Interactive whiteboards in the classroom

This makes all our whiteboards interactive… in theory, that is

Futurelab has a new report on interactive whiteboards in the classroom [.pdf file] that makes interesting reading. If you're new to the topic, read it; if you're wondering why your interactive whiteboards (IWBs) don't seem to get used that much, it looks at — among other things — the issues involved.

"The introduction of an IWB does not in and of itself transform existing pedagogies," the report highlights — a misunderstanding I'm sure many of us fell under when they first came out.

There is evidence, it goes on to say, that "factors such as increasing familiarity, good training, time and space to practise and try new approaches, and the growth of teacher confidence all can play in increasing the likelihood of a greater impact on teaching and learning".

How many of those can you check off if you have access to IWBs in your school…?

At IH Barcelona we have "normal" IWBs in some of our classrooms; in all of the others we could use a portable Mimio board (equipment, pens, shown above)… only, regretably, we very rarely do.

Interactive Whiteboards

We have interactive whiteboards (aka IWBs) here at IH… most of them gathering dust, as they rarely ever get used, other than as glorified data projectors.

I'm yet to be convinced of their value myself — so much so that, other than playing with them myself, I've yet to use one with students.

TechLearning has a free ebook The Why and How of Interactive Whiteboards, which includes a section on "Tips and Tutorials for Purchase and Use".

I quote:

Give students answers or questions on slips of paper, allowing them to take turns coming up to the [IWB]. This will keep them focused on the lesson as they wait for their turn to come.

Admittedly — because of my lack of experience with the beasts — I'm not the best qualified person to say so, but that sounds like how not to use an IWB to me.

Then:

Each student is given a part of a plant to label. When it is time for that part to be labeled, the student comes up to the [IWB] and either writes the name of the part or clicks and drags the name of the part.

That sounds like being slower, not time-saving, which is one thing technology ought to be.

And it also sounds like you (or your kids) could do exactly the same equally well on a normal whiteboard with a marker pen.

Could you do exactly the same without the technology…? Yes…? Then don't use the technology, I would suggest.

Using pictures in class

Picture from a Picasa album projected from a laptop (foreground) on to the whiteboard

I liked an idea Jamie Keddie demonstrated at a teacher development workshop here at IH Barcelona the other day.

Using a laptop and projector, Jamie accessed his Picasa photo album and used images in it for a variety of classroom activities. One fun thing he showed us was how easy it is to crop images in Picasa, show only half of the picture and get learners to predict what they think is happening.

Of course, if you wanted to get hi-tech, with an interactive whiteboard, you could cut out the cropping part, and just access images on a USB drive, using a mask to hide or reveal as much as you wanted.

You also need to spend time actually finding the images that are going to work like that. Hating to spend time trawling the Web for things, personally I like a no-tech solution: one of the freebie newspapers we have in Barcelona is ADN. Check it out, if you can — there is a great picture nearly every day on page 2 which is often the makings of a class.

Granted, projected on to a large whiteboard, Jamie's images (see example, above) looked more impressive than something torn from the morning's paper…