Beyond Chalk: Tools and Training Make the Modern Classroom

I recently had the opportunity to spend half a day listening to a major national speaker in the area of technology who spent a number of opportunities during her presentation addressing interactive whiteboards.  Her stance was that this was a waste of money, that indeed a sheet and an overhead projector could accomplish the same goals.  Having now spent the better part of this year at a school that has heavy investment in this technology, and as the instructional technologist who has supported the teachers and the boards,  I would like to share my 2 cents on interactive whiteboards.

I have used some version of interactive whiteboard for many years.  Indeed, in the early 1990’s, I received the opportunity to use an early version of the SMART Board in my classroom.  My conclusion then,  which I still believe, is that Interactive Whiteboards that are portable are a big pain that most teachers won’t bother with for long.  This technology is best used mounted on a wall and transforming one learning area at a time.

At the beginning of this year, Virginia Beach City Public Schools invested heavily in Interactive Whiteboards.  As part of this investment, my school received 48 Promethean Boards and projectors, in each and every instructional area in the building.  As the instructional technologist who was then charged with supporting the boards and training my teachers on how to integrate them into everyday instruction, I have come to a number of conclusions:

1.  As with all technologies, training and hand holding is key.  I did have teachers that were worried about the invasion of this device into their instructional space.  Today, each of my teachers is a proficient user of the Promethean Interactive Whiteboard.  I have seen uses of this board that go well beyond what the traditional paper, pencil, chalkboard classroom can offer.

2. We can now bring the world to our students, I have heard many Oohs and Ahhs this year as we have taken our students on virtual field trips and have brought in experts via Skype, in full size color!

3. Students are presenting more in classrooms, using the large screen to show off their work product to the class.  This will be of huge benefit to them in life.

4.  Let’s take a basic example, even something as simple as reviewing math problems, the problems are LARGE, kids can see them, they can see the math tools used in a clear way, it has improved instruction in this area in great measure!

5. The integration of video and other multimedia on these boards adds great instructional abilities to these boards.  The seamlessness of this process on the boards is incredible and with younger students (and even older) can produce that frequent Ahh in the classroom.

6. Good teaching is good teaching.  My best teachers can take this technology and make it sing! They use it as a tool to interest and educate their students.

Our students are used to a constantly connected lifestyle in High Definition.  I have had kindergartners tell me “Google it!”  Our students need these tools in the modern classroom.  As far as the national speaker, or any other critic, I say, come visit!

Kevin Johnson
Computer Resource Specialist
Landstown Elementary
Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Comments

  1. Bethany Arsenault

    Our district installed large SMART boards in every classroom this year. While we are all still learning, the boards have made a HUGE difference in our teaching and student learning. I have noticed big changes in my special needs students. My Kindergarten students take turns using the board during center time.
    We were also given surround sound speakers and an “Elmo” document reader. (it’s like Christmas around here!) I am so thankful for this equipment because it is helping me look at teaching/learning in a fun new way.

  2. Dave

    I still haven’t seen most Interactive White Boards (IWB) used to their potential. They are very expensive, and even with training, most teachers use them as a projection screen and not as anything “interactive”.

    They are only interactive for one person at a time.

    I personally think that money could be better spent on netbooks or computers for the students to be able to work with, instead of being used as a very expensive screen.

    Everything listed above in the article can be done using a screen, projector, and computer and you can save the $2500 on the IWB and mounting.

    I spent $40 on a remote control for my computer and I use a projector to project presentations, web sites, animations, videos and more onto the plain white board in my room and control it from anywhere in my room.

    I think that there is way too much emphasis put on spending way too much money on IWB and the return on the investment is minimal.

    Let’s really get interactive with our students and have them doing projects, investigating things, exploring things, and creating things, while working in teams. If you want to show them Skype, multimedia resources, and more, you don’t need an IWB, you need a screen or plain white board.

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