Summer break has ended; you are feeling refreshed and renewed, ready to tackle the New Year and all of its new challenges. You enter your room after your morning meeting to discover an interactive whiteboard (IWB) hung neatly in the front of the room where your white board used to be. The district is involved in a grant to integrate technology into the classroom.
Immediately your mind begins to whir: “think of all I can do with this.”
Move forward in time to January and the IWB hangs there, appearing slightly tarnished. Oh sure, you begin your lessons with it, posting critical thinking questions for the students to ponder, and indeed they gaze at it longingly each day. You show them interesting things like sweet websites, or educational games. You have kids come up to the IWB to make sentence corrections or review for a quiz, you circle important parts of maps, or cells under a microscope, students move pictures around like the parts of the puzzle.
But somewhere something is eating at you, and you realize that your class hasn’t really changed all that much.
Last night #edchat returned to Twitter with a warrior’s cry as hundreds of educators from all corners of the globe debated whether or not IWBs were interactive. The debate spanned the gamut, from the perpetual class war that exists in public schooling to the very nature of interactivity. Many of my colleagues argued passionately against me, and my stance that IWBs were not interactive.
Here is where I stand.
- IWBs are a great tool, but they are a traditional tool. Make no mistake; there is nothing revolutionary about what an IWB does for your instruction. IWB simply enforce the antiquated notions in education that have always existed, of one or few acting while the rest react.
- IWBs are a good tool to get student engagement (which we all know is fleeting), but they are not interactive! Even the best technology will only allow two points of contact upon the board at a time. What are the rest of the students doing while one or two interact with the IWB. This is where my #edchat colleagues argued that the other students were brainstorming or doing other activities while one or two were using the IWB, and I reply loudly – then what do you need the IWB for?
- In these times where public schools are crunched for money I would argue that an IWB is the last thing that districts should buy. Although they are something that is easy to take a picture of and put in the paper, they are not revolutionary. If anything they are holding us back.