Disclosure: I am a certified SMART Notebook trainer. I have been, and hopefully will continue to be, paid to train teachers to use their SMART interactive whiteboards properly and effectively. My training sessions are all customized, however, and designed with an emphasis on the key word “interactive.” And I’m paid by schools that hire me, NOT by a company that installs or services boards.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…please forgive me. It’s been I don’t know how long since my last confession. Today I’d like to confess some of my innermost feelings about a single topic: interactive whiteboards. I’ve remained silent on this issue because it seems so divisive. Maybe “divisive” is the wrong word because there aren’t a ton of people out there speaking out in their defense. There are, however, plenty of detractors. And that’s okay, for sure. Debate is necessary and desired. But before I get ahead of myself, let me step into the confessional…
I confess that I’ve seen interactive whiteboards being used as nothing more than expensive projector screens. I’m sure you have, too.
I confess that I’ve known of teachers who go complete weeks, or perhaps longer, without even turning on their interactive whiteboards. I’m sure you have, too.
I confess that few things frustrate me more than schools spending money on interactive whiteboards but not investing the time and money to not only train teachers properly, but also to hold them accountable for using the boards the right way (and hold administrators accountable for not holding teachers accountable or not supporting them to get more training when needed).
I confess that I hear a lot about schools with large percentages of students receiving free and reduced lunch investing Title One dollars into interactive whiteboards and, knowing the likelihood that they’ll be used effectively, I shiver.
I confess that I’d probably trade my interactive whiteboard for a cart of laptops that I could have access to whenever I want it. BUT…I can’t. It’s there on my wall and it’s not going anywhere. The money’s spent. So gosh darn it, I’m going to use it and I’m going to use it the right way.
I confess that I think interactive whiteboards can be great learning tools when used effectively. Interactive. Hands-on. Visually appealing. Kinesthetic. They’ve got a lot of things going for them. Yes, if you’re a teacher just standing in front of your interactive whiteboard talking at students for an hour at a time, this is a problem. But if you’re a teacher who’s working with a small group on a math activity and you’ve got a small group using the board independently as a learning center, this is awesome. Interactive whiteboards are not evil incarnate, educationally speaking. They’re underutilized tools that aren’t being used properly for myriad reasons, most of them reasons that are easily addressed.
I confess that I have no problem with people saying and blogging and writing that they wouldn’t invest their tech dollars in interactive whiteboards. Like I said, I’m apt to agree with you. But please, if you’ve got one in your room or your school, don’t spend valuable time shouting your opposition from the mountaintops. They CAN be meaningful tools. Invest some time in learning just how powerful and engaging they can be. Your students will thank you for it.
Photo Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/60202134@N07/5496530876