How many times has that been heard in a typical classroom?
Tonight I shared a link in my Facebook network from my reader. Lisa Neilson of The Innovative Educator blogged about Interactive White Boards (IWB) and her dislike of them, using Gary Stager’s recent blog post over at Tech Learning–where the editor added a side note about IWB having a staunch group of “haters”–as an opportunity to look at them from the naysayers’ point of view.
Am I one of the “Haters” too?
I did confess to my friends that I agreed with the points made about why Interactive White Boards are not a good thing for the classroom. Some of my expressed concerns included:
- What I don’t like–it propagates sage on stage style learning/teaching.
- By middle and high school, kids are so hypersensitive about being singled out or standing in the front of the room, that in my mind the only thing that makes sense is slates of some kind to pass around, and you don’t need an expensive board for that. It’s just a huge expense (board and peripherals.) But schools use their IWB as bragging points. And those bragging have usually never used one. SAD. Wasteful spending.
Here comes the pushback!
I was called out (away from Facebook in a private polite email exchange) regarding the discussion thread for my thoughts. I just LOVE pushback. As I sat there reflecting, I realized I needed to clarify my distaste.
Been there before
You see I’ve had a board before in a different teaching context. With my board I had a slate and a set of handhelds. I used them everyday. Maybe that was because it was a new tool for me, and I was interested in making it work in my teaching context. Maybe as a librarian, media specialist, and ed tech leader in my school, I felt obligated to model appropriate use of the new expensive tools. My students were engaged and more than happy with our activities. But I do not credit that expensive board with my results. I have to credit my own desire to have engaging lessons that my students were excited about. I could have taught my lessons without any of the equipment. Having the equipment just added some novelty and a different approach to the topic at hand. Basically, it was not the tool, but instead the focus on our learning that made the lesson dynamic.
Locked and Loaded Mounted
I actually lamented the day they came into my library, took out two full sections of bookshelves, and installed/mounted the board I was using then. Up until that point I had it on a rolling stand, and we moved it wherever it fit best for what we were doing.
No more board
Eventually I moved on to another school, and this time I did not have a board. I didn’t miss the physical board at all. I was provided with an interactive slate and software, and functioned just fine, never missing a beat. I happily passed around the slate in lessons where we wanted that interactive component, and I must say my middle schoolers then were quite content to stay right in their seats to use the slate. Every lesson or activity does not lend itself to some form of interactivity, and so I was satisfied that I had what was made available to me. I truly did not miss the physical IWB board.
No Board. No Slate. No more interactivity from gadgets or tools.
Fast forward to my current teaching context, I do not have a board in my school library. Nor do I have access to interactive slates. Many of my teachers have slates, handhelds, IWB boards, the works, but the library does not. As I truly reflect I realize that I do miss the ability to add some components of interactivity with tools in my current teaching context.
If they build it will teachers and students come?
So what exactly is my issue with IWBs? I recently had several conversations with teachers about the equipment planned for a construction project at school. They have articulated well exactly what I dislike about IWBs. The projectors will be mounted in the rooms. These teachers expressed the need (YAY!!!) for that projector to swivel in its mount in the room, and NOT be locked in on that board or mounted screen.
Flexibility is the key-and they get it!
PRECISELY! The essence of my belief is that you don’t need a board to have “interactivity.” The physical board to me is wasteful spending. You need teachers who will plan engaging lessons, and having an interactive element can come in many forms. I do wish I had at least a slate. But I don’t. But in my library, I do have the luxury to roll my projector to where I need the focus to be. Having mobility has allowed us to have multiple classes working simultaneously in the library, and we can set up where needed. We can set up more than one projector if needed. By having our mobility, we are not locked into setting up a class in a specific format–with everyone facing the same direction all the time. Most “smart” classrooms are truly limited in their floorplan and use of space because of a narrow vision for how to use interactive tools. So I feel blessed that since I am in the library, I am not locked into a location for instruction using the tools for which I have access.
It’s not the board or even the interactivity; it’ the execution of a lesson and the learning.
I miss having some of those tools. But I will never want the actual physical IWB again. After getting the gentle pushback from my friend I decided to return to the Facebook conversation thread and leave this final thought:
I want to clarify something here–it’s the actual BOARD I do not like. Interactivity is fine, just don’t force a board on me. I want the freedom to have interactivity wherever I need it, and that doggone board locks you into not only staying at the front, but setting your room up facing a specific direction. The front of the room should not be dictated by ANY KIND of board, including but not exclusive of IWB (like, say, chalk bd, dry erase bd, bulletin bd, etc.) The “front of the room” is such an archaic frame of mind.