In our Primary School, our current situation is that there are Promeathean interactive whiteboards in every classroom. The boards are mounted on the wall and the projector is mounted from the ceiling. All teachers have a laptop with the ActivInspire software so they can create interactive lessons from home or school. The use of the IWBs varies from class to class and the teacher’s comfort with technology.
Interactive Whiteboards are seen from various perspectives. However, I believe they still can be a useful tool in the classroom just like every other piece of technology if used appropriately. Short small group whole class lessons and small group activities are great for IWBs and a fantastic way to illustrate expectations for students for activities.
Of course, there are some challenges as well. It is stationary so you have to plan your lesson around one spot, similarly to you reading a book and students sitting and listening. I find the ActiveInspire software to be older and can lag with newer MacBooks at times.
One of the biggest challenges is that teachers are often not trained in how to use them. Just like with any piece of technology or a new program at a school, without training we can’t expect our teachers to be successful to the extent we would like them to be.
Often the lessons can be a bit time consuming to make. However, I would argue that often when making your own content, you need to take the time to create quality instructional tools (whether technological or not). In addition, because resources are built using a computer, the teacher can save and reuse resources easily as well as share with others. In addition, using technology helps to engage students using 21st century tools. Thus, it is important to explore all options, including the IWB.
Nielsen (2010) states that the teacher’s back is to the audience most of the time when using the interactive whiteboard. My question is ‘Why is the teacher at the front of the room using the IWB?’ While I understand the need for teacher led sections of lessons, in my eyes, it should be the students who are at the front of the room interacting with the board. Thus, leaving the teacher to speak facing the students and move freely around the room. Typing is a skill that is learnt but it doesn’t replace writing (or writing on an IWB). Handwriting and printing will always still be needed in education.I also disagree with Nielsen’s thoughts about professional development. I believe professional development is useful for any tool. Many teachers don’t have the time to just ‘figure things out’ when they have a number of other responsibilities each day. With tailor professional development, teachers can learn the skills they need to be effective. Neilsen seems to have a very narrow view of the use of the interactive whiteboards.
Interactive whiteboards do not just have to be for whole-class lessons with the teacher at the front as Neilsen (2010) suggests. Rather, if used appropriately can be integrated into the classroom and used as needed just like any other resource. The benefit of IWBs is that the tool can be used by up to 4 people at the same time (which is not the case for an iPad or laptop computer).
Our school is about to embark on a new trial of comparing Promeathean boards to SMARTBoards and also how to best use the SMARTBoards in our classroom. We have replaced 1 Promeathean board with a SMARTBoard and will be working with that teacher to develop this trial. We are not sure what we will find out or the full details of this trial but it should be interesting to use what we know about IWBs to compare and contrast and find best practice for making them useful tools in our school.
Nielsen, L. (2010, December 8). Are interactive whiteboards a smart idea when they make even the most innovative of educators look dumb? – 10 reasons to ditch the board [web blog post]. Retrieved fromhttp://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/are-interactive-whiteboards-smart-idea.html