Another dot in the blogosphere?

IWBs drive flat

Posted on: June 6, 2018

In Steve Wheeler’s recent blog entry about interactive white boards (IWBs), he mentioned:

There are those who use the IWB avidly, incorporating it into their lessons, embedding it into their programmes of study and exploiting the potential of the onboard tools.

There are others who avoid the use of the IWB studiously, and even some who are opposed to its use, claiming that it is distracting, too expensive, complicated or unnecessary.

I am definitely in the latter group. I have called them white elephant boards many times. Wander into school meeting rooms, special rooms, and classrooms here and you will not see (m)any IWBs. Most are gathering dust in a corner, covered in a tarp, or used as small but glorified projector screens.

If technology is to be integrated powerfully, seamlessly, and authentically, it should be in the hands of learners much of the time, not just teachers. To deny students such use and to not challenge teachers to operate differently is to waste time, money, and opportunity.

IWBs do not challenge teachers to teach differently. If the dominant policy rhetoric is about engagement, empowerment, or 21st century skills, then why push the sage-on-the-stage to be a lord-with-a-board?

I do not buy into using IWBs as a bridging tool, i.e., easing teachers gently into using technology by letting them replicate existing practice. If they can also do what they do with a normal white board, why pay for new equipment and training to do the same thing?

Furthermore, any student of human nature can tell you that people want change but do not want TO change. Ask people to take a step forward and some might take half a step very slowly forward and then stop there.

Let me use two analogies to illustrate why promoting IWB use does teachers and teaching a disservice. (BTW, that helps IWB companies heaps, but that is not my business.)

A teacher using a normal board is like one who drives her 10-year-old, manual transmission car — she does not know how it works, but she knows it works, and she drives it on autopilot.

Tell the same teacher that she has to drive an electric car, say a Tesla model, and she will need to learn how to drive it. Despite its myriad of bells and whistles, it is still a car, and Miss Daisy will drive herself.

A car operates in two dimensions at most. If it includes the third dimension, at least temporarily, it is flying.

A plane operates in three dimensions while in flight. Flying is more difficult than driving. The rules are stricter, the standards tougher, and the prestige higher.

An educator who can integrate technology, and not just use it, is like a skilled pilot. The three dimensions she operates in combine the know-whys of pedagogy, content, and technology. These are driven by three know-hows: How powerful, how seamless, and how authentic.

Like flying, integrating technology with such know-how and know-why requires candidates with good vision — they need to focus on learning how to learn, not justing knowing how to teach.

Flying is more difficult than driving. Integrating technology is much more difficult than simply using technology, particularly flat ones like IWBs. We need to be recruiting and preparing pilots, not drivers (or worse, pushers of the cart-and-horse model).


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