Showing posts with label interactive whiteboard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interactive whiteboard. Show all posts

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.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My interactive whiteboard

The school has recently sprung for an interactive whiteboard for my classroom.  A Promethean 2.1m wide board.  We purchased it from Concept AV, who have successfully added themselves to my list of inept IT organisations.  At this stage, I can't recommend them.  In fact I probably can't recommend getting far enough away from them.. but that is my general comment about all IT people. 

To start with they didn't return calls.  We called them and said we had a budget, how much and when can you install.  "We'll get our sales team to call you."  Four calls later someone responds.  The salesperson comes and we explain where we want the points and where the board is to go.

Two guys turn up and it's a bit of a Laurel and Hardy show.  I'm not getting involved, I point them at the room and go to lunch.  I have no idea how they managed to get it up the stairs in one piece.  It's delivered but not installed.

We say to them, install on any day but x, because on that day we are having exams.  "Sure," they say, "We'll be there on day Y."  I move shelving (and 300 or so books and files) and move all my classes for the room to be free on day Y, lugging 30 texts from one room to the next.  Needless to say, no-one showed.

The next day we call them and find out that they are now coming on a new day.  No prizes for guessing which one - yep.. on our exam day.  After some gentle persuasion they say they'll come on another day.

On the new day, the installer turns up and insists that the point needs to go directly beneath the board (as opposed to the position discussed with the salesperson) and that it will cost extra to put it near the computer that will run the board.  "But that's ok, you can just run a cable around the edge of the room."  No it's not ok, the idea is that it is tidy and has as few visible cables as possible.  A workaround is devised using a double adaptor, more cost and some extra ducting.

I sit down to read the manuals supplied to learn how to use the board.  The aspect ratio isn't set correctly for my laptop and sound isn't working.   RTFM Russ..  but that's right, I can't.. they haven't left them or any other documentation on how to use it - all they have left is a software CD, some cables that won't work with my mac, the projector manual and its remote.  Rummage around on the web, locate the amplifier button (which is wedged against the shelving in a place I can't see without a mirror) and then play with the projector remote to fix the aspect ratio.  Installer says can't use USB for audio with mac.  BS, it does if set correctly and the amplifier is ON.  Go to the shops and buy the mac adaptor for video.  A whole heap of frustration that could have been avoided and prevented hours of fiddling and searching.

Two days later I inspect the setup and realise that there is no RCA adaptor for external video such as used by DVD players or games consoles despite the panel being designed to be used in this way.  "Why only a monitor port when the projector supports a range of outputs?" I ask the installer, "That's the way we do it in all schools".  Can I respectfully suggest it's a bloody stupid way.  So now I have to get up onto the projector, standing on a chair on a desk and run a cable down to the amplifier and the console for our Singstar competition at the end of the term.

In his technical wisdom he suggested using an analogue to digital converter and run the signal along the monitor cable.  Oh yes, and I used the last one I had of those just lying around yesterday nor does the Dick Smith shop around the corner have one.  I wasted another hour checking.

Next, I found that working on the laptop could be a pain especially when the laptop locked and required a password.  As my computer faces the room I needed a fliptop head to put the password in.  Solution: buy a wireless keyboard, $79.

Next challenge.  How to use the board effectively.  It's dropping some of my writing due to lag (it wasn't before, I don't know what's changed, my new mac pro seems fine), so I suppose I'll have to figure out what is causing that too.

So, tips for those getting an interactive whiteboard working.

a) find an organisation that returns calls
b) be very clear about where you want your computer and the connection point to go and request to get it installed there
c) ensure that they install it where your want it
d) ensure you have all the cabling you need to make it work
e) find someone that knows about the board and get them to show you how it works
f) get an RCA cable run from the connection point to the projector and the amplifier on the whiteboard
g) get a wireless keyboard (the apple one is great)

It just reminds me that getting IT implemented so that it works is not a simple task and requires someone with IT skills to be working on both sides of the equation - someone knowledgeable is required on both the buyer and sellers side to get an effective solution.