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.
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