Aug 2, 2010

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.