Paint it . . . White?

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Sorry, Micky J. , couldn’t help meself :)

So, what’s the buzz with Interactive Whiteboards? Our district is in the middle of a push to put them in every classroom. We use SMARTboards. My wife’s district is in the middle of a push to put them in every classroom. They use Promethean. Now, I will say this . . . I like SMART better than Promethean for one simple reason: Promethean has a godawful pen. Board costs over a thousand dollars set up and ready to go; pen costs around $19.95 and looks and feels like it should be less. I mean, come on, Promethean people, get a new pen design! Yes, I’ve seen the wand. It looks useless as well. The Promethean boards seem much sturdier, but I gotta go with the board that lets me use my finger to write on it. But design flaws aside, what’s the point of a IW?

Okay, when I was in kindergarten, Miss Collins and Mrs. Batette wrote on a blackboard with chalk while we sat and got. Then, when I was in high school, Mr. Miller wrote notes on an overhead projector and we sat and got. College? Lecture theater and REALLY BIG overhead projector. Us? Sitting and getting. When I started teaching, I noticed someone had come up with the brilliant idea of hanging white showerboard on the old chalkboard and writing on it with Expo dry erase markers. I went to Lowe’s and bought three 8′ sheets of the stuff with some sheetrock screws and I had a “whiteboard” instead of a chalkboard. My allergies thanked me; my students, not so much BECAUSE, I wrote on the whiteboard with my dry erase markers and they . . . sat and got. Anyone see a pattern here?

Okay, so now I walk through my school, I see teachers on the internet, I see other teachers in other places and they’ve all got IWs. New buzz . . . we’ve all got to have IWs. So teachers all have IWs. I see these IWs in use and what is happening? Well, in 9 cases out of 10, the teacher is writing on the IW with something, maybe her finger, and the students are? Yep, you guessed it, sitting and getting.

Oh yes, and while I’m on the subject, if your “getting” isn’t rhyming with your “sitting” in your head, you aren’t saying it right because you have had the misfortune of being born outside the glorious Elysian Fields that is the American South. Yes, we are backwards in a lot of ways and yes, things are a might strange at times here in Dixie, but no one can deny that we have one awesome accent. I know my gumbo delta mud speech patterns kept me in liquid refreshment all through college courtesy of a group of wild eyed New Jersey boys who would buy all night as long as I kept talking.

But I digress, as usual.

So what I’m asking is why are we investing so much into a technology that costs a ginormous amount of money and yet, as most of the teachers I’ve seen use it, performs the same function as an $8 dollar sheet of showerboard and a pack of four Expo markers? Personally, I think the problem lies in the difference between knowing how to “work” something and knowing how to “use” something. Lots and lots of teachers today can “work” an IW. They can write on it with their fingers and pull things around and click on the Web without going to their computers. But that’s all.

So, what’s the problem? Fear. This piece of equipment costs tons of money. God forbid we should let the children near it! They might mess it up! They might puncture it, dirty it, ruin it!

Yes. They might. Or they might get engaged by the technology and, be still my beating heart, actually get interested in the lesson content. They may even, and now we’re stretching it, but we can dream, they may even stay awake in class because something they can relate to is going on using a tool they WANT to use. Make no mistake, students are fascinated by IWs. They enjoy them. I’ve even had one lad perform a genuine scientific experiment with one while I was in the room working on his teacher’s second computer. He hurled a pencil at the board as hard as he could. Once the teacher calmed down enough to speak in coherent sentences, she asked him why he’d done that. His reply? He wanted to see if he could make the screensaver go away. Experimentation and scientific method if you ask me. Crude, but scientific.

So, today’s take home point. We are wasting money on IWs if we don’t find some way to get teachers to allow students to I with the W. Sitting and getting has very little place in a 21st century classroom or at a 21st century conference for that matter. The students love the tools ONLY as long as they get to use them. Otherwise, it’s just an expensive toy that will eventually turn them off because they don’t have a stake in it’s use.

So . . . I see a line of boards and they’re all painted white . . . and have electronics in them and computers hooked to them and kids are USING THEM and not setting and getting!!!

Have a good weekend y’all, and don’t forget to . . . well, you know! :)

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7 responses »

  1. Pingback: Perusing Past Posts: A meme « “Granny Beads & Grocery Store Feet”

  2. Pingback: Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts » Blog Archive » IWB: One giant step backwards?

  3. Glad to see you’re still blogging. I’ve had a chance to use Promethean, Interwrite and Smart–the only one for a long time was Promethean. I too did not like the pen. But my issue with IWB is more than the great points you make here. A classroom must have 3 expensive pieces of equipment: An IW board, a computer, and a projector–minimum requirements. Generally these three objects are intended to be used by one person at a time. So rough estimates here, but schools are spending $6000 for a system that realistically is designed for one person at a time. So when instruction is happening, even if a great teacher has planned an interactive lesson, 90% of the class (teacher included) must sit and get. (I use that term too!! Did you get it from me?) Think how many mini laptops or Ipod Touches $6000 could buy! Then each person would have their own and the potential for 100% engagement would happen. Of course this hinges on whether or not a teacher can plan engaging lessons with the tools. No, the real problem (besides the ginormous 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.

    • That is PERFECT! A glorified mouse. That’s it! And we could use some sort of remote for the computer that would be much cheaper if all we intend to use this thing for is moving computer stuff!
      Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Dear G.S.F,

    One of the reasons our district went with Smart instead of other vendors is that our physically-challenged kids don’t need to be able to hold a pen to use the device. It is an adaptive technology if you can write on it with the marker thingie it comes with, a tennis ball, or your finger. I suppose other body parts like feet would work as well, so long as they are clean.

    Doug

    • Hi Skunk!!
      First, keep at least one night of the SCASL conference open. We’re going to eat somewhere good. I don’t know exactly where yet, but it’ll be good. Second, that’s exactly the reason I like SMART. They are just much easier to use and every Promethean pen I’ve ever seen has fallen apart. Plus, I can’t see my buddy Terry using a Promethean pen with any success. He’s one of our TMH children with Downs and just doesn’t have the fine motor coordination. Right now, I’m working on getting his class one of the new SMARTtables. They are pricey, but look fun.

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