Our IWB Program Expands

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.

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9 thoughts on “Our IWB Program Expands

  1. stevenic

    I am just about to launch into the world of IWB’s. An initial purchase of 2 Smart boards looks most likely with an IIOS grant application for several more. Many in my school are excited and eager to have a go at IWB experiences. I wonder how the $100 laptop program, which kids in my class are already talking about, will impact on our pedagogy

  2. Graham

    Post author

    Unfortunately, the $100 laptop won’t be seen in Australian schools as it has been specifically designed for 3rd World countries. At CEGSA,a device called the Nova 5000 was in the Trade Show display as a student handheld tablet. Now it’s still too expensive in my opinion ($1000), but in a developed country like Australia surely someone can develop and market a similar device at a price Aussie schools could fund.

  3. greg carroll

    IWB’s are making a bit of a splash here in NZ too. Some interesting things strike me from your post …. are the learning needs of the kids driving the purchasing of your IWB’s? It reads like the technology is being ‘put’ into the classrooms and then the thinking is made about how to use them?
    Like 1:1 laptops, I wonder how IWB’s promote discussions and individualisation of instruction? – see your comment about desks turned towards the front of the room to see the board better. Isn’t the social dimension an important part of constructivism, kids learning, schooling??

  4. Graham Wegner

    Greg, you make some very valid points and that’s a blog is so good for clarifying thinking. Our school did purchase the IWB’s with kids and their learning in mind, although I think it started from the teacher’s tool angle at the beginning. Our school vision talks about kids using up-to-date-technology and our staff believed that the introduction of IWB’s would be a good step in that direction. Decisions are sometimes driven by contextual circumstances – my classroom is a “transportable” single classroom and the configurations that can be conjured up with older kids, who are physically larger and don’t like sitting in groups on the floor, are limited. I also don’t intend to keep the seating arrangement that way for the rest of the year but it was an interesting exercise in student decision making! I also only teach in there for two days in the week so my tandem teaching partner has to be comfortable in the classroom. I think that we gave significant thought about how the use of IWB’s would benefit kids but it’s always good to be continually challenged about our direction and the thinking that goes with it. Thank you for that. IWB’s are also a good way to get technology reluctant staff on board with improving their skills so that they then have the confidence to create more technology rich opportunities in their learning. When I use a IWB, I often pull stimulus up for a discussion (i.e. an Art lesson on Expressionism where the examples of art can be shown from the net and then annotated in the ACTIVstudio software program) and it is a fantastic tool for whole class or group “just-in-time” learning – something is being discussed and a question is asked so the whole search for information on the web can be modelled then and there in front of the class. Hand a student the pen and they can be in control of their own digital presentation, be it a digital story or a powerpoint. One of the kids in my class came back from a trip to Asia with her father and showed us her photos in the class on the IWB. You could say, “Well, you could do that with a datashow,” but she was able to stop and annotate certain things on her photos that added to the whole class’s understanding of what they were viewing. As far as the social dimension goes in our classroom, my students are extremely sociable with each other even if we had them sitting one at a table!! Sorry for the prolonged response here but I’d hate to leave you only with the impressions you expressed in your comment. I’ve said before that I’m not a blind advocate of IWB technology. Any teacher who thinks that they are the ultimate solution to kids learning through technology is kidding themselves. But, hey, if we can find the funds for them and don’t neglect other identified ICT priorities, why not have them as a valuable tool? School based technology is always going to be a moving target but if we wait forever for the “right” solutions for our schools, then we’ll never be satisfied.

  5. greg carroll

    Hi Graham,
    All good stuff ay … another challenge of blogging – getting all the information into a short enough post that people will read it all and ket all of your message. My spin is that way too often I see IWB’s portrayed as the panacea for ‘medeocre’ classroom practice. Any sort of technology, without effective (skilled??) classroom practice just makes an average teacher expensive to run!
    As you say the challenge of teaching with another person adds a further dimension to organising a classroom doesn’t it. As a teaching principal I certainly know what you mean.
    Budgets continually present a challenge and if we wait for the perfect tool we will do nothing. Learning has to be the focus and then it is (as Senge says) “Ready, Fire, Aim”.

  6. Graham Wegner

    Thanks for your follow up comments – I think my reply to your original comment could have been a post on its own. By blogging my ideas and having someone like yourself pose clarifying remarks or questions, it makes me dig deeper to really explain what I mean. Cheers – good luck when you start your principal stint next year.

  7. Artichoke

    Hi Graham – have been puzzling over IWB for a while now – there is a lot of pressure on the schools I work with to keep up with edu_game and purchase these.

    One of the teachers in our ict_pd cluster in New Zealand has just completed a thesis for her Masters of Education Honours degree at Massey University entitled – Innovative technologies and their use in teaching and learning: A primary teacher’s year long journey into teaching and learning with an interactive whiteboard.

    Her literature review is quite telling in terms of valorising claims being heavily based on anecdotal reporting from teachers and pupils and the failure of the research to date “to distinguish between the broader benefits of presentation technologies and any specific unique advantage of an IWB, thus making it difficult to make any valid claims about the technologies overall impact.

    She loved IWB’s and is what I would describe as an expert or master teacher using them with kids BUT she did find one significant challenge to educators that is not reported in the reserach media – is the the one you allude to Graham – the negative effects of “engagement” on student learning – the lengthy time students spend gazing at the screen – her comment “did we all become slaves in term one?” This is something she worked hard to overcome but she found that IWT can and do impact negatively on co-constructivist teaching approaches.

    We need to do a lot more thinking about IWB and what unique advantage they offer over other presentation technologies like data projector and laptop and graphics tablet etc before we rush into mass spend ups and implementation in education. And we need to think about presentation technologies and what they do to pedagogy – to rescue us from that enticing BPB educational game.

  8. Graham Wegner

    Arti, is there any way I can gain access to the thesis for a read? It is exactly what I need to be reading because I distrust my own thinking at times and feel like a “traitor” on site here because I’m charged with a certain direction for our school and I should be looking to model all of the potential. Maybe it just gets down to this, an IWB, a tablet, a datashow all need an innovative teacher driving the learning. Engagement is all very well but once you’ve got the student’s engagement, it has to be directed into meaningful learning or it’s a waste of time. ARGGHH! I don’t need you guys all messing with my head just before we present at the International Middle School Conference on Monday on IWB’s! I might have to change my name by deed poll to Judas….. seriously, keep challenging and pointing me in new direcions all of you, Arti, Greg (is the Land Of The Long White Cloud the place for educational enlighenment?)

  9. Artichoke

    Sure Graham – will send you a contact address and email for the teacher involved – With our ict_pd cluster we ask teachers to check their thinking against two key questions – before they integrate ICT into their planning and practice

    1. What are the conditions of value in teaching and learning? [often use Alton Lees Best Evidence Synthesis and SOLO taxonomy to help teachers here]
    2. How might ICTs enhance or betray these conditions?

    We are so busy “selling” ict in education, few of us slow down to look at the real difference if any ICT makes to student learning outcomes. Even our so called research proposals have a heavy valorising bias in New Zealand

    For example -Check out the framing of this heavily funded Digiops project reserach proposal from Gary Falloon

    Hello everyone,

    As part of the Digital Opportunities (DigiOps) Mindspring project, we are looking for a teacher with research experience and/or qualifications, or a researcher, who would be interested in undertaking some essentially qualitative research into schools involved in the Mindspring online learning environment project (ref:

    We envisage this research would be on a part time basis, commencing in May
    2006 and running through to November 2006. The focus will be on developing case studies of some of the schools involved in the project, specifically identifying the manner in which they interact with the Mindspring online environment, the elements being used within the environment, and how they are benefiting teachers and students. Final research questions and themes will be developed in association with the project management team at Heurisko Ltd, and the Digiops project manager.

    If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Pete Sommerville
    (pete@heurisko.co.nz) or Greg Walker (greg@heurisko.co.nz)at Heurisko Ltd, or send an email to me at digiops@xnet.co.nz

    Kind regards

    Garry Falloon
    MOE Digital Opportunities Project Manager Auckland UniServices Ltd.

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