Saturday, September 3, 2011

Interactive Whiteboard usage

I have an interactive whiteboard in my classroom.  It's a 2.1m wide Promethean with a short throw projector.  I was reticent about getting an IWB as I had one in the past and it was smaller than a normal whiteboard, laggy, difficult to see in full light, was easy to cast a shadow upon while writing and had little in the way of usable technology for mathematics.

5 years later and things have changed.  My old whiteboard was only marginally larger than my new IWB.  The lag is gone (.. well .. nearly).  The short throw projector casts a minimal shadow.  The basic software is more functional than ruler and pen.

I'm not singing the praises of Promethean, I haven't used a Smartboard or its software since my awful introduction to IWBs five years ago.  I can just see how it helps deliver my material.

I can step forward/backward through slides
I can draw axes, coordinates and lines with ease
I can annotate graphs (such as those drawn by Autograph) for regression/seasonality and functions work (with a little difficulty)
I can share and store successful lessons more easily
I can write solutions digitally for sharing for small group moderation
It saves a few dollars in whiteboard markers (but will probably cost more in power and projector globes)

The advantages make my day more pleasant.  The downside is that lessons take considerably more time to prepare initially because you have to think of ways to use it effectively, whereas those methods already exist with a whiteboard.

There is also a short term motivational increase evident in student behaviour (which I expect to dissipate with familiarity).

I am guilty of not using the IWB to its fullest, but after 1 term, it is proving to be an integral part of my classroom, being used in every class.

The apple macbook powering the board has caused some problems.  The obvious being the difficulty in running PC software (such as FX draw and Classpad manager).  These we're slowly overcoming.  A big advantage of the mac is the fast powerup.  I have a backup PC on my desk and the thought of waiting for SOE4 to boot is enough for it to be an absolute last resort.

The big question is does it improve the results of my students?  The answer is.. well.. maybe..   I can more easily use some interactives for aid in learning but I haven't seen any great improvement in results.  The cost to implement is around 7-8K at present which is not a huge impost (compared to some of the money the government is throwing around) but as an insight into department funding - it is more than the entire 8-12 math budget for last year.  I couldn't really use student improvement as a justification for installing IWB's in schools - there are more reliable ways of raising student performance than IWB's.

Implementation (after installation) has gone smoothly with good support from the school technician.. I won't say great support or he might get slack :-)..  Now as a mature technology, opportunities are available to improve teaching practices further and collaborate with a much wider group of teachers.

I would probably still get an IWB if I was given the option.  The collaborative opportunities are just too many to ignore and are relatively easy to implement, even if the student benefit is harder to quantify.  Reviewing student board work or examining teaching pedagogy in particular becomes much simpler and is more easily recorded.  Unlike 1-1 laptop rollouts, surprisingly I think I currently fall in favour of IWB rollouts.

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