Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Are Interactive Boards the Solution?

[This post originally started as comment and turned into a response to "Is There a Whiteboard in this Class" on the "Developing Professional Staff-MPS" blog]

Shhh...don't tell the Minneapolis ITS people. I don't want to get in trouble, but I have to share my thoughts on Interactive White Boards (IWBs).

I had a Smartboard last year. It was replaced with a Promethean board this year. The Smartboard was great. However, I like the Promethean board better. It is a great teaching tool. The biggest differences are the surface (feels more like actual writing) and the pens (must use the pen on Promethean). I won't get into the software, that is another long post.

However, I'm not sold on IWBs being the best solution in the classroom. The board requires me or someone to be at the board. That's not really how I teach. I tend to sit at tables with my students and work with them. Rarely do I actually deliever lecture-style lessons. Therefore, having to be at the board is not where I'm most comfortable.

I won a wired tablet last year at a meeting. I haven't actually got my hands on it yet (Mr. Pierson, where are you?). That is much closer to what I think is the solution sans the wire.

A wireless tablet would allow me to sit at a table, discuss things with students and keep adding content to the board. I could also walk around the room when delievering lectures and still be in control of what is on the board (not that the board is needed).

Here are a couple solutions that I'd like to try out:
Or if you have to have a board:
  • Eno - which is less expensive and more versital than other boards.
I'm not willing to give up my board at this point. However, the software is the key piece of the "magic" that happens with the board. The board makes it easy to use the software. A less expensive and maybe better product might just make more sense and get the technology into more rooms for same amount of money.


Dan McGuire said...

I'm not looking at a IWB to do lectures. The student comment I mentioned in my blog about being able to have students write and then copy to a web page, or other media, is the lure for me.

I've only just seen a few examples of IWBs in use and know before I get one that using them to include kids, the interactive part, is the key to them being useful.

As for moving about the room, have you tried a wireless keyboard and an air mouse. They're less than $100 both and they allow me to move around anywhere in the room. I need to be able to put the keyboard down, usually to write with it, but then the kids really get focused when I'm sitting with them using the keyboard on their tables. They, of course, want to do it, too. Hey, how about that, students wanting to practice writing to others, what a concept!

Thanks for the comments.

Knaus said...

Hey Dan! I wasn't implying that lecture is what you are doing. I agree that the interactive part is the key. I just want to be able to do it away from the board. I've tried the wireless mouse. It's decent.

A wireless tablet or wireless pen would keep all the functionality of the board without being at the board.

I think my biggest issue is the amount of money being spent on the boards. A board is roughly $1000-$1500 depending on the deals given.

As you stated, a wireless mouse and keyboard are $100. That's 15 classrooms getting interactive for the cost of one board.

A wireless tablet is $400. That's 4 classrooms getting interactive.

The wireless pens that I listed the original post are about $200. That's 7 or 8 classrooms getting interactive.

Here's my radical plan that might turn into a blog post: Ditch textbooks, ditch IWBs, and ditch curriculum-specific staff development.

Instead, put a $250 netbook in each student's hands, give each teacher a wireless presentation device, and train them on Promethean software and how to use the web effectively.

[As a side note, the Wireless Minneapolis system would benefit the students for free from home.]

Teachers can then learn the standards and figure out what is out there to teach it. Students can use the netbooks to write, communicate with teachers, access curriculum and be successful students.

That's pro dev that I'd want to sit in or even lead.

Probably more than you asked for but I've the discussion were having.