Last year our school installed six Promethean ACTIVboards across the school (including my own shared classroom) and I started this blog thinking that I could connect to other educators about that very topic. Well, I got plenty of connection to educators but not really on the topic of IWB's. In fact, much of the interaction has challenged my perspective not just on the use of this much heralded tool but its future in the rapidly evolving education landscape. I've actually concluded that I'm one of the very few people that's actually blogging about IWB technology. Most of that goes over on the Activboarding blog (which is a collection of links, resources and documentation) but when I want to reflect on my own ideas and how our IWB program has influenced me personally, then I'll post it here at TGZ.
Since August last year I've developed into a very competent technical user of the school's ACTIVboards. I've had to because although I had the same amount of experience as the others starting out (zero), it's in "my job description" to be good at troubleshooting and working how to use new technology. Being only part time in the classroom has meant I haven't developed my pedagogical skills with the IWB as much as my full time classroom based colleagues. So while I can demo the ACTIVboard to anyone and showcase the technical capabilities, I am still in the developing stage of using it really effectively with my own class. It's actually started to develop some worrying signs in the way the classroom is now set up is quite board oriented. Instead of groups of tables for collaborative tasks, the kids actually wanted a form of rows so that everyone has a decent view. Still, the classroom isn't about my preferred learning style but my students'. I still suspect that the true value of an IWB will be when the students have greater access to mobile technologies, maybe in the form of 1:1 handhelds or a class set of wireless laptops. Model stuff, then do.
So. with the first group of IWB teachers, there was an unwritten understanding that they were working things out for themselves and that the available support wasn't very much in front (if at all) of them. The teachers who've just started this past week have a slightly different outlook. In general, they probably aren't as confident or gung-ho as the original pioneers displaying a more cautious approach. They like to be sure of what they are intending to do with the IWB and aren't playing and experimenting as much compared to what I observed 11 months ago. They also have a reserve of experience to fall back on - buddies to go and see if they get stuck and need help. We're using better quality laptops this time around so there have been less technical hitches. I suppose one of the biggest shifts now is that our school has shifted from experimenting with this new (for Australia) technology to now being a school with a big commitment to the successful implementation of Interactive Whiteboards. We can now cater for all of the students in one way or another using IWB - if the kids aren't already in one of the 11 classrooms equipped with an ACTIVboard, then they will have access in the Science Room or the Resource Centre. So we have to make this idea work - there's a lot of dollars invested in this direction. Our partnership with Flinders Uni will be important to make sure that the pedagogy employed in our classrooms uses this portal to digital resources to best effect.
I've also been spending
way too much a lot of time working on the presentation for the Middle Schooling conference in the evenings so I'm starting to feel like I spend more time thinking about IWB's than actually using them to work with kids. As with all technology, I reckon sometimes the teachers need to get out of the way and watch the kids using it, then direct them in ways that are beneficial. We'll see how the initiative unfolds in the next few months.