DiigoNotes- Interactive Whiteboards Alone Are Not Interactive

A differing perspective from the CEO of Starrmatica, Emily Starr, who asserts teachers need interactive content to use an interactive whiteboard. She then lists several factors that are critical to implementation.

Those factors, although highlighted in my DiigoNotes below, are worth separating out:

You must have teachers willing to accept and learn technology.
The word "learn" is a tough one. How much we can learn is limited by a variety of factors...simply, a positive attitude about technology is insufficient. When you consider how much teachers have do for their jobs, "learning" is something that may not rate high enough. Imagine teachers who come home at the end of a long day...how many within any one organization are eager to spend that precious time learning more? Edubloggers are the exception, I'm sure, and life calls us all to cultivate different learning experiences that may be unrelated to technology.

If 70 hours of learning is necessary, then I question whether a 3 hour session is going to make the difference. We really need a graduate level course on interactive whiteboards that will extend learning experiences over a much longer period.

They must be taught how to operate the hardware and navigate the software.
It is amazing to watch staff that lack technology experiences. We are now moving beyond the early adopters into the mainstream of teachers and administrators for whom technology is something the lab manager or campus technologist does FOR them. In my experiences, I am pessimistic that teachers will be able to learn and use complex interactive whiteboards that boast MANY features. It involves grafting a whole new set of skills and attitudes onto a different way of being an educator that involves minimal technology use because technology access has been limited, non-functioning.

For example, in an environment where the level of teaching innovation (LOTI) was 0-2, it would be inappropriate to put interactive whiteboards...you'd be better off addressing the perceived lack of access to technology (0), as well as finding ways to make technology use more routine and for more authentic learning practices.

Additionally, they must be instructed on how to create and/or find interactive content.
No, I'm sorry, I don't see this happening. Teachers have plenty to do in places where curriculum scope and sequence is lock-step...it's hard enough to get them to deviate via high-stakes testing. While we can certainly change expectations, I suspect that CREATE is not a word that describes what teachers are doing now that NCLB has been so entrenched, eliminating individual teacher creativity.

And finally, they must understand how to integrate that content into daily classroom instruction.
And, who do we expect will teach them and provide just in time instruction in this? Curriculum staff at the District or campus level?

Ms. Starr's points fail to take into account the realities of public schools and the culture of the District. Consider this point:
Reforms that strive for educational excellence are likely to fail unless they are meaningfully linked to the school's unique culture.
Source: Shaping School Culture
We continue to impose technology from central office with the idea that we'll be making a change. The reality is we have to spend the time, effort at the campus level, the classroom level to build the rapport needed to make the reform--in this case, interactive whiteboards--effective.

    • Do interactive whiteboards in the classroom translate to interactivity with students?
    • I can relate to the feelings shared in his self described “rant” that interactive whiteboards are a waste of money. I have been regularly dismayed by the amount of funds spent by schools on these expensive pieces of hardware without careful consideration as to how they would be utilized on a practical day to day basis by the classroom teacher to improve student learning. However, I’m not willing to generalize that because of poor implementations that interactive whiteboards are useless and that those using them ineffectively can not learn to do otherwise.
    • I have been shouting from the rooftops for the past five years that an interactive whiteboard is just a piece of hardware without a teacher who knows how to use it effectively and interactive content that engages students. This is the case with any piece of electronic hardware—computers, ipods, phones, televisions. Supplying the hardware is only the beginning. For successful technology integration, you must have three factors: Hardware + Knowledgeable Teacher + Quality Content
    • You must have teachers willing to accept and learn technology.
    • They must be taught how to operate the hardware and navigate the software.
    • Additionally, they must be instructed on how to create and/or find interactive content.
    • And finally, they must understand how to integrate that content into daily classroom instruction.
    • read the report that 88% of teachers would use their interactive whiteboards more often if provided with more content.
    • Interactive whiteboards are pieces of hardware that require content to be effective.
    • Interactive content allowed me to present problems to my students and have them test their answers with virtual manipulatives. It allowed my students to learn new information from sources other than their teacher or their textbook. And it allowed us to practice rote mathematical operations in a more motivating way with my students responding to questions by writing on dry erase marker boards because they all wanted to be chosen to answer via the wireless mouse. At the same time, I was free to roam the classroom, consult with small groups, and monitor individual learning.
    • If ANY of the factors that you list are overlooked, whiteboard efforts fail. What are the chances that every factor is implemented successfully in every classroom and every school dumping thousands into whiteboard programs?

      And more importantly, what are the tangible benefits for districts who somehow fight through your entire list of factors successfully? How does instruction change? What makes whiteboards a better investment than netbooks?

      Shouldn't we focus our efforts on technology integration efforts that are less complex?
    • school administrators should be educated consumers before purchasing hardware, and it is important to debate what technologies schools should be investing in.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


Emily Starr said…

I enjoyed reading your blog post. Thank you for sharing and for continuing the conversation. I was very interested in the more specific issues you addressed in response to the list in my post.

To clarify, my intention for the post was to initiate discussion about the blanket implementations of interactive whiteboards in education and to share some general guidelines that could be considered more specifically at each school by education professionals familiar with the unique dynamics and needs within their districts when/if and before/during/after purchasing these technologies.

I agree that the appropriateness of specific technologies varies from district to district, school to school and classroom to classroom. Every school district has a unique set of circumstances to be considered when implementing any technology. I was a classroom teacher, so I intimately understand teacher work loads, district mandates, and the effects of NCLB on teacher creativity; however, I still hold a more optimistic view of technology integration.

In response to some specifics in your post, I believe that colleges and universities should be offering courses in interactive technology integration. I also agree that it is unrealistic to expect teachers to find or create their own interactive whiteboard content and that most schools will not have technology integration specialists or curriculum specialists to teach effective content integration. Those are two of the core reasons that I left the classroom to found StarrMatica. My mission is to assist with these two very prevalent issues by helping teachers to access standards-aligned interactive content and to help districts educate their teachers on how to use that content in conjunction with whatever hardware they determine is appropriate.

Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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