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.
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?