Thursday, February 16, 2012

Smart or Not?

A colleague from the non-profit sector recently posed the following question:
Do you have thoughts about smart boards and their value to classroom education? I saw an impressive demo recently, but wonder about the long term cost versus educational value of the device.
Got thoughts ? Share?

My hastily scribbled response:

Thanks for your question. This is a tough question made so by excellent arguments by both adherents and detractors of interactive whiteboards in school. Here are some select perspectives for your review:

As you might guess, these links--for the most part--present an oppositional perspective on IWBs.

My opinion? Folks want to be able to interact with a wall of content. Let's keep that technology as simple as possible for teachers to learn how to use. The more whiz-bang you throw at teachers, the less likely they are to use it. The more complex the IWB, the MORE training teachers need in how to use it and the less likely they could make a graph of that in fact!

In fact, if you can interact with a wall of content without involving an expensive IWB, then do so. There are various technologies that make that possible. For example, here are some inexpensive IWB alternatives:
  1. Use a Mimeo. These inexpensive devices (a few hundred dollars) are being deployed by colleges and universities as giveaways to new teachers.
  2. Use a tablet device like the iPad or iPod Touch connected via WiFi to an Apple TV. These devices allow for ANY iOS device to be projected on the screen, allowing each holder of an iOS device their own whiteboard.
  3. Use a Learning Resources nowBoard! ($499) with computer, nowBoard device, and nowBoard wand to turn any surface into an interactive one. Disclaimer: I have to write a review on this device soon for which I've received a demo unit to keep.
Again, the cost of these devices must be mitigated by the amount of training teachers have to use them for specific purposes. If they are simply placed in classrooms with cursory training (1-3 hours), then nothing will happen except that the IWB company will get your that would have been better spent on training.

Update: A quick conversation with the eminently knowledgeable Liz Kolb revealed that the humor is in the contradictions we set ourselves up for:

(see how quickly I forget what I write?)

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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