Sunday, September 25, 2011
5 typical criticisms include:
1. It is just a glorified chalkboard
2. Too expensive, especially during tight fiscal times in education
3. Too difficult to learn for many teachers
4. There are much cheaper alternatives that you can make yourself (see for yourself)
5. It sits in the classroom untouched because no one knows how to use it
In the last two years in the Ottawa Catholic School Board we have re-tooled over 900 classrooms with Interactive WhiteBoards, short-throw LCD projectors, and wireless infrastructure.
The following are some of the keys to a successful implementation:
1. Focus on the pedagogy not the tool
2. Provide training and support
3. Expect technical adoption before pedagogical adoption
4. Provide digital resources to supplement the tools
5. Standardize purchases and branding
Instructional practice continues to be the domain that makes teaching a profession. A focus on personalized learning through problem solving inquiry is the starting point, not the interactive White Board. Our Board focus on Student Success remains the key priority, and SmartBoards are one of many tools helping to change teacher practice and engage students with a goal of student achievement.
Training and Support
Over 1500 teachers in our Board have been trained on the use of a SmartBoard. The training has included face to face workshops, online learning, in-class co-teaching, and dedicated support of an educational consultant. In addition to teachers, training has been offered and provided to principals, superintendents, vice-principals, consultants, parents, and students.
Adopting any tool requires some time to become an "expert". The first phase includes learning how to use the software linked to the SmartBoard and the second phase is learning how to incorporate the tool along with changes in instructional practice. Changes in instructional practice won't happen until there is a comfort level with the tool.
The hands-on feature of an interactive WhiteBoard is what makes it engaging for students. Complementing the device with rich multimedia digital content is also an important consideration. Our Board has licensed Discovery Education Canada to provide over 120,000 rich resources for our teachers. The SmartBoard and LCD projector is ideal for displaying learning objects, animations, and video clips to supplement student learning. The Ontario Ministry of education has licensed Learn 360 and has created the Ontario Educational Resource Bank (OERB) with thousands of learning objects for student and teacher use. Without the devices in the class, these learning objects cannot be used effectively in a class setting.
There are cheaper models available in the market than our chosen device, SmartBoards. However, what makes the SmartBoard our interactive whiteboard of choice, is the teacher exchange network and the collaborative nature of the learning activities that teachers are sharing and co-developing. Settling on one brand ensures that teachers who have been trained will be able to use familiar devices regardless of what classroom or school they may be assigned to. Training, support, and development all benefit from a standardized unit in a school system.
So back to the statement - Dumb SmartBoards. Instead of asking if SmartBoards are a good investment, we should be focusing on teacher practice, and asking what teachers need in the 21st Century to help all students meet with success.