Interactive Whiteboards

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Being able to recall the multiplication times tables quickly is still a skill highly prized by many parents (and teachers). Maybe it's a concrete link between their rote learning chant of their school experiences and the mathematics that their child has to grapple with. And being in confident command of basic number facts does help in the solving of more complex equations and problems. But the job of getting my students to "learn their times tables" has been a hard sell especially for those kids who have to work hard to embed these numerical facts in their memory. At the Year Six level, I've never been completely happy with the way I've been tracking my students' progress in this area.

But last year I found a happy combination of resources and tools that has made multiplication times tables fun, challenging and easy to track. Here's what I do.

I stumbled on this website called Free Mathematics Worksheets which advertises itself as a repository of free downloadable worksheets in pdf format. In the Multiplication section, there are a series of sheets under the banner of Multiplication Five Minute Frenzies. I print these off, photocopy enough for the class and using the Timer Countdown tool on the Activboard, complete the Frenzy twice a week in the classroom. The Frenzy is a grid and I encourage the students to develop tactics to maximise success. Kids premark their sheet identifying their tables they know best to tackle first leaving the majority of their five minutes for the more challenging facts.

The part that seems to be the big motivator is the recording of these results in a class spreadsheet. These results build up time and it is very easy to create a line graph and show that up on the Activboard for analysis. Without fail, all students in 2007 regardless of initial result starting point had a jagged line of improvement and we used these as a discussion point in 3 way conferences with their parents. The students with high level recall hitting 100/100 with regularity also recorded the time taken by checking the countdown timer as they finish. The volunteers to show their graphs on the IWB always exceeds the time we have left in the lesson. This seems to be the most motivating way I've found to tackle the perennial times tables concerns.

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Over the summer holidays I'd been pondering how to improve my Mathematics program using inspiration, ideas and resources from Dan Meyer's blog. I wanted to harness the potential of my classroom interactive whiteboard to the engagement and purpose of digital materials presented using some of the effective information design principles that Dan so passionately espouses. My original idea was to break the back of the Year Six Maths curriculum by designing the flipcharts by topic or concept before school started back but having a real holiday break and spending quality family time after a really intense 2007 put paid to that ambition. Instead, I've made a conscious effort so far this year to stick to my concept and while what I've produced so far could always improve in quality, I reckon I'm on the right track.

I'm not naturally well organised so establishing some base concepts early on has been helpful. I created some template flipcharts using a colour code system to identify the strand. (e.g. Green gradient background = Measurement, Yellow gradient background = Number although the cruddy Toshiba projector I have in my classroom turns that into a dirty lime.) From there I have been seeking out maths related Flickr cc images to hook the kids' interest, get the class thinking and then I try to clearly introduce the concept, process or skill using clear good sized fonts (Tahoma is my favourite) and minimal word based instruction. I'm scouring del.ici.ous links for useful web based simulations, games and embedding them in the flipcharts so that they can become an integral part of the lesson.

So, I've gone from a wild variety of fonts, backgrounds and amount of mathematical information:

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To something that is starting to be more about the maths concept and how the kids will learn that than how it's all going to look.

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I've also taken Dan's ideas about effective worksheet design on board as well, designing my own worksheets instead of pulling stuff out of textbooks (where time allows) and even when I do use something that someone else has used, it has at least been with a critical eye and conscience.

Just having a plan of attack is doing wonders for an area of the curriculum I have less than progressive in over the last couple of years. My co-teacher and I reckon our classes are up for the Feltron Project next - modified for 10/11 year olds, of course.

And using this approach is turning up some digital gems. Last night, I started hunting down supporting material for the topic of timelines, starting with units of time measurement, moving to sequence of events in varying time frames and then adding some scale to those timelines. For starters, this time keeping page was an ideal starting point (until the data projector froze this morning and I had to do some fast paddling to get the laptops out, logged on and kids directed to the right spot in cyberspace - a non-digital plan can be a helpful back-up) followed by this great timeline of events based around the fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo. Tomorrow, I will get them analysing a day of their own life using the ReadWriteThink timeline tool before we look at how to introduce scale into the concept.

Still not sure how to use this timeline on the history of McDonald's in my class but the tool that creates it , xtimeline oozes potential for older users.

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My lifestyle doesn't lend itself to much podcast listening but I've decided that an effort to lose some excess kilos is in order. I see jogging as a form of torture and have my knees cringing in fear whenever I up the pace on my bicycle so the old fashioned brisk walk is the way to go. So I've pressed my underused iRiver T10 into action and added some notable podcasts to give the braincells a workout as well.

trojan.jpgA while back, Tom Barrett alerted me to the 100th episode of the Smartboard podcast which is co-hosted by Ben Hazzard and Joan Badger. It took me two walks to listen to it all. This episode featured a two way interview with Tom and Australia's own Chris Betcher where they aired their thoughts on whether there is an interactive whiteboard pedagogy or is its effective use merely an extension of really good teaching. If you're remotely interested in the whole idea of these tools in classrooms, the whole interview is worth a listen but one really interesting concept from Chris late in the interview is really worth mentioning. He described the IWB as a technology "Trojan horse" where the teacher starts off with the focus on the default software (Notebook or ActivStudio) and used it to digitise the current pedagogy. But then over time as skill levels and confidence grew, the IWB becomes a focus for something bigger - the concept of the "digital hub" when media, the web and other computer applications are part of a seamless learning environment.

Of course, I don't believe  an IWB can do it all on its own but the Trojan horse metaphor is a good term to describe the way it can enable broader technology use in a subtle, subversive way. Tom's example of Google Earth in his classroom to teach any number of concepts from distance in mathematics to geography to observing natural phenomena in science is what happens when the broader technology Trojans emerge from the IWB horse.

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One of the new things that I've been involved this year is the development of several Professional Development sessions for the wider South Australian education community. This evolved out of an increased flow of requests to have a look at our interactive whiteboards and how we are implementing and using them across the school. Earlier this year it was getting to the stage where I was hosting a different school every other week with my time ''to get things done" gradually getting eroded. Add the fact that I'm easily distracted and not naturally well organised and that requests seemed to be on the increase and it was time to design an alternative.

My principal, Ann, has had prior experience in managing requests of this nature and she suggested designing a program of training or information sessions that schools would pay for and book into. She gave suggestions on how it could be packaged up, created a flyer template and contacted several districts to "spread the word". Her help here was invaluable because I was completely lost on how to set this sort of venture up. We ended up with four sessions - two shorter information style presentations and two longer half day work shops. They were dirt cheap for attendees and only really designed to recoup my release time expenses but as Ann pointed out, we didn't really know what the market was like so it was best to start out conservatively. The sessions were "Planning and Implementing an Interactive Whiteboard Program in Your School" led out by my principal Ann from a leadership angle, "Why Promethean IWBs?" exploring my school's choice of platform with the third brazenly titled "iwb 2.0" which showcases the possibilities of melding IWB techonology with the Read/Write Web.

This past Monday, I held the fourth in this series titled "Inquiry Learning and IWBs". The idea behind this was to present our school's journey and to show the potential use of ICT to change teaching practice and present improved learning opportunities for our students. I was very nervous about this one as my tenuous grip on what constitutes "inquiry learning" has been really challenged in this space here in blog posts and many useful probing comments. Anyway, I decided it wasn't my role to provide training in the art of inquiry learning but to point out how our school had connected the dots using various frameworks and adding key resources into the mix. This is how I tackled the three hour workshop.

The Jigsaw Concept
Jigsaw analogy – just like a jigsaw, some pieces are put into place first but you need all the pieces to complete the puzzle. The school wide goal is to use IWB and elearning technology to transform teaching practice.

Some questions for the group to consider:

What is Inquiry Learning?
Why bother with technology?
How do the two go together?

Jigsaw Piece No.1

IWB program @ LNPS (Aug 2005 - )

  • 2 year journey for our school
  • 13 IWBs in our school, all students have access at some point
  • IWB utilises its own native software, other desktop apps and the world wide web
  • Can IWBs transform teaching and learning?

Jigsaw Piece No. 2

ICT skills of teachers / integrating ICT into teaching and learning in the classroom

  • information literacy
  • Resource Based Learning becomes Problem Based Learning becomes inquiry learning
  • Where SACSA fits in – looking at the SOSE Companion Document pp 10-11.

Jigsaw Piece No. 3

Inquiry Learning – Kath Murdoch

  • staff training
  • inquiry process / use of strategies
  • Key points re: Inquiry Learning

Finally, how we frame the inquiry up in the first place?

UbD – Jay McTighe & Grant Wiggins

  • Understanding by Design (stages and planning template)

3 stages of UbD.

1. Identify desired results. Some are pre-determined, but are also customized for the learners. What are the important ideas embedded in the goals?
2. Determine acceptable evidence.
3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.

  • Visit to Melbourne conference for key staff members
  • Influenced inquiry learning planning template
  • Moving into use of wiki to enable more teacher ownership

Quality Teaching Framework - Jenny Gore

  • teaching/ pedagogy
  • matched with IWB research to rate lessons and provide critical reflection

Jigsaw Piece No. 4

IWB classroom research – Flinders University

  • examines IWB use in our classrooms
  • role of the research participant
  • video and rating of IWB lessons
  • reflections and interviews
  • published research
  • participation in IWB professional development

Jigsaw Piece No. 5

Co-planning Inquiry Units

  • planning template – evolving from paper to digital
  • in learning teams
  • with co-planning partners

  • support from AP in Assessment and Planning
  • teacher-librarian involvement
  • the role of the internet – resource or platform?
  • JP – Community Helpers, examples from Teacher-Librarian.
  • MP – Unit on Water, from classroom teacher.

(1) Rocket writing
(2) Possible sentences
(3) Shared reading
(4) Assessment
(5) Interactive component

Jigsaw Piece No 6.Supporting teachers’ eLearning skills and methodologies

  • eLearning Day
  • staff ICT tour
  • eLearning committee
  • EdCap surveys and tailoring T&D to the appropriate level
  • Emerging use of Web 2.0 tools

Putting the pieces together. What pieces will you need for your school’s inquiry/elearning puzzle? How can IWBs help?

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It was interesting how helpful my blog was in putting this presentation together. I pulled out key pieces that would have been hard to get just from memory and a lot easier than trawling through the files on my laptop. The other good thing is that the workshop is set for a repeat due to popular demand and a waiting list for 2008 has already been started!

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I had a very fruitful visit out to Derrimut Heath Primary School on Friday afternoon in south western Melbourne suburbia where I was lucky enough to meet one of the most passionate and switched on primary elearning advocates in Victoria, Georgina Pazzi. I was able to visit her school and talk interactive whiteboards, elearning pedagogy, digital school culture - she certainly demonstrated to me the power of effective vision and planning in getting a primary school embedding technology into their everyday learning. When I arrived, brand new iMacs were being rolled put across the school and for me, it was a real insight to see how another coordinator was managing the change process. Another bonus was the fact Georgina, along with Lauren O'Grady, was a consultant to the Victorian education department in their appraisal of their IWB school trials and had some unique insights to add to our experiences back here at my school. Thanks, Georgina - it was extremely valuable to be your guest for the afternoon.

Back at school, I was all lined up then to deliver Workshop No.2 in our series on Interactive Whiteboard use at our school. These workshops were designed to manage the number of requests from schools wanting to "have a look" at our IWB program. As my boss pointed out to today's attendees, we are not presenting ourselves as experts but our experiences in introducing this relatively new technology (by Australian standards) still might be valuable for others contemplating the possibilities. I read today that Brett Moller attended the recent IWB conference on the Gold Coast and still remains unconvinced by the technology. While I should head over and make a more pointed response over in the comments on his blog, I wonder what he would have made of my presentation which was an expanded version of my CEGSA workshop iwb 2.0. Now I know how some people feel about those who just chuck 2.0 on the end of something and proclaim it as new and groundbreaking - but as I was exploring the combination of the Interactive Whiteboard and Web 2.0, I couldn't think of a neater way to tie the whole idea together. So today, I led a group of about twenty educators through useful tools and sites that harnessed the power of reasd/write but possessed qualities suitable for whole class or small group situations and on the large display of the IWB. I tried to also look at the interactivity angle and it could be argued that much of what I covered could be easily leveraged using a data projector on its own. As Al Upton said to me at CEGSA, the iwb 2.0 concept is quite subversive, get the people in under the guise of IWB and then hit 'em with the Web 2 stuff. And as James said in his keynote on Thursday that as well as it being about learning, it is just as much about the tools as well. The tools enable us to do things in new and innovative ways.

I started by exploring del.icio.us - still the best entry point for any educator keen to dip their toes in the Web 2.0 pool, in my opinion. The networking, the "looking over the shoulder" of others, easy access to the ever increasing digital options for educators all seemed to appeal to today's participants. I worked through photosharing, visual search engines, online applications and visual literacy possibilities - all here on a handy pdf if you're interested. The hard part is building in some interaction and hands on opportunity for adults when there is only the one IWB in the room. If we had our planned wireless up and running and our new laptops ready, then I could have had teachers setting up, tagging and saving and playing as we went.

Yes, Brett, if you're reading, I realise my prior two sentences sort of prove your point.

But, the IWB is a useful tool where more useful tools can be accessed and used for the purpose of learning.

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One of the big criticisms about interactive whiteboards is that it looks too much like a traditional classroom tool and that if we are serious about making education relevant to today's world, then digital reincarnations of yesterday's tools aren't going to cut it. Interestingly, the other alternative according to some advocates is 1:1 laptop computing which gets the technology into the hands of the student. Some recent reports out of the US are now reporting that concept hasn't always paid off in the manner predicted and some critics are labelling 1:1 laptop initiatives a failure. So what does work? Like my UK colleague, Tom Barrett, I'm in charge of a school initiative to get a small scale wireless laptop program up and running. Like Tom, we're not looking at every student with a laptop that travels between home and school but rather a flexible computing solution that doesn't require a timetabled lab or computers tied to limited access points. In short, the goal is for kids to have the computing power come to them, at their desk, clustered in workgroups around the room without the constraint of cables and the time and momentum loss of shifting to a dedicated computing room. The laptop is not the focus of the classroom but a tool to be used when applicable. Same goes for our interactive whiteboards.

I've spoken to and presented about our Promethean boards to five or six different schools so far this year. As well as explaining how the Activboard and its standard software program works, I always try and get our visitors to look beyond the "Wow" factor and picture the type of learning they want to be happening in their classrooms. I've often felt that the IWB does fit really well in junior primary classrooms with group learning and collaborative play and the older the kids, the more you want other technologies at their disposal.

So it was interesting to talk to a couple of high school Assistant Principals charged with envisioning a brand new middle school complex about how the use of these boards could be an enhancement or a hindrance to effective classroom practice. As I talked then through the software, the capabilities to use the internet and interactive content, both of my visitors started to talk amongst themselves about the IWB being a vehicle for pedagogical change. Not that the IWB has magical powers to transform and learning but that their inclusion in a new sub-school setting would signal a change, a new way of doing things, a package deal that would wrap up cross curricular teaching teams and technology-based learning opportunities for their students.

They also both cited a colleague from the IT faculty who had said, ''Why not just get data projectors?" So that's when I pulled my blog up on screen and navigated to my post from early 2006 about the interactive whiteboard being a vehicle for moving non-techie teachers into embedding digital resources into their teaching. Some critics will point out that this might mean a reproduction of traditional transmission mode teaching, but my experience in my current role has reinforced that in working to get teachers moving along in any area of their practice, you have to start from where they are. I have seen teachers who thought mastering email and formatting Word documents put them at the cutting edge really evolve their practice using an interactive whiteboard and in turn, offer their students more technology-based learning opportunities.

So, I really like the suggested way Tom describes the thinking behind his school's plans:

"...a vision for the future of our school. We would like our children to have a uninhibited personal choice when to use technology; whether that be a calculator or sharing an online spreadsheet on a laptop. "

I also think that having a bank of laptops available to a sector of the school is also a challenge to the way our teachers currently operate. The way I see it, the IWBs together with the teacher laptop put unprecedented digital power and opportunity in their hands. The IWB also open options for students but the laptops add a new layer for student learning, making it possible for students to more regularly access the web, their files and other digital tools when they fit in with their learning tasks.

Reading about laptops in classrooms led me to Chris Lehmann's blog where a post explores some of this interactive pedagogy required with laptops or IWBs. He writes:

But also, too many folks have this thought that if we just hand the kids laptops, presto learning happens. You need a web-based learning environment that acts as a virtual center of the community, that gives the kids something to anchor the learning that happens, you need courses that teach kids how to use the laptops to further their learning, not just how to use them, and you need a vision of education that is progressive and project-based so that the kids can use them as research, communication and creation tools.

There's also a feeling here in South Australia reflected in a remix of Chris's statement: But also, too many folks have this thought that if we just install Interactive Whiteboards in classrooms, presto learning happens.

It's what changes when you decide to use the technology for learning that makes the difference, not the technology alone. But without the technology, you can't move forward.

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Every day brings a new Twitter friend and I try to lob at least one twitter into the mix on a daily basis to keep in touch. Some people on my little network are regular, others post in fits and bursts but it's become mildly handy as a post-it note bulletin board type place to check in with people on a passing by type basis. One of the lesser known features is the ability to direct message someone (yes, I know that I could use e-mail) that can direct a question or answer. Quentin D'Souza messaged me after I posted this to twitter:

A big meeting tonight for our interactive whiteboard teachers - how they have moved their classroom practice forward. Very challenging 4 me. 09:24 PM April 12, 2007 from web Icon_star_empty Icon_trash

He was keen to know how the meeting went and pointed me to a forum discussion (open to world) in his local area that is similar in context to our local CEGSA edna forum (closed to wider world). So, without compromising the research component - I will not identify the researcher or anything my fellow colleagues stated in the meeting in confidence - I will share some of the questions being discussed and some of my personal responses, no matter how unsure I might be. This is in the interests of me trying to model the open educator, flaws and all, that I'd want all teachers to be.

Firstly, we'd all had a lesson videoed last year that was the subject of another personal interview. At the meeting I was invited to share a highlight from that and make some general observations about that lesson using the interactive whiteboard. The first question asked about what I had learnt from watching the video and whether the video approach was useful. I learnt a fair bit about my teaching with an IWB and that is I like to talk - a lot. I'd like to think it's about prompting kids to participate and then asking probing questions to get their brains thinking but sometimes it was just lead time to string the steps of the lesson together. I felt that in my demonstration lesson I fell into the trap of using the IWB as the focus for the whole time and because 40 minutes was allocated for the taping, that's how long the lesson went for. The lesson was on "Using Search Engines" as a tie-in to personal research projects the class was working on and it was also relevant to our SACSA Society and Environment area (Learners develop and use operational skills in information and communication technologies to critically design and construct texts, search for and sort information, and communicate with others.) All participants were given a DVD copy of the lesson with two camera angles shown on the screen simultaneously and it was interesting to view myself teaching a lesson from the perspective of the student. I wasn't unhappy with the lesson itself - it was an explicit exploration of tools lesson and it was reasonably tightly scripted from my side. There were opportunities built in for input from the students where at times I called someone to scribe, students also filled in a grid with their answers and also volunteered to use the hotlinks to various search engines and then typed in suggested key words. One page of the flipchart I was using had four "facts" about Google listed (two were true and two were false) and the task was for the students to collectively suggest key words into Google to ascertain whether the fact was truth or fiction. Right at that moment when reviewing the lesson, I realised that was the point where a class set of wireless web-connected laptops would have been ideal as then the students could have all tackled the task and reported back their findings and used the IWB to model their process. As it was, it dragged as a whole class exercise and I cut it short after only two facts. It is a bit of an ironic conundrum - the teacher poses problems in digital form but all the students have to work with in their immediate environment is pen and paper technology. The video approach was useful because although there are elements of artificiality whenever cameras are present, it was useful to have a magnifying glass on my questioning methods, how I brought students into the lesson and whether they would be better served by using different approaches. I think the danger of having an IWB lesson videoed is that I was really conscious of making sure the board was being used as the goal was to gain feedback on its appropriate (or otherwise) use within the classroom.

The next question asked me to share a segment of the DVD and explain my choice. I didn't really focus on a particular part but I did note that the kids were ready for a change of pace or activity at about the 20 minute mark. The follow on question asked how the video of my classroom practice aligned with my educational beliefs about good teaching and learning. This provoked a lot of discussion and I think my feelings that an IWB needs to be backed by other technology tools were very strong. For me, good classroom practice uses whole class instruction time as an avenue to setting up a task or introducing a specific concept - using the IWB in this way is fine, but using it as a lecture or tour of content is not the way I operate. It is important to allow students time to work in small groups or as individuals on certain tasks whether they be cementing an idea or concept into place or investigating a problem or designing a product. How to effectively utilise the IWB for a small group or even an individual is still an ongoing challenge for me. The IWB does represent a great opportunity to go over ideas or concepts that are troubling individuals - together at the board the student and I can go over steps to a maths problem, or show them specifically how to add an e-mail attachment or how to add punctuation to a paragraph easily with both parties able to annotate, save and re-visit the work at hand. So, does the IWB align with my teaching practice - yes, but to a point and it does bring other tools into play.

Have the interactive whiteboards lived up to your expectations? How?
It's been over 18 months since I first got an IWB in my classroom so it's hard to remember what my expectations were but because we have spent so much time repeating the Marc Prensky mantra of technology implementation, I've been looking at how they can allow me to do "new things in new ways". They have allowed me to access web based resources easily, construct things with my class collaboratively (e.g. class meeting agendas, assessment rubrics, class rule agreements) and keep everything that I would normally put on a regular whiteboard into digital, readable, saveable format.

How has the IWB influenced the learning process in your classroom?
It has been brilliant in allowing students to become the teachers of their peers by using the IWB as a presentation platform. Through their Personal Projects where the student presenting took charge of their peers' learning for a 20 minute stint through to opportunistic moments when a student returning from an Asian trip with her father can plug in her USB stick and play her slideshow, talking the whole class through her amazing experience.

What problems or difficulties in your classroom practice have they solved and / or created?
Access for students is always an issue - not everyone can have an opportunity in every lesson. It has certainly solved the problem of my messy writing through superior presentation and use of the handwriting recognition tool. Use of various software programs and the internet has become embedded into my practice - but when the network is down or the web is slow, useful access to some of these tools is compromised. There is the issue of all students being able to see the IWB - sadly for a while I reverted back to traditional rows - as the students themselves want to be able to see what is being shown and manipulated.

What does effective use of the IWB look like in practice?
I keep thinking that this idea ties to the IWB being just one technology option within the classroom - while it caters really well to whole class activity, other technologies like computers, mp 3 recorders, video cameras, scanners and digital cameras help to facilitate group and individual learning. The IWB provides an ideal starting point but if (any form of) technology remains solely in the grasp of the teacher and doesn't get handed over to the students, then the learning will be limited without any personalisation. Like all technology, the IWB will only be effectively used by an effective teacher.

Describe a successful experience that you have had using the IWB with students and outline why you think it was a success.
Last year, my class worked on Personal Research
Projects on negotiated topics from our SOSE curriculum. The IWB allowed the student to be up in front of their peers controlling the presentation experience and by being at the board, being able to stop to annotate images or diagrams along the way, pull in multimedia without stopping and heading over to the laptop and being able to go back to key points at the request of the audience. One really memorable presentation was by a boy on the Roman Empire - he's still collecting credibility points from me and his former classmates today!

This is as far as the discussion got during that session but there are more questions that didn't get covered that are worth posting here for anyone else who'd like to use them.

In your classroom, what do you believe is your role as the teacher? How do you believe students learn and what is the role of the IWB and ICT?

Dave Miller describes three stages of development using the IWB - (i) supported didactic, (ii) interactive and (iii) enhanced interactive and a change of thinking. Can you identify with them? What factors help teachers move along these stages? 

Has the IWB influenced your attitudes and beliefs about what constitutes as "good" teaching and learning? How and why?

Do you think that teachers who adopt a student-orientated constructivist teaching approach are more likely to make better use of the IWB and vice versa: Teachers who readily integrate them into their practice are more likely to possess constructivist learning styles and why?

How has the IWB impacted on your work? (e.g. stress, workload, enjoyment, self-esteem, collaboration with others.)

What factors have supported and / or hindered your use of the IWB?

What are the most effective and ineffective strategies for professional learning using IWBs?

What will you do differently for the next classroom observation in Term 3 to demonstrate "good" practice if you were going to share it with colleagues, and why?

What lessons have you learnt using the IWB that would be would be valuable to share with colleagues?

 

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Today I attended the Leaders session as part of the Dave Miller IWB Event, where there was an initial session by Dave, followed by a Leadership Panel where three principals presented their school's journey and things for other schools to consider when implementing their own IWB program. More on that shortly.

Dave started the session by pointing out that he doesn’t have a preference for either brand of the two prominent IWBs but interestingly, he only ever referred to SmartBoard and ACTIVboard, even though the field has a lot more contenders than that. As the event was co-sponsored by both Australian distributors of the before mentioned boards, he was careful not to promote one product over the other. He talked about the introduction and use of interactive whiteboards rejuvenating experienced teachers’ careers. He mentioned that there were quite a few UK organizations conducting IWB research and that many were pointing to an improvement in student attainment.

A quick poll of the audience showed that about 75% of the schools represented were still in the planning stage and had not purchased any boards. He then posed the following questions for schools at this stage.

What is your main reason for buying IWBs?

How will you make the decisions about which make to buy?

How will you allocate them?

What infrastructure changes will you make within your School?

What support will be provided? He talked about training – planning and budget percentage.

Throughout the presentation he showed some of the tools on his ACTIVboard - very similar to my own presentation except his board was working!

The UK have defined interactive teaching in three stages (1) on the board (2) at the students desk and (3) in the student’s head. Interestingly, that still sounds like a fairly traditional mode of transmission classroom. I made the side quip to fellow blogger, Al Upton, that it seemed the higher technology skilled and group based the teacher, the more cynical of the supposed benefits of the IWB.

Dave mentioned that London schools had spent £50 million on IWBs. Most research (Ofsted) has focussed on ICT impact on student attainment as measured by high stakes testing. In today's political climate, it's interesting that the push for back-to-basics type of curriculum could actually be supported by this technology, which as Tom Barrett pointed out a little while back isn't that new anymore. Yet, here in Australia, it really is being seen as very new and I think I heard the word exciting more than once from various participants. No wonder Web 2.0 is unheard of - that's the area I need to push into more, exploring where IWB and Web 2.0 intersect.

Dave also spoke about embedding all of the resources into the flipchart (Notebook file for SmartBoard) as a way of keeping things altogether, dodging copyright issues (which I don't think is quite true) and making the resource shareable to other. There's a bit to explore here in another post - there are a few prior ideas I can remix in.

He then moved onto recommendations for schools – he stated that each school needed a clear business model that accounted for all of the variables. Leaders had to remove barriers to use. One third of budget for IWB should be allocated to training. Consider the minimum skills you want for users to have and how to support staff to get them. IWBs will brings new things into classrooms and create an expectation of a transformation of pedagogy. Pupils – are they spectators, participants or creators? He did touch on the problem of reinforcement of transmission styles. To my mind, that's not a technology issue insomuch that it is a teacher's mindset issue.

We had a break downstairs in The Cave, site of much debauchery in my Teachers College days where I caught up with a few people including Jason Plunkett and Mike Shaw.

The leaders session was very good as it was great to hear how other schools had tackled the same journey my school has undertaken since 2005. Ann, my principal, was first up and was excellent in her outline of how she had inherited our school IWB program but taken leadership control of it and steered into a direction where pedagogy is the major partner along with mastering the technology. (I'm not sucking up here - she really was good!) We had two other schools showcase their journey and it was interesting to hear similar traits in all three experiences. We had a couple of sponsor's spots to showcase their technology - the only thing I'll say is that teachers deserve to have educators telling them about technology, somehow someone from sales is going to miss the mark in explaining why their technology has educational benefits. Teachers are smart people, and cautious about evangelism - someone with educator credibility is important in this area.

The final part of the day was a panel utilising Dave and the principals with Peter Simmonds, in the role of Devil's advocate. The short presentation he gave was witty, insightful, irreverent (I noticed that the sponsors were not smiling at all while the audience was laughing) and made sure that the educators didn't get overwhelmed by the "wow" factor. He pitched some probing questions which escape my memory for the moment but the panel provided more valuable information for the audience under his guidance. An interesting day - probably guaranteed to help the momentum build for further school investment in IWB. Interestingly, it was noted that the NSW DET is planning to spend A$160 million on IWBs alone. Why this technology is seen to be high on the priority list also says something about the sort of technology governments are prepared to spend money on. Imagine if that went into higher quality broadband or mobile technology - but maybe the IWB represents technology the average teacher can embrace. Those of us on the school technology "bleeding edge" might be anxious for more but it doesn't make sense to leave the majority behind.

Image Attribution: Magic Marker by Eye Captain
http://flickr.com/photos/77945684@N00/429878292/

I volunteered to be a school based presenter at the "Want to know more about interactive whiteboards?" event being held over two days here at Flinders University and had about twenty eager teachers in my workshop. I got to duck in to hear Dave Miller, the UK IWB expert over here for this event and then it was off to my room at my old Teachers' College stomping ground at Sturt, now absorbed as part of the Uni. There I met Laurie Quigg, head of Commander's Promethean IWB sales in Australia who helped get me set up and tried to get the portable ACTIVboard communicating to my laptop. Unfortunately, the board's USB cable didn't want to communicate and I had to improvise as people started to wander into the room. Laurie apologised for leaving me to "wing it" but luckily a Tablet works very similarly to an IWB and I still went ahead with my presentation.

After apologising to the group for events beyond my control (they had paid to come along after all) I laid out how I could still cover my ground even if I had left my handouts back at school! It seemed to go OK - I won't post a copy of my flipchart here as it has some recycled pages and has a couple of embedded YouTube videos that may not go too well on the web. I did give the group this blog address and said to check it Friday for the links from the handout so they could get my list - apologies if you've seen these before in prior presentations and posts.

Interactive Whiteboards In The Classroom

Graham Wegner
Lockleys North Primary School
22nd March, 2007.

Presentation Footnotes:

Adopt and Adapt by Marc Prensky http://www.edutopia.org/magazine/ed1article.php?id=Art_1423&issue=dec_05

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants - A New Way To Look At Ourselves and Our Kids by Marc Prensky http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

ACTIVboards by Promethean – information about the products, plus links to resources developed by teachers worldwide.
http://www.prometheanworld.com/

Activboarding – blog maintained by Graham on the topic of the school IWB journey.
http://www.activboarding.blogspot.com/

More blog resources at Graham’s personal professional blog, Teaching Generation Z, in the category, Interactive Whiteboards.
http://gwegner.edublogs.org/tag/interactive-whiteboards/

Browse, read and use the various online resources collected at http://del.icio.us/tag/interactive_whiteboards

For those of you who attended and are having your first look at my blog, I hope the workshop was useful. Feel free to look around and leave a comment, especially in feedback about the demonstration or any questions.

3 Comments

I've been meaning to link and comment on a post from Tom Barrett called Has the IWB past it’s sell by date? that touches on the technology that is still hailed in many Australian schools as the next big thing. It is seemingly viewed by many as the ultimate educational ICT tool as there aren't too many other edtech tools around that command conferences solely dedicated to the one form of technology. How about about an iPod conference, anyone?

Tom says:

So the IWB is an old 2002 model car, and every year there has been a growth in sales - way back then the model had all of the latest features and was “cutting edge”; now the same model has had a paint job, a few bolt on extras like a new exhaust and ways to plug in your mp3 player - but the car itself has not changed.

Now, Tom is in the UK and there has been a massive push there to get IWB's into as many classrooms as possible, so maybe the cutting edge gloss has long gone. But here in Australia, it's still go-go-go to buy and install these tools and be seen by the educational community as embedding technology into learning. I've waxed and waned about this topic many times before - and I've been in charge of leading out an IWB program at my school!

But the IWB has been slowly becoming a much used element of my classroom practice so far this year. We've had a new server installed and it is still slowly being coaxed into service by our dedicated tech staff. But the computing room has been out of action, and kids don't have logons or internet accounts at the moment so the IWB has been a vital cog in connecting to the online world and setting the year up. I used the board when constructing our Class Vision and the Class Expectations, getting the kids to rank the different elements to create agreed statements.
"1. Communication. In LA20, we will be polite and show our listening skills through the use of eye contact and a positive tone of voice."

I've pulled up YouTube videos as free writing prompts, grabbed Wikipedia references and previewed digital pics straight from the camera so that the kids could veto my photographic talents before I post their likeness on the front wall for the year. Yes, I know for all of the internet stuff I would be just as well served using a data projector but the just-in-time opportunities have been invaluable already in just over a week.

So, maybe there are "newer models" in the pipeline as Tom suggests but as a vehicle for learning, I will be using my IWB for a while to come. After all, how many teachers do you know that drive new expensive cars anyway?

Attribution: Image: 'Toyota Camry' by A Surroca www.flickr.com/photos/88723106@N00/178390086