This is a guest post from Nancy Knowlton. Nancy is one of the founders of SMART Technologies and co-inventor of the SMART board along with her husband David Martin. She’s back at BETT this year with their new edtech company, Nureva.

The 5th C

In my years visiting schools around the world, I have been lucky to experience a wide array of teaching styles and approaches.

Some lessons are structured to bring out the creativity in students’ thinking. Others focus on encouraging collaboration and communication. Some teachers present a problem or challenge students must use critical thinking to explore and solve.

A lot of the good teaching I have seen has included all these four Cs: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. However, I’ve noticed that what is not always focused on is a fifth C – namely, contribution.

A missing C

I’ve seen a familiar scenario play out in many classrooms. The teacher asks a question and arms shoot up to answer. While this approach has its place, it tends to privilege the contributions of bolder students while leaving the shyer ones out. Students also miss the chance to contemplate the question and generate their own ideas without being swayed by the thoughts of others.

But there are teachers working to adjust this balance so that all students have the opportunity to make a contribution. I’ve been in classrooms where the Think-Pair-Share model is doing wonders to increase participation by all students. Students were given a class project and assigned to groups. They began by working alone to capture their thoughts. Next they used sticky notes to summarise their ideas and placed them on the wall in an organised structure. As the students considered each other’s ideas, they rearranged the notes to reflect the group’s new conceptualisation of the problem.

While this was wonderful to watch, it got me thinking about what a difference it would make if technology supported this powerful pedagogy.

A new way to work together

Devices like tablets and Chromebook™ computers are increasingly part of today’s classrooms – creating and communicating with them comes naturally to students. But when students spend a significant amount of time on their own personal devices, it sometimes can be hard to get them to look up from their devices long enough to actually work effectively with their classmates.

With our recent creation of the Nureva™ Span™ classroom collaboration system, this all changes. Each individual can send the thoughts they captured on their devices to a shared panoramic canvas on the classroom wall. All contributions matter. Then they collaborate constructively in small groups at the canvas, rearranging and structuring these notes, pictures and drawings.

As they discuss their points, multiple students can move items around on the canvas at the same time, classifying and giving structure to the input. Those who normally tend to stand back have the opportunity to suggest another way of considering the challenge. In turn, the other students learn to respect all contributions!

nureva span

A better investment

Schools in the UK invest significantly in education technology. It can play a key role facilitating self-directed learning, where students consider and value others’ thoughts and contributions. The more our technology helps all students actively contribute their ideas, the more chance we have of nurturing the future inventors, entrepreneurs and every other contributor.

Nancy Knowlton

As the co-founder of SMART Technologies, Nancy Knowlton brings a depth of perspective to education. She and her husband, David Martin, now create collaboration technology products at their new venture, Nureva Inc. The company’s Span classroom collaboration system uses a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model to enable collaboration on an expansive 40′ (12.2 m) digital canvas. Nureva will be on stand B409 at Bett 2016 (20-23 January, ExCeL, London).