This is one of those posts that started out as a comment on someone else’s blog. Namely Wes Fryer’s post: “No, just having IWB’s does not make learning engaging”
(IWB = Interactive Whiteboard) ActivBoard, Smartboard, Mimio, TeamBoard, Starboard, and others.
Here is my comment to “No, just having IWB’s does not make learning engaging”:
Hi Wes – I agree wholeheartedly. The ability to be interactive is there, but IWB’s are not inherently interactive. Designing lessons that are truly interactive takes a lot of work. I’ve spent upwards of 5 hours on one 45 minute lesson. It’s not a sustainable situation unless you can share the load with others. I have an ActivBoard in my classroom and they have done a good job of putting lessons shared by other teachers as online downloads for just that reason. But it is still time consuming because you have to find a lesson that fits what you want and then view it yourself, and continue until you hopefully find one that fits, and then you often have to edit it to make it match exactly what you want from it and/or to be useful to your group of students. Now that is true anytime you use lessons designed by someone else, even out of a book, but it still discourages teachers from utilizing IWB’s in ways that are truly powerful consistently. Perhaps that will change over time as more lessons are available and more expertise is realized by users.
On the other-hand, IWB’s are great in what they are good at inherently. That is being bright and colorful and and generally cool. In addition the maps and measurement tools and audio / video capabilities that are easy to use are very valuable. You can pull up a map or photo or web page and write on it, make the writing go away, run the internet (or any application) from the board and more. Because you have the board you automatically have a video theater in your classroom. One of my favorite features is archiving notes and brainstorms that you can return to, add to, change, edit anytime you want. You filled the board with notes and you still need to continue? No need to wait while someone copies everything and then erase, just go to the next blank page and go on. Then save and come back anytime you want. I love using it to design video projects. Its a huge storyboard.
“Gateway drug?” – I’ve often heard that whether or not IWB’s are the best bang for the buck, they just might be the way to FINALLY bring technology integration at some level into the classroom – and build some basic teacher tech competency. And it seems to make sense. I often bemoan how many teachers are unaware of even the simplest uses of applications. I think if there was a way to have every teacher watch a demonstration of sending an attachment on an email it would be a revelation for almost half of them. Teachers are really out of the loop on using technology (not all their fault BTW).Â Having an IWB in your classroom, the theory perhaps rightly assumes, means that teachers have to at least learn how to use the computer attached to the IWB at a certain base level. Starting it up, opening the software, saving files, accessing tools, using tools and more, all help users become a bit more familiar with the basic uses of computers.
Then besides the whiteboard software you have other applications at your fingertips. Pretty much any application on the computer can be used right from the board, including the internet. You would assume (or not) that eventually the teacher would have a reason to access the internet to use a web site or watch an online video or whatever, and so again basic competencies are being built and hopefully over time the teacher-user will see the value in technology integration and the rest is history. My school district seemed to hope this to be true, at best the jury is still out as far as I’m concerned, but most teachers in my district that have IWB’s have not had them very long either.
I have not included all uses here, but the bottom line is that there is lots to like about IWB’s.
So what are the downsides of IWB’s?
Well cost for one. IWB’s cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 dollars generally (by the time you get a computer to make it go and all) so to put one in each classroom in your school … well you can do the math. Some say the money would be better spent on laptop labs that could move around the school, digital cameras, iPods (now with a still and video camera built-in), and other hard and software. And they have an excellent point. Others point out that dumping laptop labs in schools is a waste because way too often the training is poor to non-existent, and teachers don’t or aren’t allowed to change the pedagogy to use them effectively. I would mention that- this is SOOO true, but the same is true of IWB’s.
My district so far has put IWB’s in classrooms and not mandated training (they offer and provide it â€“ but don’t mandate it), and because teachers are being asked to do so much more right now with data, including uploading and downloading it and analyzing it and new curriculum pieces that all involve trainings (and I could go on) that if the IWB training isn’t mandated and the time provided for it, it’s an area I can save time on, something I control and I choose not to (I’m not saying I agree, it’s just the reality). If this continues we will be in the same place we’ve been almost every time large tech rollouts have happened. Tech first, training and pedagogy second (if at all) and we again prove that tech has no place in education. (You’d think we’d learn – ironic, sad and very frustrating).
Other downsides. IWB’s can be used as just glorified whiteboards, slick, but a very wasteful use of resources. They don’t require the user to make any changes to pedagogy, so they can easily do the same old stuff but claim they are integrating technology (so it must be good right?) which gives technology integration a bad name.
I have probably only accomplished to muddy the waters here, so I am relying on you to fill in the gaps, and things I forgot and clarify things (I know, a cop out on my part, but I’ve already spent too much time on this)
I will say I love my ActivBoard, but I also have 1:1 laptops in my classroom (I hope again soon) so I don’t use or think about my IWB the same as someone that does not have 1:1. I should also point out in the name of transparency that Promethean named me their “Teacher of the Month” awhile back. But love it or not, are IWB’s worth the investment? Like I said above the jury is still out for me, since my school district has invested in them a lot, I really hope I’m saying yes they are in a year or so. What about you? What do you think?
Learning is messy!