Teaching Effectively with an Interactive Whiteboard?

So it turns out that one of the professional organizations here in North Carolina is offering a new online course titled Teaching Effectively with an Interactive Whiteboard.  Here's a bit of the course description:

        About This Course

Interactive White Boards (IWB's) are quickly becoming a common tool in many classrooms. Paired with a computer, internet access and supporting instructional software, these tools provide teachers and learners access to a vast library of resources for instruction and provide the added feature of interactivity. This course will help teachers develop an effective pedagogy for the an IWB environment. . .

Prerequisites

There are no prerequisites for this course. The class assumes an "entry level" knowledge of interactive classroom technologies. Because interactive classroom systems incorporate a wide range of technologies, a good instructional technology foundation will be helpful. Participants should be comfortable with common computer applications like word processing, presentation software like PowerPoint, and using projected media to present content in a classroom.

Notice anything sketchy?  Let's look at the prerequisite paragraph again—this time with a few highlights added for emphasis:

There are no prerequisites for this course. The class assumes an "entry level" knowledge of interactive classroom technologies. Because interactive classroom systems incorporate a wide range of technologies, a good instructional technology foundation will be helpful. Participants should be comfortable with common computer applications like word processing, presentation software like PowerPoint, and using projected media to present content in a classroom.

In two simple sentences, this course description serves as a perfect example of my beef with IWBs.  We describe them as "interactive classroom technologies" and then use them to "project media" and to "present content in a classroom."

Is it possible to use IWBs in more sophisticated ways? 

Absolutely—and I'll bet that the course instructors are going to provide terrific examples for participants to explore in action.  What we're looking at here, after all, is hopefully just the prerequisities for the course and not the foundational philosophies of the course creators on the role that IWBs can play in teaching and learning.

But sadly, IWBs playing the starring role in interactive lessons doesn't happen nearly as often as the used car salesmen Promethean folks say they do.  Instead, we're dropping tons of cashola on tools to jazz up our presentations.

 

11 thoughts on “Teaching Effectively with an Interactive Whiteboard?

  1. Deena Smith

    Great blog! I am an elementary school teacher and I see your beef with these jazzy projectors. There are advantages to it, but I do agree that some people use them as a tool to ‘jazz up their presentations’, as you said. However, when used correctly, these board and projectors are a great, interactive and engaging tool. It really does help get students involved, especially ones who are a little more timid. I find when you present a lesson in the form of a game or an interactive activity, my students are way more receptive to learning the information because it isn’t their teacher standing in front of them pounding information down their throats. Personally, I love my smart board but I do see your problems with them. I believe the biggest culprits are the lazy teachers! Thanks for the great post!

  2. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Mike,
    Good to hear from you and glad that you found this post! Im not surprised to hear that youre thinking carefully about IWBs in the classroom, too. As I alluded in the post, its hard to learn a whole lot from a simple course offering—-and in my experience, anyone who is willing to take the time to teach a course is usually pretty thoughtful and purposeful in their presentations.
    Im also glad that we share skepticism about the claims that IWB companies make about their efficacy—and I hope that will play a central role in your course. The sad truth is that people are drinking the IWB Kool-Aid based on the questionable research IWB companies are churning out. Marzanos report, in particular, has been bitten hook-line-and-sinker by people with budgets to burn, which literally angers me.
    Heres a post that I wrote dissecting the Marzano report, in case you want to share it with your students:
    http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2010/11/examining-prometheans-recent-report-on-iwbs.html
    And good luck with the course! One of the truths that Ive got to come to terms with is that there are millions of dollars being spent on IWBs whether I like it or not. My only hope, then, rests in the hands of people like you who can show teachers how to do something student-centered and productive with the IWBs being dropped into their classrooms. Without that instruction, were really screwed!
    Rock on,
    Bill

  3. Mike Scott

    This was fun to find. I’m the guy who designed this class and who is currently teaching the first online offering of it. That description above is mine.
    You’ll be interested to know that you get some face time in the class. You were linked in a Washington post article that is critical of these technologies, and the participants have the opportunity to read your comments about IWB’s as well.
    It turns out that your perspective fits well with my general skepticism, and fits real real with my specific skepticism as it relates to claims of efficacy made by the IWB industry.
    As a result, I really tried hard to strike a balance between learning the technical aspects of operating these systems, a necessary step, but also made a real effort at getting teachers to own control of engagement and interactivity. That’s not accomplished with gadgets.
    Keep your critical eye on this topic.
    Thanks

  4. Geekyscigirl

    The SmartBoard “trainings” I have attended have reinforced the lack of interactiveness possible with these boards. Not to mention the lack of training actually received at the sessions. Sigh. For all the money, the teacher is still more important than the tech.

  5. Curmudgeon

    One other thing. These have been touted as being Interactive tools in the classroom, and they are … but not interactive with the students.
    It’s one person’s ability to interact with the WB that matters to most people, and for most people that one person is the teacher. Sometimes it’s a student and then it’s just as good for that one student.
    The audience was never intended to have interactivity.

  6. Curmudgeon

    “and I’ll bet that the course instructors are going to provide terrific examples for participants to explore in action.”
    No, sadly, they probably aren’t. At least not in any of the courses I’ve seen or read about and certainly not in the one I took.
    The Interactivity part of this is sadly lacking for most users. Instead, it’s the presentation part, coupled with the ability to save the contents that most people go for.
    As for the cost, remember that one board is approximately the equivalent of two weeks of my salary. If the thing makes me better or more efficient by a few percent, then it is cost effective. The cost of one speaker in an inservice is roughly the same, and far more useless to anyone.

  7. Skabachia

    Bill, I agree that IWB’s are not, in themselves, interactive. I’d like to see a seminar on student-directed learning or collaborative learning that incorporated the use of IWB’s.
    Shellran, use the technology that’s available to you in ways that promote the strongest learning for your students. At the very least, learn how to export what’s created in Smart Notebook into a PDF file so that students can access information later & elsewher (I repeat, at the very least…). Any truly collaborative/interactive strategy will be applicable to an IWB.

  8. Shellran

    Bill, I have been following your views on IWBs, and I do see your point about them really not serving a new purpose/methodology for teaching. As a student teacher, I do not have as much field experience as you do. My question is this: What should teachers do with the boards that are already in existence in so many classrooms? In the district I am placed in, EVERY single classroom has one! So, do I ignore the technology that is there in hopes of newer, better, more truly interactive technology arriving soon? In this current budget climate… unlikely! I am looking forward to your sage advice, and I thoroughly enjoy your blogs, BTW!

  9. Dan Callahan

    I’m going to a Workshop on using SMART Notebook software in a couple of weeks. I’ll blog or report back somehow whether it was a good use of my time and if it was focused on truly interactive experiences.

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