Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why I'm not sold on IWBs

In the numerous #edchat and #langchat sessions I have participated in where technology has been a topic, there are always several people (often myself included) who address the fact that pedagogy must come before technology.  In last week's #langchat, a newbie (identified by her egg) asked how to tell whether you were using technology just for the sake of using technology.  My response to her was to teach the same lesson high-tech and low-tech, and then reflect on what (if anything) was gained (or lost) by using technology.  The bottom line is that every lesson should be planned around learning objectives -- EDU 101.

So this brings me to my current dilemma.  I just took two three-hour workshops on using the Promethean Board and ActivInspire.  My school district has spent thousands and thousands of dollars equipping almost every classroom with an IWB.  Here's my problem:  unless I'm missing something (which I freely admit, I may well be), there's not a whole lot an IWB can do for me that I can't do using free web 2.0 tools more easily, and my students can access everything from home with an internet connection -- no downloads.  I am also struck by the fact that many of the suggested IWB activities seem to be centered around lower-level thinking skills.

Another problem I have, is that while two students can be interacting with the IWB (only two pens), with an unconnected dry-erase white board or personal whiteboards, I can have the entire class actively engaged.

Here is the rest of my disclaimer:  I have taken two workshops, and as yet I have absolutely no hands-on experience with an IWB.  Maybe I am missing something.  That is actually part of my reason for this post -- if I am wrong PLEASE comment and show me the light, because while I am always looking for more effective ways to do things, what I do not want is to find myself using technology simply because it is there.

What do you think?


  1. I think I'm that "newbie" you referenced. (And I like the egg!)

    I have an IWB and have for several years so it's kind of become second nature to me. No, there's nothing magical about them. They come in handy for some things (saving what someone has written, for instance), but not many. I am fortunate to have 3 traditional white boards and one IWB in my room and I use both on a daily basis for different tasks.

    My school put permanent projectors in at the same time as our IWB's and it took me a long time to separate the two. I hadn't thought out that it was the ability to project at the drop of a hat that I liked so much and not the IWB so I still get a little defensive of them.

    My advice: play with it and use it for what it is good for (which is admittedly not much). . . and see about hanging on to a traditional one as well! :)

    And I'm sorry if I was being snippety or dense on #langchat. It was just my knee jerk reaction to too many 2.0 tools being thrown out there all at once. I do know how to evaluate a tool and its usefulness, but was feeling overwhelmed and cynical in the moment. :)

  2. Thank you for your comment! I have had a projector for many years without an IWB, so I am in a different situation, and looking for answers. You were NOT snippety or dense, I did not take your question that way at all -- it comes up virtually every time tech is discussed at any length, and I think it needs to. There is always that danger of getting "sucked in by the shiny" and losing sight of the instructional objectives. I missed any cynicism that was there. Using tech for the sake of using tech is exactly why I am a bit concerned about the IWB. I will play...and hopefully find some good uses. Thanks again for your input!