Monday, July 26, 2010

Getting Smart about the Real No’s No’s of Teaching with IWBs - A Photo Compilation

I was speaking with Marc Prensky last month lamenting about how interactive whiteboards were dumbing down instruction and sharing how teachers could be much more effective by ditching the boards and just using a laptop (or doc camera) and projector. Marc said, sometimes you need to show not tell.

That conversation came to mind as I ran across this slideshow from a presentation sponsored by Smartboard about using Smartboards in a 1:1 classroom. The presentation was filled with lots of examples of the dumb ways in which people use interactive whiteboards.

Even though Smartboard used these photos in a presentation to sell the device, they're their own worst enemy sometimes. I invite you to view this photo compilation which can serve as a model for what not to do when using IWBs.


  1. I couldn't agree more.

    But to be balanced I think you should be more inclusive and talk about the no nos of teaching with technology in general.


  2. This will be in two parts again, sorry

    Part One:


    There are a couple of things that is wrong with your posts in general.

    It is not in the detail, yes 'everything that could be done with an IWB could be done with other / cheaper technology'.

    The problem is with the message you are weaving, the narrative. It is misguided, though well intention, and if there has to be a right or wrong in the issue – you would be wrong. Having said that insisting on a right and wrong ignores the richness, complexity, diversity and dare I say the beauty of education.

    1st Wrong Thing - Humans are emotional and are not rational, and you are insisting that teachers act as if they are absolutely rational.

    I don’t understand why you don’t use the metric system in the USA, I don’t understand why forks, rather than chopsticks, are not common throughout Asia. But just because I don’t understand it, it doesn’t mean that I am right and you are wrong.

    That is not completely true, I do understand why. There was / is a pre-existing culture within the USA and Asia which means that these changes would be counter productive to the overall harmony and good working of society. There is a broader context that needs considering.

    In your posts you never mention the broader context in schools that we need to consider. Non-techie teachers (the vast bulk of teachers) are not comfortable with technology, with the concept of computers within classrooms, and while it is not rational we need to accept that. Prior to IWBs (last century) the concept of 2 or 3 computers in a classroom used to freak out the vast majority of teachers. They were however comfortable with the concept of a ‘Board’ in the room. This was the revolutionary nature of IWBs, and still is. For emotional and non-rational reasons it was technology that the vast bulk of teachers were prepared to buy into.

    This is what I think IWB manufactures talk about when they use the term ‘bridging technology’. An IWB is like the training wheels that teachers need as they come to terms with and hopefully eventually move to a richer and more diverse range of technologies within the classroom.

    So the while the detail of what your posts say are true on the surface, they are wrong within the context of ‘the real world’.

  3. 2nd Wrong Thing – The premise of the post – ‘That there is a right answer to the what technology is provided in schools’ is wrong and distracts from more important issues.

    The was written in 2008 on this issue, but I still believe it is relevant today.

    What ICT infrastructure should we buy? Is this question important?

    Does it matter what ICT stuff we have? On the surface this seems like a silly questions, of course it does. However, if effective student learning is your and your school’s goal then I think it is one of the least important questions. Unfortunately it is usually the question that gets by far the most attention.
    I will use the current Australian Government’s Digital Education Revolution to explain my reasoning.
    Australia’s current Digital Education Revolution while not perfect is a fantastic initiative that should have a revolutionary impact on Australian Schools. For some schools this initiative will lead to innovation and tangible improvements to student learning, however history tells us that in other schools this revolution will not make one jot of a difference. My point is that while it is necessary in this day and age for schools to have adequate ICT infrastructure, no level of infrastructure is sufficient to ensure innovation or the creation of successful schools and students.

    Lets take a helicopter view of schools. Schools are made up of people, doing activities, with equipment. Mostly the people are teachers and students. For teachers their activities can be described by their ‘pedagogy’, for students the activities are usually defined by the curriculum. If the culture and attitude of the ‘people’ is poor; if the pedagogy and curriculum is ‘unresponsive’ and ‘shallow’; does it really matter what equipment or ICT infrastructure the school has?

    Technology has the potential to make a good school inspired, as well as making a mediocre school absolutely dreadful. For school leaders in technology-rich schools there is no more important challenge than to create a culture of innovation and success. They must lead the school curriculum and pedagogy to ensure they meet the needs of a diverse body of students, almost none of which have any direct memory of the 20th centaury.

    First get the people right. Successful teachers and students are innovative and focused. They operate in a culture that encourages risk taking, and reflection on past performance to inform future action. In a technology rich environment successful people know that they cannot know everything, they collaborate and form networks. They may not know the answers but they know who to contact. Teachers and students in a technology rich school know that self-directed ‘life long learning’ is something that happens everyday, not only when you leave school.

    What does quality pedagogy and curriculum integration of ICT look like? This is a big issue that school leaders of technologically rich school need to come to terms with. Unfortunately many school leaders judge the quality of the ICT integration through simplistic ratios of computers to students and with the guiding question of ‘is the ICT being used or not?’ Rather school leaders need to be asking ‘how is it being used?’ and in asking this question be able to understand the answer. That is school leader must be able to discriminate between inspired and pointless applications of technology in the classroom?

    Once schools have their culture and people ‘in the right place’; once schools are focused on using ICT to create high quality pedagogies; once schools use the technology they have in a purposeful way to support student learning; what technology they have is almost a non-issue. ICT Infrastructure is usually in a continual flux of change, it is never ‘done’. There is no ‘perfect’ infrastructure arrangement.

    If you plan to have ICT that enhances teachers while they teach, students while they learn, and ensure that the links between teaching and learning, home and school are seamless then schools are on the right track.


  4. @Kent3 I agree that there are a LOT of tech no nos. In fact a lot of teaching no nos and each one could have an entire book dedicated to them, but for now, I’ll pick the one that is extremely expensive and provides little value add for now.

  5. I'd say the author is misinformed and hasn't used them before.

  6. @Anonymous, Let me clarify and then correct you. First, I'd like to know what exactly it is about which you think I'm misinformed.

    Second, my ten years of watching this technology being used poorly has informed my beliefs about the overpriced devices that are filling the pockets of the companies and all those needed to support them.

    Finally, yes, I've used them but since I find them to be an ineffective teaching tool that provides me no advantage over a laptop and projector, I choose to teach and learn more effectively without the device.

  7. @Kent3, I wrote a blog post response for my 1st wrong thing about which I agree with your point (stay tuned).

    My 2nd wrong thing doesn’t warrant a whole post at this time. I’ll just comment here. You share that the premise of the post – ‘That there is a right answer to the what technology is provided in schools’ is wrong and distracts from more important issues.

    This I disagree with when it comes to IWBs. That is because I believe they are sold as the magic snake oil as I explained in my post about IWBs not really being the stars ( Talk to an IWB sales rep and they’ll convince you that you need the expensive IWB and all it’s gadgets, even when you don’t. They spend lots to convince folks that their device is what brings classrooms video, internet, projection, and more to the classroom... My issue lies with the wool that is being pulled over the eyes of those who purchase these devices and are lead to believe the brain is in the board when it’s really in the laptop and projector.

    Take for instance this excerpt from this Ed Week article ( about teachers varying widely in their ability to use IWBs effectively.

    The large, computerized screens—which allow Internet access, video and audio presentations, and recorded lessons for replaying later—are seen by proponents as an investment in modernizing classrooms to meet the needs of the digital generation. But while the boards have gained a loyal following among even old-school teachers, at a cost of up to $5,000 a classroom they have also drawn significant criticism as being nothing more than an expensive update on an age-old teaching tool.

    While I agree they are nothing more than an expensive update on an age-old teaching tool, they too credit the wrong player as being the star of the show. The things they credit the IWB with should actually be attributed to the laptop/projector. The confusion is pervasive. I recently experienced this with a teacher who would be demonstrating something to a group of colleagues. She said she’d make sure a technician was available as she’d need the IWB to demonstrate. I told her we’d let the technician tend to more important work as we weren’t using an IWB unless there was a specific reason it would be necessary. She panicked saying, “Of course I need it! That’s where all my information is!!! I told her to relax. The information wasn’t in the board it was actually in her laptop which she’d be able to use all by herself. The next day, alone she came to share information with the group while the technician tended to fixing things. Rather than standing at the front of the room with her back to us or awkwardly dancing back and forth from the keyboard (which she needed as much of this was around excel formulas) to the screen, she sat right down with the group of 20. The images she wanted to show projected behind her and together we all talked about what she shared.

  8. What I like about all of this is I am hopeful it really tests peoples thinking as to why they have an IWB.

    As you point out above, clearly many people haven't spent too much time on the why.


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