SMART Board Disadvantages: Kids With Visual Needs

By Anne Vize

Everyone in the class can access the SMART Board, can't they? Billed as the next great teaching invention, these interactive gizmos are fast finding a place in most curriculum areas. But for kids with visual issues there are some SMART Board disadvantages to consider.

Why Can't Some Kids Use SMART Boards?

Okay, so here's what you need to consider as a teacher in elementary school about the visual needs of your students:

  • Just because everyone in class tells you they can read the smartboard does not make it true
  • Just because everyone has had an eye test before they started school (oh I wish!) does not mean they have fully functioning visual processing systems

Eyes are complex tools - the windows to the soul need careful operation by their user. For some kids, learning to fly their eyes correctly takes a bit of practice. Eyes have small muscles which surround them and control their movements. These muscles require very fine movements and control. They become fatigued easily and rapidly, particularly in some students. This can lead to students having problems with managing some key skills that come into play when using a SMART Board. For example:

Visual tracking: This means the ability to follow an object when it is moving, or to track with both eyes across a space. This visual skill becomes important when performing tasks such as following a moving ball in Physical Education class--or when following the movement of a visual image or icon across a SMART Board screen.

Visual memory: This refers to recalling what has been seen visually and being able to readily bring that information back to mind for later use. This becomes important when seeing a series of visual images or sections of text on a screen or printed page, and then using that information to answer questions or perform a learning task.

Children who have problems with visual processing skills can display a variety of signs that something is not quite right. These include:

  • rubbing eyes
  • refusal to complete visual tasks
  • poor organization of self or materials
  • difficulty handwriting
  • problems following a line of text from one line to the next
  • difficulty following moving images or objects
  • disruptive behavior in class
  • visual fatigue
  • poor concentration and task persistence
  • poor comprehension of written content
  • a disparity between words learned phonetically and words learned as sight words
  • ability to recall an object which is no longer there
  • ability to work out what an object is when only part of it can be seen

As you can see from this list, there are a wide range of ways that children can be giving us a hint that something is amiss with their visual processing skills, even when their actual vision is fine.

For Some, SMART Boards Exacerbate Learning Difficulties

You can probably already work out some of the SMART Board disadvantages for children with visual processing problems. Any problem that exists on a printed page has the potential to become even more challenging when it is combined with the color and movement of a SMART Board screen. And for some students, while they are focussed on the visual processing elements of a learning task, they also have to contend with filtering out extraneous sound in the classroom (all those murmurs and bangs and clunks of chairs and tables) and manage their own attention and focus on a task at the same time. So before you see a SMART Board as being the solution to all your students' learning needs, consider some of the basic disadvantages that exist in using these tools for children with visual processing problems.