Recently, I had a very interesting conversation with someone about Interactive Whiteboards (e.g. SMART, Promethean,) and what their use affords for students and teachers in schools. The perspective offered to me was that Interactive Whiteboards tend to perpetuate or even solidify teacher-centered, "sage on the stage" classroom environments. I agree that this can often occur in many environments.
What I took away most from this conversation is a reminder of the need to be explicit about articulating the reason for using certain tools while appreciating and understanding both the novelty and the potential of those tools.
The other thing that I was reminded of is the highly contextual nature of how different tools and programs are implemented in different situations. In the case of Interactive Whiteboards, here are just a couple of positive things that have come out of implementations of which I have been a part:
1) SMART Boards and the SMART Notebook software has been a major entry point for our less tech savvy users. The availability of a SMART Board and the software has often served as a catalyst for opening minds to new ideas and approaches, whether or not they involve the SMART Board itself.
2) Screencasting (e.g. Jing or the SMART Recorder) has been an emerging tool for allowing students to demonstrate their understanding in ways that traditional paper based assessments may not be able to capture. The physical design (i.e. whiteboard real estate) and easy interactivity of pens and tools has made it possible for students to create multimodal representations of their understanding.
3) Even in the most student-centered classroom where the teacher serves as an expert guide instead rather than a content expert, there are plenty of moments where a teacher may have to introduce a learning activity, explain tasks and expectations, and model procedures. In this situations, the SMART Board affords flexibility to move between programs and materials while leading an audience. I have found that when teachers have prepared portions of lessons to use with an IWB they tend to be very thoughtful about their choices and sequencing of information and tasks.
I understand that these positive aspects emerge based on the contexts (people, resources, philosophy etc.) in which they were allowed to develop. I was happy that this recent conversation provided me an opportunity to reflect upon and articulate the meaningful aspects of learning and teaching that have come out of a novel technology implementation.
Header photo by Robert S. Donovan