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Electronic Whiteboard


John Simkin
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I have been involved in trying to persuade teachers to use computers in the classroom since the early 1980s. There has always been resistance to this process. Reasons given include:

(i) We don’t have the computers available in the school/classroom.

(ii) I am not happy about using computer technology (mainly because the students are seen to know more than the teacher).

(iii) Computers will not improve my teaching. I can do all the things I want by using books, blackboards, etc.

(iv) There is no good software/websites for teachers to use.

One of the big changes in that most teachers don’t make point (iv) very much today. In fact, most teachers now have the internet at home and use it for research purposes.

However, only a small percentage of teachers are happy about using computers in the classroom. I believe the main reason for this is the way classrooms are organized. Teachers still have this view of their role as standing in the front of the class being in possession of knowledge they wish to pass onto the students. I believe this is a paradigm problem.

At recent INSET sessions teachers have still shown reluctance to use web simulations or forum software in their teaching. The one thing they do like is the emergence of the data projector and the electronic whiteboard. Especially if they contain pre-prepared lessons. The reason being is that technology is being used to reinforce current paradigms. They will mainly be used in the same way as power-point presentations have been used. They might impress at first but do they really result in good teaching? I know they don’t work with me. As soon as a teacher starts reading out aloud a power point presentation I start to go to sleep. Am I alone in this?

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As soon as a teacher starts reading out aloud a power point presentation I start to go to sleep. Am I alone in this?

I agree :D

The obligatory PowerPoint presentation as you describe is indeed a peculiarly mundane use of ICT in teaching and is extensively used, ( perhaps even more so in teacher INSET).

Teachers also like electronic whiteboards because they can use them just like chalkboards only save their words of wisdom for some more "victims".

The best use of ICT and the internet exploits interactivity, reduces the reliance on the teacher and allows learners to progress at their own pace - maybe these are some of the reasons why so many teachers oppose/resist it?

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I use Power Point as little as possible - mostly because everyone else uses it, and there's a premium in being different! (A bit like using a Mac in a world of PCs!)

ICT stands for information and communications technology, as we all know. I think the problem is that most people get stuck on the 'I' and forget about the 'C' altogether. If you see your job as a teacher as being a purveyor of information, then you're out-competed by computers all the time. If you see it as being a communicator of values, strategies, methods, etc, then computers can start being put to extremely good use.

We're going through an exercise in encouraging flexible learning (whatever that means!) here in Kalmar at the moment. My contributions all boil down to something like this: don't bother putting your efforts into producing flashy teaching materials, etc. Instead, get the small and boring things right (such as classroom design, teacher working hours and practices and administrative bottlenecks). The teachers have got the tools already (since hardly any of us use anything like the full capacity of our desktop computers) and they'll produce the flexible lessons once the boring stuff has been dealt with.

Problem is, you can't go to a conference and present a paper on 'Getting the boring stuff right'!

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I use Power Point as little as possible - mostly because everyone else uses it, and there's a premium in being different! (A bit like using a Mac in a world of PCs!)

Problem is, you can't go to a conference and present a paper on 'Getting the boring stuff right'!

Of course you can, and having just been to a conference on Monday I would have been in your room had you been there. Nuts and bolts are incredibly important and showing ways to help prepare the foundation that will be a launching pad for teachers to take off from and add the whistles and bells to that foundation is something that would be of universal value.

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Thanks for the encouraging words, Raymond.

One of my inspirations in this area comes from when I was doing sales training in London in the late 1980s. My teacher had worked for a while in the United States (for Dun and Bradstreet debt collectors!) and he told me of a presentation he'd been to given by one of the salesmen who earned more than $1 million per year in commission from the sale of life insurance to private individuals (in the late 1970s, that is).

Grahame asked the presenter what made him different from, say, the salesmen who 'only' made $100,000 per year in commission. His answer was "I do the little things better".

I can't say that I'm much good at the little things even now (I'm a bit of a big picture person myself), but that's what I aspire to!

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  • 1 month later...

Hi John

My students have been researching the notion of change in schools and in education generally. I teach a course called Innovation, ICT and Education to final year undergrads and ITT students.

They find that trainees are pushed to use ICT with everything but when they get into schools the existing teachers are negative and use it when they have to. Is there a generation gap? Those who use ICT still appear different to others and there is an us-them paradigm - this is the case many secondary schools particularly. This is further compounded by the fact that meaningful time for ICt in schools is limited - one period/class won't do ....

Teachers are reluctant to let the learners take control of their learning - i.. take it from the classroom and beyond ... surely this is an avanue where major research and development should be happening. Then schools don't need equipment and so ICT can be put to really meaningful uses. On another point - why are so many ICT lessons focussing on core skills using Office products? Most youngsters know very well how to use these ..... we really need to develop meaningful in-depth uses of ICT in schools, then teachers might sit up and take notice.

One final rambling - I am concerned that teachers see ICT as a toy not a tool... do we realistically think teachers will get deeply involved in the complex and time-consuming issues of supporting learners online? Anything beyond the comfort zone might be beyond the question at the moment in many cases. What will give way to make space for this? We have musing over radical restructuring - for exampe a 4-day school week - wil one day a week online ... teachers with less teaching therefore can get to grips with supporting learners.

Any suggestion about how we might make the space?

:D

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  • 2 months later...

Surely the key to everything is moderation? There's nothing wrong with Powerpoint, just how it is used. It's like worksheets: use them all the time and pupils switch off. Variety is the spice of life... :D

:rolleyes: Doug

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  • 2 weeks later...
At recent INSET sessions teachers have still shown reluctance to use web simulations or forum software in their teaching. The one thing they do like is the emergence of the data projector and the electronic whiteboard. Especially if they contain pre-prepared lessons. .......... They might impress at first but do they really result in good teaching?

I'd like to repeat John's question about electronic whiteboards - "do they result in good teaching?"

... and add another question - how many teachers who have regular access to these 'interactive whiteboards' actually use them as they were designed, i.e. interactively, with children being part of the learning process and excitement that the technology can provide?

These are extremely expensive items of equipment that the government is so keen to get into schools - are they simply electronic white elephants? <_<

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John asks about data projectors as well as interactive whiteboards. I have no access to the latter - how many teachers do? - but every classroom in my school is now equipped with the former. As a language teacher, I love the direct access to sound. It frees me from the linear tyranny of the cassette recorder, which I loathed using because I always had to find the place on the tape first. I can even forgive the spelling errors in the German Boardworks presentations now that I can have authentic native speech in my classroom at the click of a button.

Perhaps the government should have invested the interactive whiteboard money into proper subject-based training and release time so that those of us with data projectors can master the use of that hardware first and develop materials to exploit it. And there's nothing wrong with pre-prepared lessons - I believe they should accompany all educational software and hardware so that the teacher can get to know the capabilities of the new technology. They provide teachers with a breathing space, time to discover the limitations as well as the benefits, time to develop resources of their own, reflecting their own teaching style.

Are interactive whiteboards a waste of money? They are if they're too expensive to place in every classroom of a school. And for me they have at least one limitation. Since I started ICT in 1983, I've never mastered any software or hardware that I couldn't take home with me or hadn't bought for my home use. How easy is it to get a whiteboard into the boot of a Micra? There are health and safety issues too with pupils' eyes as they stand at the front of the whiteboard facing the digital projector. But there again, what do I know? I've no access to interactive whiteboards.

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

Edited by David Wilson
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This is a useful article:

Greenwich Local Education Authority, London: "Interactive whiteboards - a luxury too far?": http://www.g2fl.greenwich.gov.uk/temp/whiteboards

See also:

REvIEW Project: Research and Evaluation of Interactive Electronic Whiteboards, University of Hull in collaboration with Promethean: http://www.thereviewproject.org

A laptop and a projector are more flexible than an interactive whiteboard, as they can be moved around easily. A whiteboard screen also imposes certain viewing restrictions, e.g. you have to be able to reach to the top of the screen in order to operate it, so it has to hung in a fairly low position on a wall, and the screen has to be of limited size. In a long room the screen may look small from the back row. The maximum group size for comfortable viewing is around 30 people. A laptop with a projector is the better option for larger audiences, as the projector screen can be much bigger. I have delivered presentations via a laptop and a projector screen to audiences of over 400 people.

As for PowerPoint, do a search in Google for the phrase "Death by PowerPoint".

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We used to make things. We had machines, lathes, mills, drills and foundries and we spent all our time making things. Now we have sold all the tools to China - and all we do is mess around with Computers all day. Begging the question: "is what I'm doing right now with this computer worth anything?"

I bet the answer for 99% of users is no.

Are you wasting time messing with power point - or are you actually doing something that helps?

An engineer can draw a bracket by hand on a drawing board in 30 minutes. It takes him 2 hours to do it in auto cad. If you add the "change control system" and all the "documentation control" and all the other computer crap that has to go on to get the bracket out to market - you discover quickly why China can make and sell brackets better than us. (I just bought a part for my 1964 Ford truck. It was "made in China")

Teachers simply accept as fact that doing something "on the computer" is better - or even that it should be done at all.

I know a repair facility that has 6 technicians working - and 26 people in the front office messing with computers.

Almost no one does a cost benefit analysis of anything any more - especially comparing computer to non computer.

Just look at the Japanese. The most tech savvy nation on earth. They don't have one single computer on the auto manufacturers shop floor. They have little cards they stick in little slots when they get low on parts, and a guy picks up the cards and takes them to the truck driver - who takes them to the warehouse where a card goes to the manufacturer and more parts are delivered - and the cards come right back to the shop floor along with the parts the worker needs.

Add a computerized inventory system to that shop - and you just gave them the death nail. They will not be able to compete any more.

So, power point - yes or no - is a cost benefit question. Sure - slides look cool - but CIT is about IMPROVING communications, not making it look cool. Computer Games look cool. Are we all playing fancy computer games 90% of the time? and calling it a job?

(PowerPoint: There is an open source version in openoffice that opens and saves as MS powerpoint.)

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I like the points that John Dieter makes. A few years ago I wrote this as an introduction to an article:

I have a friend who owns a fruit and vegetables business in a London wholesale market. Back in the early 1980s he approached me for advice about acquiring a computer. “Why do you need a computer?” I asked. “Well,” he said, “all the other dealers are getting them, and I don’t want to be left behind.” I suggested that a computer might help him with his accounts and customer records, but this was not what he had in mind. He was more interested in predicting market trends. I quizzed him about the nature of his business. One important feature that emerged in the course of our conversation was that the wholesaler in his line of business makes a real killing when he is the first to get hold of a batch of a new crop, for example Guernsey tomatoes. “How do you find out when the new crop is about to come on the market?” I asked. “I just listen to the whispers,” he answered. “Keep listening to the whispers,” I replied. My friend now uses an accounting package, but he’s still listening to the whispers – and driving a Porsche.
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I've had an interactive whiteboard in my room for the last couple of weeks. Before that I just had a projector. Those that know me know that I try to use as much ICT in my teaching as possible, but even I have yet to find what is actually the real benefit of having an interactive whiteboard as opposed to just a projector. Yes, you can get pupils dragging and dropping things around the screen - as I was doing today r.e. the power structure of England to illustrate a point about the Levellers. However, pupils could have come and done that on my laptop and it would have still shown up on the wall via the projector.

If anyone has any really bright ideas of how to use an interactive whiteboard in a geniunely useful way, please let me know!

:) Doug

PS I know you can get 'spotlight' tools, etc. - I see these as novelty items, not of any real use for rigorous lessons...

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