than higher grade levels were. (Cuban 263). Cuban explains this by saying that teachers in higher grades had to follow more stringent lesson plans and so did not have enough time to use different technological innovations than elementary schools. (Cuban 67). These points summarize what Cuban feels about teaching and technology.

Larry Cuban also wrote a book solely on computers and teaching called Over Sold and Under Used: Computers in the Classroom. In this book, Cuban compares the use of computers from preschools to college. Cuban found that in preschools, computers are used a lot. According to Cuban, “The computes are left on all day, and they are in constant use by one or two preschoolers” (Cuban 138). The computers are used so that the students can play games and learn to read (Cuban 147). Cuban found that the teachers felt they’re teaching methods have changed (Cuban 157). However, Cuban said that teaching has not changed that much; he stated that “…  teachers have adapted an innovation to existing ways of teaching.” Cuban believed this because the preschools already had a certain system in the classroom and that when the computer was added, the system still maintained. (Cuban 158). This shows that Cuban’s argument still holds.

Cuban than looked at higher grade levels, like senior high. Similar to his first book that looked at film, radio and TV, in this book about computers Cuban states that teachers could not use computers as much as they wanted because they did not have enough time with the schedules that had to follow. What wasn’t mentioned much in the first book, however, was training. In this book, Cuban states that if teachers were not trained in using computers there were more likely not to use them (Cuban 197). Also, similar to the first book where we learned that teachers used instructional TV so that the teachers could rest, for this second book we see that teachers used computers for things like a word processor. ( Cuban 172). In both cases we see that teachers did not think outside the box.

Cuban also looked at professors in universities. Similar to some of the innovative technology in Cuban’s first book, Cuban found that not a lot of research was done on professors. ( Cuban 1115). Cuban also points out that professors did not use computers a lot because they did not have enough time. Professors not having enough time corresponds to doing their own research. ( Cuban 1121, 122). This again shows the similarities of innovative technology over the years.

Cuban then tries to make sense of what he found. Cuban states that teaching with technology will not change as long as teachers keep doing certain things, like putting information from the textbook into the innovative technology. ( Cuban 1196). Cuban found that computers were added to the classroom so that the schooling would move from teacher centered to student centered. ( Cuban 1134). Even though Cuban believes that has not happened, Cuban did state that in time more teachers will use the technology. According to Cuban, “Technology will not go away, and educators have to come to terms with it as an educational tool.” ( Cuban 1194).  Therefore, Cuban is saying more time will lead to more knowledge about technology.

It is beneficial to look at technology from the past, so that it can be compared to technology from the present. A recent technological innovation is the interactive white board or the Smart Board. Many sources showed revealed the positive attitudes teachers felt towards the boards. In the article “Whiteboard’s Impact on Teaching Seen as Uneven” many of the teachers felt that these white boards were “cool” and attracted students to learning.  In “Using Smart Boards to Enhance Student Learning” we see teachers praising these boards because they can be used in different ways ( Bates, 48). In “Why I Use Interactive Whiteboards” the author states how good these boards are for archiving and accuracy (Picciotto, 251,252). “Teachers Hold the Real Keys to Whiteboard Effectiveness” talks about a teacher who uses the board for multiple-choice questions. The article goes on to say how now the teacher knows the rate at which the students are answering, which allows the teacher to look at the questions that the students were taking the most time on, so the teacher can go back and explain those questions. (O’Connor, S15). These are all positive feelings teachers have towards interactive white boards.

Math teacher Lonnise Gilley uses an interactive whiteboard at Kent County High in Chestertown, Md. —Christopher Powers/Digital Directions

We must not, however, overlook studies that show us another side to whiteboards. In “Teaching with Interactive Whiteboards” the study found that better results when white boards were not used (Marzano, 80). Some reasons for this are that   some teachers speed through the material on these boards without explaining them in detail or at all. Another reason is that some teachers put a plethora of  visuals on the boards without distinguishing them-the important ones from the unimportant ones. (Marzano, 81). In “How is the Interactive Whiteboard Being Used in the Primary School and How Does This Affect Teachers and Teaching?” a study was done that showed teachers who used the boards found that the interactive white boards and the black boards are similar (Cogill,34). There was also a teacher who said after using the board she garnered more skills, but she was still a good teacher before. (Cogill, 35). There is also “ Teacher’s Perspectives on Interactive Whiteboards as a Motivational Factor in Upstate NY County” in which interviews were conducted finding that teachers think that the whiteboards are motivational factors, but that the motivation is coming from the teacher. These studies show that teaching methods have not changed with the implementation of interactive white boards.

Larry Cuban’s argument, that teaching has stayed constant over the years with the introduction of technology, holds for a recent innovative technology, interactive whiteboards. We have seen a good amount of explanation that supports this claim. It would be good to continue research on this topic to see if this claim holds in the coming years or decades.


“About | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice.” Word Press, May 3, 2012.

Bates, Christi, Hopkins, Amy, Kratcoski, Annette. “Using Smart Boards to Enhance Student Learning.” Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology.

3.2 (2007):  47-49. May 3, 2012.

Briggs, Josh, Daniels, Derrick, Jeror, Tracy, Scherhaufer, Katie. “ Teacher’s Perspectives on Interactive Whiteboards as a Motivational Factor in Upstate NY County.” May 3, 2012.

Cogill, Julie. “How is the Interactive Whiteboard Being Used in the Primary School and How Does this Affect Teachers and Teaching?” 1-48. May 3, 2012.

Cuban, Larry1. Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom. Harvard

College: President and Fellows. 2001. Print.

Cuban, Larry2. Teachers and Machines: The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920.

New York: Teachers College Press. 1986. Print.

Manzo, Kathleen. “Education Week: Whiteboard’s Impact on Teaching Seen as Uneven.” Education Week, n.d.

May 3, 2012.

Marzano, Robert J. “Teaching With Interactive White Boards.” Educational Leadership. 2009. May 3, 2012.

O’Connor, Mary Catherine. “Teachers Hold the Real Keys to Whiteboard Effectiveness.”

Education Week. June 15, 2011. May 3, 2012.

Picciotto, Henri. “Why I Use Interactive Whiteboards.” Math Education Page. 104.4 (2010). 250-253. May 3, 2012.