Sunday, February 14, 2010

Educational Technology - IWB's

<span class=eBeam Montage" style="border: medium none ; display: block;">Image by eBeam via Flickr

OK I know that this article from Bill Ferriter published in "Teacher Magazine" is just one guy, but it is doing the rounds and I feel I should respond. "Why I Hate Interactive Whiteboards"

First off I have to agree with his point about expense - IWB's generally are very expensive. (warning! employer plug). That's why I like selling the eBeam solution because of the reduced cost of both the product and installation.

I also have to agree with assertion that this type of technology is teacher centric. Yep it is a teacher mostly tool whether that teacher is the teacher or a student using it to teach/explain a concept to an audience. The IWB is a presentation tool - that's it. If you are not a presentation type teacher or more importantly your students are not presentation type students then it's not going to work.

A furniture maker is not going to value a chainsaw the same way a lumberjack is, even though they do work with the same basic material.

I liken teaching to being a tour leader on a bus in Europe. There is the complete package tour where everything is done for the client, where they stay, what they eat, what they see and what information is given to them (think people within a certain older age (55+) bracket or a very young age bracket (18-21). It suits these groups of people as either through lack of experience or physical condition they find that this is safer and reduces cognitive load so they can enjoy and take in their physical surroundings.

Then there is the the JOJO (Jump On, Jump Off) Tour, where you have a choice of where you stay (hotel, hostel, B+B, camping ground) and whether to stay with the group, stay longer and wait a couple of days for the next JOJO bus to come through. There is a tour leader who can help and guide you and there is generally a set path around the Continent with some choices to make.

Of course then you have the people who are confident enough to plan their own trip without a physical guide, just the "Lonely Planet" that is completely thumbed through and treated like a holy text and their research on the Internet. Using local transport options they head out and explore on their own.

At different stages of my "traveling" career I chose all three of these options. Four months in Europe on a JOJO bus tour was great as I have an interest in architecture and I knew that the complete tour experience would probably only give it minimal service - so I could stay for four days in Barcelona marveling at the work of Gaudi, but when I needed help I could always contact the tour guide for help. When we travelled through South America we went with a package tour for safety and convenience reasons, once that was over my girlfriend and I continued on our own with only the guide book to help as we explored Brazil on our own.

Teaching is a lot like guiding the tourist - Sometimes a subject or concept just has to be planned out the the nth degree just to get through it all and to get to the overall concept quickly. Sometime you can facilitate them as they move through the curriculum but not be on their case about being at the bus by 8:30am that morning. And sometimes students will go off on their own to pursue knowledge and understanding on their own.

After working in schools in Australia, the UK and Japan, sometimes you need to be the tour leader, guide or just the guy at the information desk pointing them in the right direction and hoping they get there.

In a strange sense of coincidence someone on echalk forwarded a link to a paper the contained the following history

The Summit County (Ohio) Educational Service Center Newsletter (December 1995) reprinted some historical responses to new educational technologies:

"Students today can't prepare bark to calculate their problems. They depend on slates, which are more expensive. What will they do when the slate is dropped and it breaks? They will be unable to write." From a Teachers Conference, 1703.

"Students today depend on paper too much. They don't know how to write on a slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves. They can't clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?" From a principal's publication, 1815.

"Students today depend too much on ink. They don't know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil. Pen and ink will never replace the pencil." From the National Association of Teachers Journal, 1907.

"Students today depend on store-bought ink. They don't know how to make their own. When they run out of ink they will be unable to write words or cipher until their next trip to the settlement. This is a sad commentary on modern education." From The Rural American Teacher, 1928.

"Students depend on these expensive fountain pens. They can no longer write with a straight pen and nib. We parents must not allow them to wallow in such luxury to the detriment of how to cope in the business world, which is not so extravagant." From the Parent Teachers Association Gazette, 1941.

"Ballpoint pens will be the ruin of education in our country. Students use these devices and then throw them away. The American values of thrift and frugality are being discarded. Business and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries." From Federal Teachers, 1950.

Brings you back to the old pencils in classrooms metaphor?

To me the the biggest value of the IWB is reducing workloads of teachers and making them think differently and openly about the resources available while providing focus for teaching and presenting. The fact that students find it engaging is in a way secondary.

1 comment:

Mrs. Tenkely said...

Just like any piece of technology or tool for the classroom, you cannot expect that the tool is going to fix the classroom. I think a lot of schools are buying into the IWB as a fix. The problem is not a lack of IWB, the problem is the teaching and expectations. A great teacher is still going to be a great teacher. A teacher who already has students interacting with content is still going to have an interactive, engaging classroom. Once again, it isn't about the tool, it is about how it is used.