Interactive Whiteboards – Good or Evil?

There has been a lot of talk on the blogosphere lately about Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs).  As a teaching/learning tool, IWBs (sounds like a nuclear delivery device when you say it that way) have gotten a bad rap.  Many arguments on the web discuss the idea that IWBs have no relevant value in education.  One thing that bothers me in most of these posts is that the basis for bashing IWBs is that the companies are selling them to schools when they can do the same thing with other tools.

Now I have to admit, there are other tools out there that can do some pretty neat things – for free too.  There are many interactive sites out on the net that can be used whether you have an interactive whiteboard or not – check out our Wiki to see.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that IWBs can’t be effective in the right hands.

One one hand, companies do a pretty good job of pushing their wares – but what company doesn’t.   Let’s say you’re teaching writing to students.  In an article on IWBs, “The Innovative Educator” contends that the task of presenting and discussing writing is hard to do on an IWB without a keyboard.  My argument to this would be that 1.) IWBs have a virtual on-screen keyboard and 2.) you don’t have to do the writing on the board to discuss it.  Teachers can use an IWB to present examples of student or other writing to the class.  Teachers and Students can then use the tools in the software to markup and change examples so students can see writing mistakes and mishaps.

But beyond this, not every teacher is an English teacher.  IWBs can be used for so much more.  You can present material in a more rich and dynamic platform with stunning interactive visuals and flash files.  Videos can be embedded and introduced without having to stop a presentation and go to the web.  Most IWB software enables you to create links or insert material in a single presentation file.

I can honestly say that student involvement in my classroom increased dramatically when and IWB was introduced.  IWBs allow students to come to the board and get more of a hands-on approach to an activity.  Prior to the use of IWBs, many students were apprehensive about approaching the blackboard in front of the class.  But with IWBs, I have noticed that even the most shy student feels no apprehension.

In her defense, “The Innovative Educator” does a great job of addressing arguments for and against her position.  One blogger that stands out is Peter Kent.  Whether you are a supporter or detractor when it comes to their use, you have to see both sides of the argument.  I believe wholeheartedly that you cannot argue a point without seeing both sides of the argument.

Read the posts from each of the links above and make a decision of your own.  Also, check out BetchablogTell me your thoughts on this issue.  Post a comment below.  I’d like to hear from you.

5 thoughts on “Interactive Whiteboards – Good or Evil?

Add yours

  1. Hello Shawn,

    It is a curious debate, all teachers who are passionate about ICT, in a fury about one piece of equipment when the real crime is those teachers that ignore ICT.

    I often wonder how this issue came to be so prominent. I think it has something to do with ‘the curse of the IWB’, in that it is very easy to be a bad teacher with an IWB. Most other technologies are too difficult for the really bad teachers to use. Plugging in a laptop to a data projector; plugging the data projector into power… This is too much for the 'lazy' and chronically unprepared teacher. Trying to get these teachers to then connect a blue-tooth keyboard, or add a document camera!!! Forget it, these teachers don't normally use technology.

    Along come the IWB. When permanently installed in a classroom it is the lazy teacher's dream. One button to turn on the computer, another to turn on the projector and they are away, now technologically enhanced to unthinkingly teach the worst lessons in human history. Unfortunately there are a lot of teachers like this and in the educational tech arena you only ever see them using IWBs, hence we blame the IWB.

    But how can these teachers get away with this? And this brings us to the second problem ‘ignorant administrators’. Most administrators competently supervise their teachers in all areas of pedagogy and curriculum, except where it comes to ICT integration. This area is most administrator’s biggest blind spot. It is funny, but sad, that many Principals judge the use of ICT on the question of whether it is turned on or turned off. I must have heard 100s of times Principals lamenting that they have spent big $$$$ on ICT and the teachers are not using it. I have never heard any Principal lament that they have spent big $$$$ on ICT and the teachers only use it poorly.

    Poor teaching and poor leadership is the reason why IWBs have such a bad name. It is a shame because they are such a wonderful tool in the hands of good teachers.

    Peter @Kent3ed

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  2. Thank you for adding to this conversation and including my blog in the information you are sharing with your readers. In response to your arguments about writing using an interactive whiteboard I’d say the following.
    1) I would never write on a virtual keyboard as opposed to the one on my laptop because I can’t type as quickly and my back would be to my students. Why try to force the use of a less effective tool when it would be more effective and efficient to type on a keyboard and be able to face my students?
    2) You say you don’t have to do the writing on the board to discuss it. Sure, but I was talking about modeling writing where you do need to do the writing, but even if I was just doing a lesson where I discussed projected writing, why do I need an IWB to do so? Additionally, I don’t need an IWB to markup and change examples. That is built into MS Word or Google docs.

    In your comment about IWBs being tools to do so much more, your explanation does exactly what drives me nuts about IWB companies. You are giving credit to the wrong character. I don’t need an IWB to present material with interactive visuals and flash files. I can do that with a laptop, projector. I don’t need an IWB to show videos or stop a presentation. The videos aren’t on the IWB. They’re on the laptop. I can create links or insert material into any presentation software. No IWB required. I also don’t need an IWB to enable students to engage in a hands-on way. They can do that right from the laptop. Consumers are sold a bill of goods believing the IWB is the enabler of these activities, when in fact it is the laptop, projector, and internet that are the stars. All those things you mention can be done for thousands less and more effectively by just ditching the IWB. See more at http://tinyurl.com/IWBsRextras.

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  3. Thank you to you as well. I understand your side of it. In regard to your comments above:

    1.) I didn't necessarily intend for the on-screen keyboard to be used for lengthy writing, but I do agree that it can be less effective when compared to an actual keyboard.

    2.) Although markups are built into MS Word and Google Docs, the ability to pick up a pen from an IWB tray and mark up a document as you would with a standard pen or highlighter is a valuable tool to me.

    3.) I can't agree about giving credit to the wrong character. While the files are on the laptop/internet, the SMARTBoard can embed flash video, create links and insert material without having to save all of those items to a folder or path that the software (PowerPoint for example)can find later. It is all contained within a single file presentation. I find that particularly useful.

    I wonder if the IWB fight is one where we all may have to agree to disagree. It is interesting to see different viewpoints.

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  4. Very interested in the debate. Getting lots of feedback from techie teachers on Twitter (@simonmlewis) and no one, so far, has said anything really positive about IWBs. Find that the non-techie teachers seem to be obsessed by them along with visualisers (a teaching tool I cannot see any real benefit to)

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  5. In “The Journal” today, Patricia Deubel writes about the effectiveness of IWBs in the classroom. One thing I found interesting about this article is the reference to a very short slideshare presentation on the evils of previous educational “luxuries”. Each of the items in this presentation shows how educators felt the impending doom and damage they would have on students. Check out the article – Interactive Whiteboards: Truths and Consequences and the slideshare presentation – A Brief History of Educational Technology

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