Are "Interactive White Boards" transformative to your teaching and/or classroom?

Are "Interactive White Boards" transformative to your teaching and/or classroom? We are looking for feedback on whether they are worth the money. Do you really get your bang for your buck?

--- I am not looking for what company is better or what software is better...

Thanks for your feedback everyone!

Tags: board, interactive, iwb, promethean, smart, white

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Is it emulator or simulator? Does it automatically create random facts?
Hi Patti, here is a quick screencast with the path.

The application in the screencast is called MathAce and it quizzes on add, sub, mult, and div and it gives you a few ways to customize it.

Find more videos like this on Classroom 2.0
Hi Patti, here are the rest of palm file paths.

Find more videos like this on Classroom 2.0
Julie (sorry this came out on the wrong thread),

I'm glad that you're getting results from your IWB, however, I would say that the activity you describe could be completed in the same manner without the IWB. Couldn't someone print out the pictures and phrases that would have been imported into the IWB, put some tape on the back, and then have students come to the board and sort them accordingly. To "save" it, just snap a couple pics with adigital camera and upload the pics to a class Flickr account. I realize that this might be easier with an IWB, but the learning objective and activity are the same.

A room full of computers for each student would be cool, but it's not necessary. I've got 8 computers in my classroom that I've cobbled together through donations and negotiations. The computers are a motley of operating systems from OS X to Windows to Linux, but they are all connected to the web.

One of the teaching methods I use most to get students actively learning might be described as "divide and conquer." At the outset of a lesson I introduce or review a concept we've been studying and divide the class into 2-3 groups. Group 1 creates something or does an interactive activity on the computers. Group 2 does an independent activity (usually some form of research) and Group 3 works with me to review and discuss the concepts we're studying. It allows me to work with much smaller groups and give students more individualized attention. Some days, a group will stay at their station the entire class and we'll flip stations the following days. Other times, the groups will rotate between the stations in one class period.

The most exciting station for the students is definitely the computers. They love doing the creative work and I'm very pleased with the results (though I don't have an authentic control group to compare to). See some examples of student projects here, here, and here. All students had to complete these projects and they were done in my room, during class time, with the 8 mish-mashed computers.
Hi Mike, you make a good point about interacting with pics and taping them up. Before I had my SmartBoard we used a lot of manipulatives to learn and reinforce the vocabulary. I still think the SmartBoard does a better job of getting the language in their heads. I can't explain why, but it does.

Your projects are cool and I'm envious of teachers who can do a lot of projects like these because the students focus on the project and not the language. I teach German and I want my students to be hearing German, interacting in German, etc. The bulk of my students are in levels 1 and 2 and they don't have the linguistic ability to stay in German while working on computer projects. We recently did a Wiki for a novella we read and although the wiki was in German, the language in the computer lab was mostly English.

If I had a computer for every student in the room with the SmartBoard they could open the lesson that I'm working on and do it. I could talk them through the actions in German and eventually they would get the computer language they need. Students need a lot of repetitions of the foreign language before they can use that language comfortably. I have demoed items in German in my room before going to the lab but there isn't enough exposure to that particular set of language for my kids to use it.
Hey Mike,

I really like the student projects. Good job for being creative about resources.

I am a college student and I agree with you that kids today are not engaged any differently by IWBs than simple whiteboards or chalkboards. It may just be the fact that it is cooler that the kids are engaged, but that will go away before you can get your $3,000 worth of educated kids.

Good job on creating smaller groups for attention time as well!
I'm going to agree with Mike, and add one more point. IWBs reinforce the dominance of the front of the room as where all knowledge comes from. Even if you get students to walk up and show work or be the teacher, this means that everyone else is watching them instead of the teacher.

I think you have to think about why you are purchasing IWBs. If it's part of an effort to transform teaching practices to favor more inquiry based learning, more student interaction, and more constructing their own knowledge, IWBs are actually going to work against this.
I'd like to throw in my thoughts here as well. I am very interested in what I have seen with IWBs and am currently gathering the parts to make a wiimote board but I have not at all been sold on the results.

A couple years ago our school bought 8 or so class sets of Qwizdom Response Remotes and Wireless Writing Tablets to go along with them. The tablets, honestly, were purchased as an afterthought. These remotes were supposed to change how classes worked. I'll admit, I bought into the idea. The fact is, they didn't change a dang thing. Sure the students like pushing buttons and when used sparingly they do up the excitement factor but nothing in the classroom's has really changed. My problem is that how I viewed them being used simply is not feasible with our current tech set ups. I fear the same would happen with IWBs.

I do love my writing tablet but I'll again admit that I even, paragon of technology excellence at my site, use it for little more than a wireless mouse. I did use it extensively in my EL classes but since I no longer have those it has regressed.

Now, all that said, I do believe "chocolate covered broccoli" is better than regular old broccoli but the fact is we're often just trying to mask the fact that the learning we are feeding our students is not desirable so we need to sweeten it up. I don't think IWBs are nearly as transformative as some of us wish they were.
Sylvia (and Mike),

I think you are missing one very important point about IWBs.

Sylvia touched on it when she said that it "reinforces the dominance of the front of the room". IWBs (and I'd argue most other technologies too) tend to reinforce the behaviours taking place in the classroom. If a teacher is a "front of the room" type, then yeah, maybe an IWB will just keep that behaviour going. If a teacher teaches in creative and interesting ways, then an IWB will open a whole bunch of opportunities to make their teaching more creative and interesting. I'd argue strongly that an IWB will simply amplify current teaching practice. If you see teachers using them in very teacher-centric ways, then maybe the teaching habits of those teachers needs some reviewing anyway?

As for the "I could do that with cardboard and sticky tape" thinking.... you could apply that sort of thinking to anything if you wanted to. Yes, you could do many of the typical drag and match exercises that IWBs are usually associated with, with cardboard and sticky tape if you really wanted to. You could annotate text with an overhead projector and an OHP marker. You could watch videos using a DVD or VHS machine. You could listen to audio with a cassette deck. And you could write on a piece of butchers paper pinned to the wall. All of these things represent typical teaching tasks that can also be undertaken on an IWB. And all of them can be replicated with older technologies or methods. So does that mean that an IWB is a waste of time/money just because an older technology could already do it? Well, I don't know... is a DVD player a waste of time/money because a VHS player can do the same thing? Is a VHS player a waste of time/money because a 16mm film projector can do the same thing? How far back do you have to take a given set of technologies (in this example, technologies for viewing moving pictures) before you accept that an upgrade to the next level of performance is worth doing? I'd venture to say that it is the IWB's ability to deal with all media in a digital format (ie, video, images, text, audio, multimedia, hyperlinking, etc) as one common digital format that is what makes it revolutionary. It is the digital convergence that make the difference.

As an example, let's say you are teaching literature and want to show your students a scene from "To Kill a Mockingbird". Sure, just to use the IWB as a projection screen for the movie is not taking advantage of its strengths. In this case, a VHS player can do the same job as the IWB. But what if you want to show a specific part of the courtroom scene from that movie.... not the whole thing, but just a 30 second grab? Perhaps you want to look at the characterisation or the lighting or the dialogue. When everything is digital, isolating a part of a scene is relatively easy... a whole lot easier than doing it with a VHS player, especially if you want to watch it a few times, perhaps pausing at a particular moment, perhaps annotating over the paused image. Now, what if you want to compare that scene to another courtroom scene from a different movie? What if you want to pause both scenes in order to compare how they handle the same type of theme? What if you want to extract a still image from these scenes so that they can be used to generate a class discussion? All of this is relatively easy on an IWB, where the video clips have been isolated in advance and embedded into a notebook/flipchart. Just tap the movie clip to watch it, tap again to pause it, extract a still frame, and so on. Trivially easy to manage in class, and extremely powerful in terms of being able to stimulate a class discussion. Try doing that with a couple of VHS tapes. Could it be done? Yes, of course. But there would be all sorts of fiddling about with tapes in class, waiting for the tapes to load, trying to cue them to the correct point, etc. Juggling two tapes from two or more movies is a nightmare...

So your assertion that older technologies can do the "same thing" as an IWB misses a whole lot of subtlety and nuance. No they can't. Having a single point of access where any digital media can be shared with the entire class is an extremely powerful idea.

Which brings me to my third point, and that is this common misconception about what constitutes interactivity. I'm endlessly amused by those who think that the word "interactive" in "interactive Whiteboard" refers the the act of coming to the board and physically maneuvering objects around on a screen. In my opinion, that is missing the whole point. If you measure the success of IWBs by how "interactive" they are, and you measure the success of "interactivity" by how many people get to physically manipulate objects on the board, then yes, there will always be a ceiling on how successful they are in your eyes. However, I see the interactivity not as the physical interactivity of touching the board, but in the intellectual interactivity that can be created when a classroom is able to embed rich media into lesson, when it can flexibly divert off the planned course of a lesson by quickly calling up relevant web resources, when it can easily use media to juxtapose differing viewpoints that require students to think more critically or to have to defend their points of view. When you can have a large screen digital convergence facility in your classroom that adds richness and depth to the teaching and learning process, then I think you start to see the intellectual interactivity rise in that class. It is these deeper classroom discussions that arise by stimulating ideas in your students heads that really add interactivity to your classroom

I think about it like this... it's not what happens on the IWB that matters. It's what happens because of what happens on the IWB that matters.

Of course, all of this is driven by good teaching practice, by teachers who understand the dynamics of their classroom, who know the right times to hand control over to their students and the right times to assume a more centralised role of teacher. Teachers who understand learning processes, classroom psychology, differentiated learning, and so on... these teachers do really amazing things with IWBs because IWBs are powerful tools for doing these sorts of things. If a teacher just uses their IWB to do cutesy activities that get one or two kids to come to the board, of course it's never going to be revolutionary.

Let's stop looking to the IWB to be the saviour for poor teaching habits. It won't be. It will simply amplify what's already taking place in that classroom, and unfortunately that can work both ways.
I have a new Smart Board in my room and I would have to agree that professional development is the key. It was installed and left for me to figure out. If this was done to a classroom teacher with little to no interest in technology I think the board would collect dust. I have figured out many things about its use, but still need more training. Thank goodness for the Illinois Computing Educators Conference later this month where I will have a whole day workshop to find out more!
As to your question about them being the short amount of time and the with the lack of training that I received, I would have to say yes! The students are engaged in lessons even when they are not at the board. They never know who will get their turn next. I don't have wireless tablets in my district, so I was thrilled when I got this much!
For me, at the moment, no.
Last year I had a standard whiteboard (with markers) and a projector. At the moment, to be honest, I use the IWB in much the same way - as a whiteboard. The exception is when using activotes, and regular use of the timer function.

This is more a failing on my part than a criticism of IWBs. Our new VLE will be up and running in September - that will give me more of a reason to use the IWBs features; uploading classnotes for students, electronic assessment etc.

So basically, like any tool, it's only useful if in the right hands, with the right training.
As a follow on to my post above, I thought this post by Bob pretty much sums it up....

He says he does not find IWBs to be transformative, but readily admits he uses it like a regular whiteboard. ie, If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.

I'm not trying to pick on Bob, but just trying to use his own observation to support my belief that the IWB on its own does not transform anything. If transformation is to happen, then it is the underlying teaching practice has to change.

For everyone who says that IWBs are not transformative, I'd suggest they are looking for transformation in the wrong place.



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