Thursday, March 18, 2010

Interactive White Boards - (A Rant)

Coming to a classroom near you...

OK - so if you haven't noticed, interactive white boards seem to be the latest craze in public schools - at least they are in my neck of the woods. I have had the luxury of installing about 3 dozen SMART Boards and about a dozen Prometheans. I have even went through training to become a certified Promethean trainer. I have also used some other popular units in the past but please know that I am not here to advocate for any particular brand. I am here to speak about how they are being used.

Here is my beef...

This is a student tool not a teacher tool. Over the last several years I have watched excitement grow over the interactive white board (IWB) - and with good reason. The IWB is an awesome tool to have at one's disposal. Any brand, while different in construction, design, and software basically affords the same general possibilities for interaction with your students. Most of the vendors will even tell you that you can use other IWB software with their system (if appropriately licensed, of course) All this aside, the key word in the name of this tool is INTERACTIVE. Unfortunately, I have watched way too many teachers use this tool as a glorified projection screen or PowerPoint clicker. The IWB should be used to engage your students so, teachers, I urge you to take advantage of the power of your technology.

Make the most of your IWB... A few simple suggestions to start...

  1. Design lessons that bring students to the board. Add some kinesthetic learning to your routine. Have students construct sentences, build molecules, or count change by manipulating objects on the board. Find what works at your level and content area and get them out of their seats.

  2. Record the session. Some teachers may not know that they can record what happens on the board. Get a wireless microphone (it is cheaper than the IWB setup you have...) and start archiving what you and the students do at the board. Combine this with the internet, and I would recommend, a CMS like Moodle and you have a great way to retain activities and make them available for absent students or those that need to review.

  3. Take time to learn the features of your software. Invest your time. Don't use the "I don't have time excuse" - make time. If you want to excel at what you do, you need to be willing to go the extra mile. Attend trainings and create engaging, student-centered lessons after hours if you have to. Be creative with the tools. Revealers, spotlights, layers, quizzing and polling, graphic libraries, magic ink, screen capture, duplication, transformation, opacity, animations, and so much more can all be harnessed to excite your students. I bet your students could probably help come up with some great ideas. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if you had them creating some of the lessons as an activity, not only do you save some of that time but you might even help some of your students reach higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy with your content area at the same time.

An interactive white board is capable of so much more than just displaying what is on your computer desktop and advancing PowerPoint slides. Please, I beg of you, do not insult the wonderful technology you have by reducing it to performing such mundane tasks. Get beyond the PowerPoint and start really using the tools in a more meaningful way. Don't your students deserve better?

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