Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gary Stager Finally Shares Why He Thinks Interactive Whiteboards / Smartboards Suck

Effective use of Smartboard? Image: Courtesy Tom Welsh
I first met Gary Stager at last year’s EduCon 2010 in a session he was doing that was a spoof on places like Google and Apple making you certified teachers.  Participants could become Stager certified, with real live certificates.  Great session, but what stood out was that like me, Stager had a distaste for interactive whiteboards (IWBs).  

Mine started about 6 years ago when we launched a 1:1 laptop program in NYC where every teacher was to receive an IWB. No! No! No! I screamed.  Please don’t waste money on that!!! Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. My colleague working on the project actually left to work for an IWB company (He later left the company confessing he now  gets what I’m talking about). In the meantime, my cries fell on deaf ears and hundreds of IWBs marched off to the schools. Ah! The horror!

At the session I asked Gary if he’d written anything about his dislike of the devices. I was surprised to learn the answer was no.  I told him I hoped he would and in the meantime, I wrote several of my own posts explaining why I hate interactive whiteboards which you can read here.

Last week on Twitter, I was thrilled to see Gary announce that he decided to articulate why he believes IWBs are a terrible investment that breathes new life into medieval educational practices.  He questioned if Tech & Learning would publish his thoughts in their “interactive whiteboard” issue.  Having written a few pieces of my own about why I hate interactive whiteboards, I was pretty sure “fair and balanced” would win out over “bias and sell out.” I was right and readers of Tech & Learning’s March issue will be treated to Gary’s piece.  His main argument is that,
“They reinforce the dominance of the front of the room and teacher supremacy. At a time of enormous educational upheaval, technological change, and an increasing gulf between adults and children, it is a bad idea to purchase technology that facilitates the delivery of information and increases the physical distance between teacher and learner.”
Hear! Hear! I medievally chant from the blogosphere and Twitosphere!

Gary comes out swinging dispelling these myths about the usefulness of interactive whiteboards.  
•    The kids are so engaged.
•    It’s just a tool.
•    It all depends on how teachers use it.
•    You should see it when the kids use the board!
•    We use it to share student work.
•    Our ninth graders went to Israel for a month and didn’t miss a math lesson.


To find out how he shoots holes in those arguments visit Whiteboards—A Modest Proposal by Gary Stager and/or read the March issue of Tech & Learning.

50 comments:

  1. We have a class set of netbooks in my room that cost the same amount total as buying an IWB. People thought I was crazy when I told them I didn't want an ActivBoard in my room. Let me have two white boards. Let the kids paint murals on the other walls. Then let us have no "front" or "back" to the room.

    If I need to explain something to the whole class, I can still use a projector. Yet, it's rare. Kids tend to figure out the apps pretty quick on the netbooks.Meanwhile, they use the netbooks for every subject every day.

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  2. @John T Spencer, makes a lot of sense. I wrote a piece that did a price comparison on what you could buy instead of an IWB in this post http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/05/erase-unnecessary-costs-by-getting.html

    As far as the projector, that is an important tool for me or a student to be able to easy demonstrate or model and share work.

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  3. Agree that IWB's are a waste....can't believe I finally agree with Stager on something. Wish he would clean up his delivery of his message and i might listen more often!

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  4. We have been 1:1 laptops in grades 7 -12 for 8+ years and are close to 1:1 in grades 2 - 6. We have always shied away from IWB's because we wanted students to be able to learn in any configuration they wanted in a classroom, hall, or where ever. Teachers are learning that they don't need to direct learning from the front of the room, rather they facilitate. We had some visitors come through last week, and their comment was that they were amazed at home many students were teaching. Only 1 teacher has asked about having an IWB and another teacher won one. He hardly ever uses it. As we encourage personal learning environments for learners, I think that IWB's are not worth spending money on.

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  5. IWBs illustrate the technology v. innovation conflict which has been brewing for a while. If you cannot be innovative with one beat up computer in the room, buying more equipment will just serve as a smoke screen to cover up outdated pedagogy and counter-productive leadership strategies. Scientific Management (year 1911)+ Theory X (year 1960)+ IWBs does NOT equal 21 Century Education. It equals the education our parents had plus technology.

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  6. I disagree completely with your arguments. Give me a good teacher and an IWB and some amazing things can happen. It is an excellent tool to use in a classroom.

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  7. @Austin Keeping, I hear generalities in favor of IWBs often, but in all my years and classrooms where I've seen money wasted on hundreds of boards I have not heard or seen them used for learning in a way that was more effective or could not be done without the board. Just saying it's excellent doesn't make it so. Perhaps you can share why you think excellent things happen as a result of this tool. When you do I'm pretty confident I can share how it can be done more affordably and/or better without it.

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  8. IWB's are like fancy microwaves. They make you think you need all these complicated features, but really you just need to be able to set a time and heat up some food. Even though most people never actually use the advanced features, the companies can still charge more for them based on the new technology.

    If it is the same teachers using the IWB's under the same curriculum, then I can't see why they would make any difference at all. Whatever you think about IWB's, they certainly aren't going to transform education, just like convection microwaves haven't transformed cooking.

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  9. So I click on the link to read Gary's ideas regarding whiteboards. Guess what the top ad banner is advertising..."The new SMART Board 800 series interactive whiteboard: Use touch gestures to help foster deeper engagement with lessons"
    (I took a screenshot but couldn't figure out how to post it.)
    We are building a new high school and each room will be fitted with an IWB. I fear that we are just reinforcing the idea that the "front of the room" is the source of all knowledge and desk arrangements won't change. (I asked for floor to ceiling whiteboards instead.)

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  10. @Vickie, nice analogy. The only thing I'd add is that a Smartboard is like a microwave that you must stand next to the whole time the food is cooking rather than walk about the room talking to people and doing other things.

    @Marc, not surprised. It is the "interactive whiteboard" issue that his piece is posted in after all. :-p

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  11. There's far too much debate on this tired topic. Sadly, teachers rarely get the opportunity to make hardware decisions, unless they win a grant.

    I have a Smart Board, which was given to me by my district (I'm certainly not going to tell them to take it away). Would I rather have a class set of laptops? Sure.

    Until I win that grant I've been chasing, though, I have to share info on my Smart Board, until we get to a computer lab.

    Let's move on.

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  12. It's simple. Get the tech in the kids' hands more than in the teachers' hands. More learning will occur.

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  13. The reality is, I have a better chance of convincing my school to buy an IWB than I do a projector, or some netbooks, or pretty much anything even paint and brushes.

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  14. @Mark, it's not a waste of time to get the word out that you can save thousands from purchase and update of equipment. Even if your district has already made the mistake of purchasing these devices you shouldn't use your Smartboard or waste time on training just because someone who is uninformed purchased one for you. You can teach far more effectively without the board and with learning that is attached to a child rather than a space. The debate is not tired because some folks are not getting the idea that even if someone put a board in your room, your students will learn more effectively if you don't bother turning it on.

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  15. @Chelsea, it's not that simple. In reality, much of the time it's not that teachers need to get tech in kids hands. Many kids already have tech and lots of other great things without the benefit of teachers. Schools and districts need to stop banning tech and stop wasting money on tech that sucks. Additionally, it's not just about the tech. It's about allowing students to use the resources they need to succeed in the real world as well as acknowledging that this particular technology has intent. That intent is to propagate an outdated teaching style where the knowledge and power are at the front of the room and dispersed at the discretion of the teacher rather than acquired at the discretion of the student.

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  16. @Anonymous, why couldn't you show your school some evidence starting with the articles I share at this post indicating why it is a bad ideas and outlining how they can save thousands if they made a more thoughtful decision that would benefit their students.

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  17. I just shared this post and the one from Gary with the higher ups in my district. I love the post and am looking forward to seeing what reaction others have to it. Thanks for pointing out that not all technology should be used for teaching!

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  18. I totally disagree the fact that IWB are a waste. I use my board from start to finish every day in the classroom. I use it for whole group instruction, reading groups, math groups, etc, etc. I am in my second year of utilizing its capabilities, and I am still finding new ways to use it.

    It has totally changed the way I teach in the classroom, and it has given me a new passion for teaching. The ActivInspire software that is used with the Promethean Board has endless possibilities to help "inspire" the students in my class to learn. I feel the software is what makes the IWB what it is.

    I went to an EdTech Conference this month where SMARTBoard was pretty much the only vendor. (There was one Promethean Vendor, and they were there to provide me with a board for my presentation.) I was unimpressed with the SMARTBoard because everything they were showing off was pretty much an electronic "dry-erase" board. Yes, this was my shameless plug for Promethean... :) I am sure SMARTBoards can do more, but that is for another discussion...

    I do agree that not every classroom should be equipped with an IWB just because its the new hot thing. Many teachers still aren't using any 21st century skills/tools in their classroom in the first place, and suddenly they have this IWB and are told to change everything. These are the teachers who are going use it has an electronic "dry-erase" board to make the IWBs a waste of money.

    That being said, the classrooms where the IWBs are "failing" and becoming a waste of money are also the classrooms that would fail ANY type of new 21st century tool that was introduced. One cannot just group IWBs as the one type of equipment that is wasteful. I applaud Gary's 1:1 laptop initiatives and work, but the classrooms where IWBs are "failing" are also the classrooms where every student having their own laptop, or any piece of technology, would fail too.

    Ultimately, it comes down to the teacher in the classroom using the IWB in a productive and meaningful way. No matter what the tool is (IWB, laptop, iPad, etc.), I feel the proper training is needed to make these work. My school just got 9 new Promethean Boards this year in addition to the 6 we got last year. These 9 new teachers are excited, but overwhelmed because our district can only afford to pay for one 3 hour training class to get them started. A crash course in only 3 hours, and then they are expected to do all the features the next day? Come on. Many teachers are not going to take the time to pay for conferences to learn more out of there own pocket. Again, another topic for another day.... I love helping out the teachers in my school because IWBs and technology are a passion of mine, but I am a 3rd grade teacher with my own class. I can only help so much throughout the school day. I help out as much as I can, but not every school has experienced teachers in regards to technology to help their struggling teachers.

    Ultimately its not the tool that is a waste, but how they are being used. Any and all technology can and will have a place in the classroom. One cannot be totally against a tool for education if there are educators using best practices and actively engaging and being successful with their students. It doesn't matter if you use IWBs, laptops, netbooks, iPad, etc. There isn't one blanket way to teach students, so why should one certain piece of technology be better than the other? I love my IWB, and unless I get an ITRT position or Promethean Training position in the county, I am never giving up my Promethean Board.

    Check out my class blog: http://blogs.henrico.k12.va.us/trhart

    I have used it mainly as a way to show off my students' work, but this article as really provoked my interest in adding all the videos I have of my students using the board. Sorry for the long comment, but this article just got me for some reason! :)

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  19. As Gary Stager says, "Why do you need all this training? It's just a board."

    Your defense of the board stems from the fact that you've chosen Promethean to be your curriculum provider. While I have issues with that, I still contend you could save yourself a few thousand and increase your teaching effectiveness with just the beloved software and a projector. There are MANY benefits to doing so. An obvious one is that when you step away from the board, you and your keyboard are reunited. The keyboard is your creation hub. Otherwise learning is reduced to tapping around a screen. Additionally, when you just step away from the board you encourage learning that is people, not place, based. When you get out of the front of the room and off the stage you can look your students in the eye and enable more effective learning to occur. When the almighty teacher can step away from the board the learning can come from experts and resources anywhere in the world and hey...you now have several thousands of dollars to put more tech in your students hands.

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  20. I've been in Tyler's classroom. He is NEVER tethered to his board or his laptop and I applaud that. Your recommendation to "reunite" with your keyboard leads me to believe you think it is a good thing for the teacher to be off to the side with their laptop teaching. Now we would go from "sage on the stage" to some clown trying to teach from their laptop. Not happening in Tyler's class! He facilities his students learning and their creation. His training is to learn how to CREATE with the software, not to use Promethean as a "curriculum provider" or just how to "use" a board. Give us some credit. You really should visit some better classrooms. And what Tyler and his students do he could NOT do with just a projector. Rock on Tyler! Your class is a blast and you make learning amazing for your students! Lucky kids!

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  21. "As Gary Stager says, 'Why do you need all this training? It's just a board.'"
    --You don't train teachers how to use the board, you train teachers how to use the ActivInspire software, or whatever software SMARTBoards use. Does this imply that every technology tool other than the IWB doesn't involve training? Highly doubtful. You are going to have to train teachers no matter what technology tool you use.

    "Your defense of the board stems from the fact that you've chosen Promethean to be your curriculum provider. While I have issues with that, I still contend you could save yourself a few thousand and increase your teaching effectiveness with just the beloved software and a projector."
    --It isn't my sole curriculum provider. It is one piece that I use in the classroom. This is the way it should be. Yes, there are things with the software that can be done with a projector; however, you are selling yourself short with all the possibilities. With a projector only one student at a time can do something on the computer instead of many students working together.

    "There are MANY benefits to doing so. An obvious one is that when you step away from the board, you and your keyboard are reunited. The keyboard is your creation hub. Otherwise learning is reduced to tapping around a screen. Additionally, when you just step away from the board you encourage learning that is people, not place, based. When you get out of the front of the room and off the stage you can look your students in the eye and enable more effective learning to occur."
    --To think that ALL teaching in the front of the classroom will go away is great, but there will always be SOME teaching in front of the class--especially on the elementary level, but I, personally, don't solely use it this way. I am lucky enough to have an ActivSlate where I can teach "with" the students in the class. I don't have to stand next to it. I can walk around manipulate and teach the flipcharts I am using on the board. I can bring the Slate to the insecure student at their desk to manipulate whatever is being done with the board. In my opinion, one big thing about the Promethean Board initiative is to get the kids up out of their seats to the board and using it, so if a teacher is solely up in front of the room using it and not putting the pen in the student's hand, they aren't using best IWB teaching practices. I also stated previously that I use the board as a reading and math center. On my blog, I have a video of 5 students working on a Spelling activity trying to alphabetize their words. One of the students is working on the computer connected to the board and the other four can see the board without having to crowd around a computer. Yes, projector argument, but now my students can actually work on the board and at the computer at the same time instead of constantly trading places at the computer screen.

    "When the almighty teacher can step away from the board the learning can come from experts and resources anywhere in the world and hey...you now have several thousands of dollars to put more tech in your students hands. "
    --Hope the "almighty teacher" wasn't a jab at me. :) You keep referring to stepping away from the board. In what regard? Centered based learning? Yes, you may have several thousand of dollars to spend to put more tech in kids hands, but if the teacher in the classroom doesn't know how to use all of these pieces of equipment, then the money is still going to be wasteful.

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  22. Had to finish what I wanted to say! Ha! It was too long... :)

    Like I said before every piece of tech available is great for the classroom. I honestly don't think any of it is bad--IF the educators are using best practices and actively engaging and being successful with their students. A school district could choose not buy IWBs in favor of buying laptops, projectors, iPads, netbooks, etc., but if they aren't being used with best practices then they become a waste of money just as much as IWBs or the next new thing that could (and will) be invented. Training for ANY 21st century technology tool is important, and a blanket statement saying teachers shouldn't have to be trained on a board isn't right.

    I suppose we could agree to disagree, but it is interesting to see the other perspective. I guess seeing many bad practices of using the IWB would lead people to feel negative toward using the IWB. There are tons of educators using IWBs marvelously around the world, and educators should want to find these educators to learn from them.

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  23. @Judy C, I visit great classrooms and Tyler’s is likely one of them. Insulting other teachers is not an effective argument nor is it effective to make an argument that it takes this one special classroom to make an IWB work because in essence you’re supporting my point that they are a waste except for extreme circumstances.

    Even in the hundreds of classrooms I’ve visited, I still have never seen the $3000-ish gadget enrich instruction. I hear lots of people like you saying in does in generalities, but everything becomes fuzzy when we move to specifics.

    I am less than impressed that kids are taught to create with an IWB company’s software. I’d be much more impressed if they were creating with free real-world software that could be more easily shared and accessible from their own devices using tools like the free Google docs, presentations, drawing, Voki, Scratch, video, photos, etc. However, even if he’s using an IWB company’s software to help students create, why I earth do they need the board. Creation should be with people, not places, not a board.

    To answer your question about it being a good thing for the teacher to off to the side with their laptop teaching, that is not what I recommend. The point is that disconnecting the presenter from the keyboard is like disconnecting the right brain from the left brain. It is more effective when you have all the tools at your fingertips.

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  24. @Tyler – Part 1
    That’s an important distinction. So, you’re not training people in a board. You are training them in an IWB software. I think it is dangerous when the focus is on how to use a board better rather than focusing on the content and outcomes for students. I also think it’s dangerous when often without a deep review of the curriculum that a board company provides, we go ahead and use it. It is especially disconcerting when there are esteemed pedagogues like Stager who have reviewed the interactive whiteboard curriculum and do not feel it is valuable as alternatives.

    You ask about training and technology. My training is focused on how to enrich literacy, math, social studies, science. The tools are embedded in the training, but the learning, not hardware is the focus.

    I’d like to shed light on your misconceptions that could be eliminated once you embrace people, not place, based learning. You share that with the board. more than one student at a time can do something with the board. First, the majority of boards in classroom only allow one input at a time. A small amount allow two students and the most expensive of the boards enables four inputs at a time. So, I want to ensure folks know that a board with more than one student is the norm and you’re giving up a few Gs to enable more to use the device. So…maybe we can get a few students tapping the board. I’ve also seen students doing great things when they’ve worked in groups on laptops. That is also quite possible and more effective in part because there’s also a keyboard. However, I do want to expand your mind to the amazing work you could do if instead of thinking of the Interactive Whiteboard as the star and shifted your thinking to realize the learning is with the students you could really enable students to collaborate. Why not have participants both in your class or around the world collaborate using the Google Suite or Prezi or any other number of collaborative tools like those or social media tools or perhaps using tools like Second Life Teen Grid or some of the multiplayer simulation games. This is where real collaboration and creation happens.

    I’ve yet to see students create real work that is of value to an authentic audience on IWB company software.

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  25. @Tyler – Part 2

    I am one who thinks that teaching can happen from anywhere. IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE TIED TO A PLACE. It could happen from teens in Egypt. It can happen from an expert in Alaska. It can happen from a girl in the back of the classroom. It does not need to happen in a particular part of the room. For many students today who learn in constructivists environments, the front of the room teaching has been long gone. Read my blog post today to find out more about one such style at an elementary level.

    As far as the ActivSlate, yes, that is a better device than a board, but it’s a single function device made to work with a board. Why not instead of the approximately 3 – 4000 you are wasting on the board/slate you bought 10 iTouches and installed airmouse for free enabling students to do the same thing as the ActivSlate and they then have multifunction devices that can do a whole lot more. With this configuration kids can be anywhere. In their seat, out of their seat wherever.

    As far a s a student being able to go to the front of the room and touch the board, you’ve just replaced one sage with another while the rest of the class stares ahead usually unable to see what the students are doing as they’re blocking the board.

    You use the board as a reading or math center, but it would be much more effective to buy several laptops and have several reading / math centers using real world tools. Not just tools locked in a classroom that can not be used elsewhere.

    The almighty teacher is directed at educators who think they own the learning. They do not. The student owns the learning. I ask you to step away from the board and replace it with student centered learning. Meaning, the learning is with the student, rather than with a board in front of a room. Students would rather learn and discover than have teachers tell them stuff that for the most part they never asked to learn.

    As far as the several thousand dollars you’d save by not wasting it on a board and slateyou’re your stating it is going to waste because the teacher doesn’t have to use it…
    You are stuck in almighty teacher mentality. Who cares if the teacher can use it? The students own the learning. Let them use the technology they love. The teacher doesn’t need to know how to use it but they shouldn’t hold students back because of their fear or ignorance. Marc Prensky wrote a book on the topic called Partnering with Our Digital Natives for Real Learning. I highly recommend all educators read it.

    Finally, you still have not provided me with anything you can do with an IWB that can’t be done more effectively without one.

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  26. My friend reminded me that I wrote this paper five years ago, http://bit.ly/hMaYA6

    In it I explored the folly of IWBs and other imprudent decisions made in the name of edtech.

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  27. There are millions of computer users in the world. Why do teachers disproportionately require "training?"

    Don't you find "training" to be an unfortunate metaphor?

    IWBs are sold as being "teacher-proof." Therefore, training should not be required. It would seem that surrendering one's curriculum to others makes training even less necessary.

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  28. I would be remiss if I gave anyone the impression that my opposition to clickers and IWBs was mainly economical.

    it does not matter to me if these devices were free or if cheaper alternatives exist. My primary concern is with reinforcing the dominance of the teacher in the classroom and reducing understanding to that which may be polled.

    I do not need an IWB or clicker system with any class I teach from preschool through the doctoral level. Frankly, I often work in schools without even a usable blackboard. That's not a problem because I work alongside students, not lecture and quiz them.

    In 17 years of university teaching, I have never given a quiz or test. Students work on authentic projects in a non-coercive system that honors epistemological pluralism - even when I teach online. At least that's what I aspire to accomplish whether face-to-face or online.

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  29. There are quite a number of interesting comments posted on the original article linked above. (sorry I can't paste a URL into this comment box)

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  30. @Gary, great article from 2006. Thank you for sharing that. You make a great point about all the computer users in the world and wondering why teachers need all this training. To that point the same is true for students who are going forward without training. They’re making videos and publishing them on YouTube, they’re connecting on Facebook, they’re gaming in places like WoW etc. Teachers need to own their learning as well and not wait to get the training that enables them to help students learn effectively. I have a post on my blog which touches on this issue called, Want to be a great teacher? Don’t go to PD (http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/08/want-to-be-great-teacher-dont-go-to-pd.html).
    You make a great point about your opposition not just being economical. It’s not. I don’t want or use the devices even though they are provided to me for free. However, it kills me that we are wasting all this money on crap and that these companies are taking money that could go to resources for students.
    Like you, I have never given a test or quiz, but I feel for the teachers who have no choice. That in part is the topic of my next Huffington Post piece. I think you are doing great work and I’m thrilled you are adding your voice to this conversation. Thank you for your piece in Tech & Learning and for commenting here.

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  31. Hello, I am a high school math teacher in upstate New York. Our school recently purchased, through a grant, an interactive whiteboard for every classroom. I use it daily for instruction. I am not in front of the classroom. In fact, I am in the back of the classroom or on the sides using a slate when I am direct instructing. The interactive whiteboard has allowed me to NOT be on stage and walk throughout the classroom freely whether a student is working independently or in a group on authentic problems.

    Thank you.

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  32. Another view: My name is Joe and I'm the Director, Professional Development and Training Services for Tequipment. I wanted to get that out of the way immediately, in the idea of full transparency. However, I would also like to introduce myself as an adjunct professor, father of two, avid lover of technology and the possibilities it creates for students and teachers, and board member of a soon-to-be fledgling charter school.

    For a while now, I have read your blog and thought . . . “right on,” “good point,” and “I could not agree more” when it comes to ideas like unfiltering the Internet in our schools, empowering students and teachers to use SMART phones in creative and meaningful ways, and providing laptops to students and teachers. However, it seems like once every other week you and/or your colleagues turn around and bad-mouth Interactive White Boards (not that the boards care what you call them . . . I mean they are, after all, just huge hunks of plastic and aluminum) and those that use them. So, I started to wonder, what did an IWB ever do to you? I mean, is it possible that one of these inanimate objects came to life one day and attacked a friend or colleague? I’m kidding of course, but I do think it odd that you and others would have such a strong distaste for any piece of technology let alone one embraced by teachers, students, and admin. Of course the next logical thought is that maybe you have not had the same opportunity to experience and use an IWB in the same way that I have . . .I know, I know, you have been in countless classrooms where they are being wasted . . . and that maybe I should stop being such a passive reader and share some experience, strength, and hope.

    I recently read your praise for Gary Stager's post in T&L on IWBs and there seemed to be much left unsaid in both his rant and your reaction. First, Gary gets right to a point you seem to frequently make, "They (IWBs) reinforce the dominance of the front of the room and teacher supremacy." Gary goes on to say that in such turbulent educational times, tools (and they are just tools) such as IWBs should not be purchased when they increase the physical distance between teacher and student, go underutilized, and promote the purchase of canned content from "multinational textbook conglomerates" (really, multinational textbook conglomerates? Come on, this is where his rant started to sound like a punk zine my friends and I used to publish as teenagers). Well, I have to say, I'm not sure I follow his argument. I would expect an educational reformer would be screaming about how to create meaningful and sustainable change within schools, the increase of class size, lack of planning and collaboration time for teachers, or the fact that 90% of the science teachers in this country have never taken a science course outside of high school, NOT the use of IWB in classrooms.

    IWBs don't reinforce what you call the, "sage on the stage" mentality or what Gary calls the "dominance of the front of the classroom.” We do, i.e. teachers, administrators, makers of standardize tests, and teacher evaluations and rating systems, etc. I personally have found that instead of the boards reinforcing the "sage on the stage" it instead promotes teacher creativity, transparency, student motivation [(Wall et al., 2005) (Wall, Higgins, and Smith 2005), differentiation (Miller and Glover, 2002) and (Smith et al., 2005), and helps to model and facilitate critical thinking ([Smith et al., 2006) (Smith, Hardman, and Higgins (2006) and [Gillen et al., 2008]). I mean come on . . . how many craftsman blame their tools when a job is botched? Ok, let me ask it that question in another way, How many people really believe it is the tool’s fault?

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  33. Another view Continued: . . . As for canned content, IWBs don't create the need for canned content, standardized tests do. Most teachers I have the opportunity to work with would love to create their own content and they find the IWB and computer an awesome medium. Think about it like this, in the creative process these days technology is mind blowingly (I may have made up a word there) inspiring and in my classroom that blank SMART Board was like a magic box, waiting to be filled w/ something fantastic. Before I had a SMART Board in my classroom I used to do really cool things, but there was only so far I could go. I’m not a graphic artist, or an award winning cinematographer, but once I had my SMART Board I was much closer to both. I can hear you as I type, but you can do those things without a SMART Board. You can just use a computer and a projector. I say impossible and if you want to talk about “sage on the stage,” how is a teacher sitting in front of a computer, not reinforcing the dominance of the teacher? I mean who are we kidding? The dominance of the teacher was lost the second students could look up information. What flips that role is the ability to utilize students innate curiosity and interest when they help to drive the questions (a point I think we both agree with).

    SMART Boards can and do promote collaboration and creativity in a way unparalleled for many years. More so than a 1:1 laptop or web-enabled digital device program can. Have you ever seen a group of students or people working, each with their own laptop or device? Each is engrossed in their own little world. However, if you create a collaborative space around a critical question or content using a SMART Board or computer (I don’t mind conceding the point) magic happens. Why, because each member of the team is working on solving the same problem without the distraction of the 1:1 environment . . . which, as a sidebar is why any good 1:1 program must have a digital management tool available to the teacher or student facilitator. Please don’t get me wrong, I think every student should have their own device, but there is much to discuss about how to implement such a strategy effectively.

    The IWB like all technology creates issues . . . Again, I can easily concede that point and in the hands of an new or unskilled user the IWB can create a scenario where a teacher could get stuck at the board; however, this can be quickly corrected with the proper professional development. Again, I would argue, instead that the IWB can help an educator become more creative and truly start to practice their craft again. The overwhelming majority of teachers we work with enjoy creating lessons and activities. Yes, many worry about the time it can take to create a digital collaborative lesson, but inevitably they are pleased with the outcome. When educators are willing to bring their students into this creation process the results are amazing and everyone is satisfied with the end product and see the benefit of creating a read/research, think, share/questions/discuss type of lesson.

    Well thank for the space and I hope this discussion is continued.

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  34. @Tad, if you're using the slate, laptop, and projector than why on earth do you need to purchase a $3000 dollar board. You can do everything you need to without it.

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  35. @Joe, you've explained why you enjoy using the Smartboard software as a curriculum to expand creativity. I think there are free, real world tools that do a better job as I stated in a previous comment. However, even if I agreed the software was all you say it's cracked up to be, just like everyone else, you haven't explained why I need to invest thousands in a board for what I could do better by ditching the board, saving a few grand and just use the more effective projector and laptop combo.

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  36. Right on Joe!!! He has presented some very valid arguments. There is always two sides to every story and I am on Joe's side all the way.

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  37. New slogan for you Lisa: *IWBs don't waste money... people who buy them do*

    IWBs might not make bad teachers worse, and I'm not even convinced they make good teacher betters. But they are expensive and they do use up valuable resources in schools. The bottom line is that there are better ways to spend the money that is being wasted on IWBs.

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  38. If you are going to base an argument on cost you really should try to use accurate figures. When we purchased SMART Boards they ranged from $600 to $1200. Obviously certain packages which include Projector, Speakers etc can cost up to $3000 but the Boards themselves are no where near that.

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  39. @Lisa, you are a consistent force. I said nothing about using the “SMART Board software” . . . you made that assumption. Instead, what I said was the board is an incredible medium. No different from various types of paints or canvas for an artist, or different types of knives for a cook. I can prepare a meal with a plastic knife, but that does not mean I’d want to. I can also paint a picture w/ water colors on plan paper, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer to work with a better or more appropriate medium. There are also tools that are more open and inviting. I would argue that a SMART Board is such a tool.

    Is the SMART Board perfect, absolutely not. Is it more accessible and intuitive then a computer and mouse, without question. No one is rushing out to design a new smart phone that can be used w/ a mouse or keyboard, instead everyone is working like mad to create devices that accept the most intuitive of human input, TOUCH. So, why would one want to invest in a board? Hmmmmm, I don’t know, because it makes the entire digital world accessible in an intuitive and natural way. A computer, via a SMART Board and projector is 150X more accessible and user friendly then a computer and projector alone. Again, why would one want to invest hundreds in a board, because it makes just about everything more accessible and helps to create a more collaborative environment. You seem to associate direct instruction w/ SBs . . . which, I find odd.

    Best, and I look forward to chatting w/ you more.

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  40. @Peter, I've never seen a board with speakers sell for under $1200 and I've seen the prices go much higher as I indicated. The cost is one factor, but more important is that teaching and learning can be accomplished more effectively without a place-based touch device that removes the keyboard from the device as I explained in my post: Are Interactive Whiteboards a Smart Idea when they Make Even the Most Innovative of Educators Look Dumb? – 10 Reasons to Ditch the Board.

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  41. @Joe, If I want to touch I'll get a tablet or iPad. These are personal learning devices that students can use anytime, anywhere, not just in front of a room.

    Also, I believe it's important to empower students to know how to use and create with a computer and a keyboard, not just tap on canned, teacher-driven Smartboard lessons. Tapping on a board does lead to students as producers and creators of information the way being empowered to use personal learning devices does.

    So, you've explained why tapping is important to which I disagree and say that tapping on multiple personal learning devices is more powerful than the sage on the stage Smartboard. And, while tapping is great, the Smartboard is not necessary as a tapping machine. I’d prefer to tap a Table, iTouch, iPad, or any of the other tapping devices out there. The sage on the stage tap device is not preferable to the transferable skills learned when real world (not stuck on the classroom wall) tools are used.

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  42. @Lisa, Tapping machine (is that similar to a telagraph (· · · — — — · · ·))? Who said anything about tapping. I’m intrigued by the way you set up and frame an argument. I was not imagining Tapping . . . I was more thinking about using the board to:
    - create mathematical constructions,
    - real-time annotation (more then just Diigo or Draw here . . . what would one do when s/he is not on the web?)
    - comparing trade routes (how do you draw over Google earth on a netbook, iPad, or laptop without purchasing additional software?),
    - workout a proof or equation, measure an angle, or overlay a geometric shape while simultaneously using Google earth or watching a movie clip. These were just a few of the things I was thinking about when I mentioned the word, touch. Sorry, I may have been unclear and I hope you will forgive. I was definitely not thinking tapping. So, how does a student share what he or she is doing when using their personal learning device. Are they supposed to simply hold it up? We are working on this solution, but I would be thrilled to learn how you would do it.

    “Tap on canned, teacher-driven SMART Board lesson” . . . again, who said anything about canned content, another assuption. I was thinking authentic “real world” content. And, if I remember correctly (we can check the post) I believe, I've only mentioned student and teacher generated content. Nonetheless, here is another example. I was thinking more, of using gapminder.org to compare CO2 levels over the past 200 years or asking my students to explore the data, demonstrate, and discuss 3 anomalies they found interesting (i.e. producers of information not simply consumers, but as you know good teachers have been doing this one way or another forever). It would be nice if the student was able to share their discovery, point out subtle bits of data, and push that data to the class. All possible w/ a SMART Board and not as easily accomplished w/ just a computer and projector. Not to mention the social benefit of this approach.

    You said, “I believe it's important to empower students to know how to use and create with a computer and a keyboard . . .” I was with you 100% until you got to the keyboard part. The keyboard is dying. It is a slow death mind you, but it is dying. However, this is a discussion for another time.

    You also said, “Tapping on a board does lead to students as producers and creators of information the way being empowered to use personal learning devices does.” Again, I’m with you 100% til you get to the personal learning device piece. Young children and teenagers do not have fully developed brains and need support, but don’t take my word for it. I’m sure you are familiar w/ the research of people like Gary Small (iBrain), Edward Hallowell (A Walk in the Rain with a Brain and CrazyBusy just to name two), David Meyer (who heads the Brain, Cognition, and Action Lab at U of Michigan), or Marilee Sprenger (“The Digital Brain in the Classroom”), and I could go on and on. All of whom caution about too much screen time and warn of the dangers of multitasking on the brain, particularly the developing brains of young children and teenagers. Again a discussion for another time and one worth having. However, simply providing “personal learning devices” to students is not the answer. The funny thing is I want every student to have a computer. I just want them to be properly supported, as do you I’m sure.

    The bottom line, I know there is nothing I’m going to say that will make you change your mind, but I do hope it will give some of your readers pause and another side of the coin. Thank you, you have been a gracious host and I hope the discussion is continued.

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  43. @Lisa, Tapping machine (is that similar to a telegraph (· · · — — — · · ·))? Who said anything about tapping. I’m intrigued by the way you set up and frame an argument. I was not imagining Tapping . . . I was more thinking about using the board to:
    - create mathematical constructions,
    - real-time annotation (more then just Diigo or Draw here . . . what would one do when s/he is not on the web?)
    - comparing trade routes (how do you draw over Google earth on a netbook, iPad, or laptop without purchasing additional software?),
    - workout a proof or equation, measure an angle, or overlay a geometric shape while simultaneously using Google earth or watching a movie clip. These were just a few of the things I was thinking about when I mentioned the word, touch. Sorry, I may have been unclear and I hope you will forgive. I was definitely not thinking tapping. So, how does a student share what he or she is doing when using their personal learning device. Are they supposed to simply hold it up? We are working on this solution, but I would be thrilled to learn how you would do it.

    “Tap on canned, teacher-driven SMART Board lesson” . . . again, who said anything about canned content, another assumption. I was thinking authentic “real world” content. And, if I remember correctly (we can check the post) I believe, I've only mentioned student and teacher generated content. Nonetheless, here is another example. I was thinking more, of using gapminder.org to compare CO2 levels over the past 200 years or asking my students to explore the data, demonstrate, and discuss 3 anomalies they found interesting (i.e. producers of information not simply consumers, but as you know good teachers have been doing this one way or another forever). It would be nice if the student was able to share their discovery, point out subtle bits of data, and push that data to the class. All possible w/ a SMART Board and not as easily accomplished w/ just a computer and projector. Not to mention the social benefit of this approach.

    You said, “I believe it's important to empower students to know how to use and create with a computer and a keyboard . . .” I was with you 100% until you got to the keyboard part. The keyboard is dying. It is a slow death mind you, but it is dying. However, this is a discussion for another time.

    You also said, “Tapping on a board does lead to students as producers and creators of information the way being empowered to use personal learning devices does.” Again, I’m with you 100% til you get to the personal learning device piece. Young children and teenagers do not have fully developed brains and need support, but don’t take my word for it. I’m sure you are familiar w/ the research of people like Gary Small (iBrain), Edward Hallowell (A Walk in the Rain with a Brain and CrazyBusy just to name two), David Meyer (who heads the Brain, Cognition, and Action Lab at U of Michigan), or Marilee Sprenger (“The Digital Brain in the Classroom”), and I could go on and on. All of whom caution about too much screen time and warn of the dangers of multitasking on the brain, particularly the developing brains of young children and teenagers. Again a discussion for another time and one worth having. However, simply providing “personal learning devices” to students is not the answer. The funny thing is I want every student to have a computer. I just want them to be properly supported, as do you I’m sure.

    The bottom line, I know there is nothing I’m going to say that will make you change your mind, but I do hope it will give some of your readers pause and another side of the coin. Thank you, you have been a gracious host and I hope the discussion is continued.

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  44. @Joe, Those who know me understand that like math teacher Eric Marcos, I believe the best configuration is the Tablet as a personal learning device and a projector to use when presenting/sharing. Having a Tablet empowers students to use personal technology not tied to a place. I can do all the creating I want more effectively with real-time annotations, and everything else you mention with a person (not place) –based device. They don’t need to go to the front of the room to create. Without the board students are creators from anywhere in the world. To your point about keyboards. Seriously? Tell a texting teen that keyboards are dying. We don’t want to use our voice to create a lot of stuff. We want to input it into a device using a keyboard and not one stuck on a wall. Whether thumbs or fingers are composing, written content is done most effectively using a keyboard/pad on a personal device.

    To your multitasking research info, I’ve read quite a bit of the stuff and sorry, but the studies seem quite flawed to me as they don’t measure multi-tasking in authentic ways meaning, that effective multi-taskers drive their own multi-tasking. These studies have external inputs driving the multi-tasking. Of course that becomes a distraction. However, spend a day watching how I can have laser-like focus as I orchestrate a variety of programs, communication tools, etc. to accomplish all my goals for the day. When children have time to achieve flow, you see the same thing. Of course this requires students to have time to get into the flow and work on things they’re interested in. Two things that sadly are not a part of the 40-minute per class set up where students are herded to the next room or subject because someone else says so.

    I generally find people like you who don’t understand how student-owned devices are effective learning tools just haven’t been in settings where they are used effectively. My upcoming book features several teachers (Jason Suter, George Engel, Jason Bidell, Liz Kolb to name a few) who’ve had tremendous success allowing students to use their own personal learning devices in classrooms. I myself invite students and teachers to professional development and it’s a no ban zone. We have a whole day to focus on our work with technology galore (theirs and mine). The work the kids do is amazing and they’re focused, because it’s fun, interesting, and real. Again, as Gary shared in his post these are things we need to see more of in the classroom.

    I’ve been open to having my mind changed for many years on the topic. Still, no one has made a good case that a device connected to the front of the room that usually can only be used by one person at a time is better than empowering students with tools that are transferable for learning not only in school, but in life.

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  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  46. Although Gary’s position may seem extreme, it needed saying. This thread is an intriguing and important discussion, which should focus on substance and not on the personal experience or alleged motivations of those taking the time to share their insights.

    I, too, have been called upon from time to time to provide PD for interactive whiteboards. Moreover, all too often, what I have observed is that these devices are being used mainly as expensive, non-interactive whiteboards, or in ways that perpetuate and refine the worst of “sage on the stage” instructionism. Gary’s concern that this type of technology may lend itself to encouraging the latter should not be dismissed lightly.

    However, having said this, these tools CAN also be used in more constructivist models. In my personal image of the ideal classroom, I would have one; but probably I would use mine differently than most. Perhaps before one is installed in a classroom, we should first require the creation of a half-a-dozen sample lesson plans, illustrating how the equipment will help students achieve, in more forward-looking student-centered scenarios. Perhaps PD for these tools should be led more by enlightened educators passionate about pedagogical considerations and less by manufacturers focused on “content delivery” and training on “how to operate the equipment.”

    It is crticially important to ask, when contemplating mass purchase of this type of equipment, whether 80% of the benefit might be achieved at 20% of the cost, by mounting a ceiling projector with a teacher-friendly docking station and a document camera. (Merely amplifying the teacher’s voice has been shown to increase achievement for all students, not just those who are hearing impaired.) At a time when so many crucial things are being cut – including potentially more cost-effective and compelling uses of technology –it behooves us to ask whether the incremental cost of the “full boat” interactive whiteboard solution including “clickers” and so on will yield significant results, in terms of corresponding increases in student learning. There is a real danger of Luddite backlash if we cannot later show that student learning, including the nature of the graduates we produce – such as whether they are capable of imagination, innovation and critical thinking – is improving sufficiently to warrant the large costs. In my view, the greatest benefit of educational technology is often that it forces us to re-examine the roles of teacher and student; whereas, as Gary worries, the whiteboards are apt to be used, instead, to reinforce outmoded approaches and roles that were more appropriate during the industrial revolution than in the information age.

    Every teacher should have a dedicated laptop, projector and document camera; and every student should have a modern, powerful computing device (laptop, iPad, netbook, whatever – not just a clicker). In classrooms led by teachers who think of themselves as “intellectual coaches,” who have truly embraced constructivist pedagogy, when budgets permit, there should be room for the full-on interactive whiteboard solution as well. Meanwhile, though my respect for both is beyond measure, I must stand closer to Gary Stager than to Alan November on this issue.

    Respectfully,
    Mark L. Miller, Ph.D.
    http://blog.thatshouldntmatter.com/
    http://www.learningtech.org/

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  47. I was happy to have come upon this article and to hear about Gary Stager's. I have long thought that whiteboards were not taking us in the right direction and that they are a waste of funds. They use resources not only for the cost of the boards but for the funds spent on training to support the purchase, thus taking away from limited professional development funds.

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  48. The underlying technology..the multiple TOUCH on a screen... is much "larger" than the board and its placement. We will soon see interactive desks which now are in their infancy and cost about $8000 apiece. These are truly inspiring when kids gather round and work together, plug in, project, share. Yet they are no more than a Smart or Promethean board laid on edge with the same software available on certain tablets now.
    So.. as a futurist, one should discuss the implications of the change of hardware AND the changing nature of face to face work.. that is where this conversation should go.s The boards in front of the room are just the Apple II Plus solution of today. (That was a useless machine, right?)

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  49. At last year’s LAMS conference http://www.lamsinternational.com/ a teacher talked about the experience of having removed all the blackboards (chalk based technology) from classrooms and installed interactive white boards (IWB). The teachers loved it and the students loved it and the administration loved it. They had even relocated the “old” blackboards to the playground and supplied the kids with chalk to do as they please… A couple of years passed and one of the younger kindergarten cohort (little girl) went up to her teacher one day and said: “I think it would be great to have one of these in our classroom” pointing to the blackboards in the playground.

    Smart kid! Much smarter than the adults who decided that the old technology was of no use at all.

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  50. Ran across this article and found it amusing as we are installing IWB's in our school this summer, at the request of some teachers (not all). Funded by PTA who are also in favor. As a tech person and former teacher, my view is that all technologies have the potential to fail or work well. Innovation is the key. We are working to mesh multiple technologies, including screen sharing so the whiteboard remains in use while the students are engaged with personal tablet devices. The teacher can roam the room and quickly display the work of a specific student, or take control of one or all, or have multiple students work at the whiteboard while that screen is shared at the tablets. This creates a flexible environment where the strength of each technology can be brought out. It can be either a teacher-centric or student-centric environment as needed, and can fluidly move back & forth.. No one technology is the be-all, end-all, and a good teacher can teach with a stick in the sand, so the important thing is using the tools well. Ironically the thing that really makes this possible is a good network infrastructure. Teaching always comes down to communication in some form (network or human).

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