I was recently asked by a principal how he could tell during classroom visits if a teacher was using the Smartboard "effectively." A pretty good question.
While popular (2007, 2010, interactive white boards (IWBs) are controversial even (or especially) among technology enthusiasts. The major complaint is that the use of these devices reinforces the "sage on the stage" teaching methodology. "The IWB is little more than a fancy overhead projector and its touch sensitive screen is only used to save the teacher a couple steps back to the computer to change a slide." seems to be sentiment in the constructivist camp of techno-pundits.
But many advocates of this technology (myself included), see IWBs as genuine means of bringing more interactivity, more student-focus into classrooms of traditional teachers. These are signs of putting the "interactive" into "interactive white board":
- What happens on the IWB is determined by student response to questions.
- Students themselves use the IWB to solve problems or explain concepts.
- The teacher uses an IWB version of a game or puzzle.
- The teacher uses the IWB to add multi-media to a discussion and easily starts and stops video and music to discuss parts of the whole.
What we don't want to forget is that someone who is coaching a teacher is not really looking for "good technology use" but for just good educational practices. Having an IWB is not going to change a lecturer into something else. The device is plastic and metal, not magic. The Charlotte Danielson model's Domain 3: Instruction lists:
- Communicating With Students
- Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques
- Engaging Students in Learning
- Using Assessment in Instruction
- Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness ( See some echnology-related competencies in this area here.)
Any item in the Instruction domain can be enhanced using an IWB.
Smartboard guru, Patrick Crothers from Mahtomedi (MN) schools, reminded me recently that just because a teacher has an IWB doesn't mean it has to be used every minute of the day. And yes, a teacher can create truly interactive lessons without using any technology whatsoever. Finally, a major benefit I see is how our teachers use the SmartNotebook software that works with the hardware to organize materials, to find and share lessons, and to seamlessly blend multimedia into lessons. Not all benefits are observable in the classroom.
Will IWBs or any other technology "transform" education alone? Of course not. But such technologies can provide amazing stepping stones toward a more student-centric classroom.
OK, IWB critics - have at me...