Why IWB’s Struggle For Credibility

iwbgwJust a thought I had the other day when pondering the immediate future of our Interactive Whiteboard program - maybe the reason the IWB tool gathers a lot of scepticism and criticism is that unlike other new technologies like mobile phones, PDA's, mp3 players, laptops, digital cameras and DVD players, it isn't really used at all by the general public. I know that when we had our initial presentation from Peter Kent, he mentioned that the ACT Brumbies had used an ACTIVboard for game strategies and a staff member who has sons in the Aussie military has told me that SmartBoards have used to some effect in the Australian Air Force. But apart from that, the only place you'll find an IWB is a school.

I honestly think that fact brings with it a set of expectations for learning improvement and measurable outcomes from its use that doesn't apply to the same degree as the other mentioned technologies. The IWB is also designed to be a group based tool that can be used by pairs or individuals while mobile phones, PDA's, mp3 players, laptops, digital cameras and the humble PC are designed for individual use first that education has co-opted for group use and pairs. As I said at the start of this post, just a thought ...

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6 thoughts on “Why IWB’s Struggle For Credibility

  1. Artichoke

    I think Graham it has more to do with the difficulty in seeing IWB as offering anything significantly different from other presentation technologies (data projector graphics tablet etc)yet costing heaps more – like what are the specific or unique advantages of the interactivity of using an IWB that make it worth all the extra dosh and follow up pd? There are so many ways to spend a schools ICT budget

    Then there are some unique disadvantages – for example writing on a vertical surface without leaning on the board is tricky for kids (and teachers)/ poorly set up screens have continual centering issues which is frustrating for teachers – some teachers note that the large screen immobilises kids and leads to enslavement (return to screen as sage on the stage stuff ) / and then more general issues of making ICT more prominent in the classroom – of increasing student access to ICT – goal attainment (distracted by irelevant information) spatial disorientation/cognitive overload

  2. Graham Wegner

    Arti, I don’t know why I keep returning to a topic that continues to torture me so. It must have something to do with the fact that as my own school has invested a lot of time and effort into interactive whiteboards and I’m one of the people leading out in this program that I keep wanting to hash over its possible role in our schools. Yes, the points you raise are valid but it’s something that I’ve failed to encapsulate and describe that sets the IWB concept apart especially in the junior primary classroom. The issue of vertical surface writing isn’t a problem with our particular brand of board and is actually an advantageous way to teach formative handwriting for young students (with a son who has had heaps of OT, I know that this is true) and when a group of young kids cluster around an IWB to work on a task or activity (ie. a brainstorm) it enables something that is difficult to replicate around a PC or a datashow. I too worry that IWB’s encourage a teacher centric approach – but I would counter that is a teacher issue as much as it is a technology issue. By the way, I still have to contact the NZ teacher you suggested to me re: her IWB experience. Maybe she’s as confused as me!

  3. Artichoke

    Ahh Graham, you return to it so often because you think about what you do – which is a considerable and sometimes unusual strength in our profession – and to understand the complexity of an idea – you must pursue it, undermine it, shake it like a fox terrier and see what falls out –

    The teachers I work with in NZ LOVE teaching with their IWB – one was heard reflecting last term that she would only consider moving schools if she went to a classroom with IWB – she doesn’t want to ever teach without one – and they describe the same “something” that happens when kids work collaboratively with the board. So there is something happening.

    I like the idea of presentation technologies in schools and bringing the resources of the net up for all in the room – what I am trying to figure out is “just what is the unique advantage of the IWB that makes it worth the extra investment of funds?”

  4. greg carroll

    Hi again Graham …. I think it is the ‘bang-for-buck’ issue that is the stumbling block. Two mac laptops? Up to 4 pc laptops? 16-20+days Teacher release? …. or ONE IWB (fixed to the wall in ONE classroom).
    What is going to make the most difference for the most kids? What solution gives the most flexability and will impact on the learning of the most children? The answer/s very much depend on what is ‘done’ with each, or any, of these technologies or options. This is what poses the challenge for me as a principal….

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