Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's All in How You Use 'Em

For two weeks now, I have been feeling both defiant and guilty.

Recently, I seem to be running into more and more frequent arguments against interactive whiteboards. A couple of weeks ago there was a post on The Tempered Radical blog by Bill Ferriter followed closely by another on Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension by Pernille Ripp. Neither on of them is in favour of IWBs.

For two weeks I have been feeling defiant because, when it comes down to it, I like my SmartBoard. A part of me, though, has also been feeling guilty for liking it because on some levels, I agree with them.

I agree, IWBs are not a fix-all that will integrate technology, create engagement in students, and otherwise solve every problem in the educational world. An IWB is one tool, and it is an expensive one. It is true that, if necessary, I would give up my IWB in favor of putting more tools in the hands of the students. Fortunately, I don't have to make that decision. My school board has prioritized technology. My students have had 1:1 laptops (although that is going to change. More on that tomorrow), and my school has a SmartBoard in every class.

In the absence of tough choices, I am guiltily defiant. I like my SmartBoard.

I believe that like any tool, it is all in how you use them. Generally, I think that IWBs are poorly used by the majority of teachers, but then, how many laptops in classrooms are being used as little more than typewriters?

I believe that we can use IWBs better.  Small groups of students can use them independently of the teacher. Teachers can work on the board with individuals who need extra help. They do not have to be fancy toys for the teacher to put on a show, or for individuals to use while the rest of the class watches and waits their turn.

Yes, at times, IWBs do end up being used by the teacher. There are times when I cannot rely on inquiry and projects, and I must directly teach a topic. At those times, using a SmartBoard helps me add some spark to what I am doing.  It helps me to use creative ways of covering less interesting topics.  Having made presentations with interactive elements, they can be passed on to the students as review materials.

So, since I am not giving up other technological tools in order to have it, I stand by liking my SmartBoard. I have also set myself a goal for next year.  I want to find ways of putting the board in the hands of students at least twice a week.

We'll see how it goes and what the students think of it.


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