Thursday, October 29, 2009

IWB? - Not on my patch!

A local eductech magazine had a special edition the other day focussing on "Interactive" whiteboards. On the cover was a whiteboard and on it was written: "Interesting and fun things to do with your IWB". I took one look at it and though: "Yea, that just about says it all". Fun and Interesting - but what about educational value??

Somehow IWB had developed an aura or being new, innovative, progressive and modern around them. For this reason lots of schools have jumped on the bandwagon and spent astronomical amounts of money on this technology. I want to argue that they are nothing of the sort.

Why don't I support this technology:

It reinforces the dominance of the front of the classroom: After being involved in a number of projects relating to the design of classrooms, creating a flexible space with no dedicated front, (or back, or anything for that matter) has developed as a key factor in supporting the types of learning spaces we want. For that reason our new classrooms don't even have a big fixed whiteboard anywhere. As the teaching/learning changes the classroom layout changes to support the learning. A conscious effort is being made to do away with the "front" of the class as the focus point for learning - we don't even mount out data projectors.

Support outdated pedagogies: The nature of this technology encourages "show and tell". Yes, I know kids can be manipulating it as well, but what are the other 29 kids doing at that time? The nature of this technology creates a situation where the interaction is predominantly at the front of the class and limited to a small number of people.

You teach better sitting next to a child than standing in front of them: A bit of a generalization, I know. And I also acknowledge the fact that PD can make a difference on how this is being used. The question is: In practice, how many teachers use it in the "better" ways? From what I have seen in a number of countries the answer is not many (very few actually). Researchers from Cambridge and Bristol also have serious reservations of the practical educational benefit of this technology.

Creates a greater gulf between teacher and learner: This technologies is firmly under control of the teacher. Most of the time students interact with this technology when invited by the teacher. Is this the type of teaching/learning situation we want in our classrooms?

Cost/benefit ratio: I am fully aware that there are a number of very useful and handy and educational uses for this technology. Like with all technologies, the question of how much "bang for your buck" you will get, has to be asked. From what I've seen in terms of software, we can do the vast majority of the things with KeyNote and a Bamboo pad. I also believe if you give my teachers a choice they will all rather have 5 more MacBooks in their classrooms than an IWB. (not even talking about an iPod Touch for everyone!)

I am fully aware that many people have a different opinion about the value of and IWB - for a variety of reasons. I will be keen to hear from those that have seen the added value these pieces of technology can bring to a classroom.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Getting it right

Like most of us, I am working on getting things sorted for 2010. We will move from 2 to 4 Digitally Enhanced Classes next year. Currently students in the DEC's have 1 MacBook or iMac between every 2 students. We are quite convinced that the iPod Touch has place in the classroom as a device that can easily handle the smaller tasks and contribute to the increased levels of access in classrooms (all of them - DEC and non DEC). Maximizing the use of these smaller devices is something we still have lots to discover about.

The biggest issue we are struggling with is, is what ratio will work best? In a class of 32 - what ration of IMacs, MacBooks and IPod Touches? Anybody have some ideas?

Sunday, October 11, 2009


The Staff and I attended ULearn09 in Christchurch last week. We decided to take all the teachers (just about everybody could go) because we have a large number of new staff members this year. Once again it was a well run conference and all of us thoroughly enjoyed it. We will get some feedback from the Staff this week and I am looking forward to that.

On the flight back I was thinking about the conference and conferences in general (while BassHunters was pumping away from my iPhone). I guess it will be fair to say that when you have attended a few conferences it becomes very difficult for people to really "WOW" you. But then I realized that my focus for conferences have changed over time. I am not looking for answers anymore, I am now looking for QUESTIONS to be answered. What is your experience?

I will post more about the conference once I have a moment.

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