In my career as an educator, I’ve had a chance to use Promethean, E-Instruction’s Interwrite and the SmartBoard. The only one I used for any length of time was Promethean. GSF has made me rethink this today, especially after I visited a school this morning that boasted of every classroom being outfitted with interactive white boards and smart technology.
Which system is best?
Each system I ever had the opportunity to use provided me with a wireless pad of some kind, allowing me and students to be mobile and interactive with the technology. Having the equipment is/was wonderful, and I’ve really transformed the way I teach when I have access to such tools. I’ve used slates or pads and hand held peripherals quite successfully with IWBs. But my issue with the concept of using an IWB is more than just the “how” I’ve changed as an educator in style and presentation because I had access to these tools.
Cost = Engagement?
A classroom that goes to an IWB must have minimum three expensive pieces of equipment: An IW board, a computer, and a projector. But generally two of the three pricey components of a smart classroom are designed and intended for use by one person at a time. By and large with the addition of the equipment, even if placed with the very best educators, glimpsing in these rooms will reveal one person at the front using the resource. Granted there are great interactive lessons out there, but the vast majority are interactive by definition simply because one person at a time “interacts” with the board. The rest of the class is passively engaged (if even that.) With increasing numbers of IWBs, we have regressed to a degree in my opinion.
IWB Sacrifices Community in the Classroom
Just when classrooms in the last decade had begun to move away from the expert orating from the front while the non-experts learned passively from seats facing the front, typically in rows, the pendulum is swing back. With the shift in pedagogical thinking, classrooms ten years ago were moving towards a community atmosphere where groups of varying sizes could work, and there were purposefully designed spaces a place for the educator to build community with varying sized groups as they implemented lessons. But recently the trend has been to outfit every classroom with the revered IWB. So the shift now is to go back to the desks in rows facing the expert. Its as if education and methodology have taken a huge step BACK in time, despite the tools of connectedness and interactivity.
Is an IWB Enough?
Looking at costs, and these are rough estimates here, costs are about $6000 per classroom. Also factor into it that peripherals like slates and handhelds are expensive luxuries that many schools can’t always afford, so corners are cut. Due to high costs, some schools provide each class with a pad, but make a single set or two of the handhelds available on a check out basis from the library, or worse, from the district office—if at all. If money weren’t a factor, then ideally a classroom would have multiple interactive pads to use simultaneously in the room, along with its own set of handhelds. So rough estimating here–three interactive slates at an estimated $1000 each AND a set of thirty handhelds at an estimated $1500 a case, and now we are talking a whopping $10,500 to outfit a class that potentially can engage the entire group in lesson implementation.
What is the key to a successful Smart Classroom?
Think how many mini laptops or Ipod Touches the minimally outfitted smart classroom could buy! Each person would have their own and increase the potential for 100% engagement. Of course this hinges on whether or not a teacher can plan engaging lessons using the tools. No, the real problem (besides the gi-normous expense in the equipment) is that most of the educators who are using them have not changed their style of teaching from how it was done in the 18th century. The only change is the tools. Technology is supposed to be the great classroom flattener–the element that brings the world to your classroom, and lets your students go global in their learning. Does the IWB strengthen that or hinder it? Does it move us forward, or have those educators using IW technologies just taken one grand-daddy step backwards….?
Image: ‘Apple iPod Touch’
Image: ‘Box of Voting Tools’
Image: ‘Smart Board Compare and Contrast’