Although interactive white boards (IWB) have been around since 1991, they only recently became a central component of the 21st century classroom. Combining a dry eraser white board, with a LCD projector connected to a computer, the device is the corner stone of a blooming world wide industry of a US1.5 billion dollars. While an estimate of one in every seven classes has a IWB around the world, the government of Québec insured that every public school in the province had one, if not every classroom. But how exactly do IWBs change the classroom? Are they just a trend, or do they really hold the key for a greater, more interactive way of learning?
Firstly, IWBs are devices that facilitate the use of new medias in the classroom. Hooked up on a computer, it gives direct access of internet in the classroom, which is nothing new in itself, but its display on a screen opens the door for a world of readily accessible resources such as youtube, viméo, pinterest, prezi and countless more. Beside the various softwares already available on the computer, IWBs companies created their own repertoire of softwares, thus diversifying the teaching methods and giving them a new twist. For instance, when teaching math, a teacher has access of readily accessible rulers, calculator and measuring instruments. It also became easy to correct an homework in class. Instead of the good old overhead, the teacher can simply screen a PDF version of the homework and ask students to come to the board and write down their answer with the appropriate IWB pen. Basic multiple answer choices, polling option and sophisticated clickers are among the incredible variety of resources this device holds, and a great deal of websites now present L.E.S. based on its use, notwithstanding all the youtube tutorials.
Now, that’s the big deal isn’t it? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, IWB actually are incredible tool. They do offer outstanding possibilities and facilitate greatly the presentation of new content. Moreover, with today’s students, brining new technologies and aiming for high interactivity quickly became essential for any teacher that doesn’t want to be left behind for his archaic methods. However, as some research suggest that the use of IWB affect significantly the classroom dynamic, the students’ motivation and foremost the interactivity at the beginning of its introduction into a new classroom, its effect wears off relatively quickly. Indeed, of the the main argument in favour of the IWB, its positive effect on students’ motivation, is said to wear off once the students are used the new device. Its usefulness isn’t contested, but accordingly once the students got over the excitement created by the renewal, motivation come back to normal.
I personally think that IWBs are a giant leap towards the good direction. I gladly used it during my fourth practicum and it made my job much easier. For instance, correcting homework by simply screening it on the board, highlighting important part of a text, screening videos and whatnot offered me wonderful opportunities. But I wasn’t so comfortable with it. I new and used the device well, but I hated being stuck up front of the class. I was confined there and wished I could walk around AND use the smartboard. I wanted an AppleTv connected to my Ipad wish would have suited my teaching style much more.
This being said, what could at the same time enhance students’ motivation, the interactivity in class and offers easily accessible resources? Well, the use of tablets might. An elementary school in Beauce, Southern Québec, once had among the lowest rating in terms of students’ average. After raising a significant amount of money through donations and subventions from the government, the school board of this elementary took to bold decision of buying an Ipad for every students in the school. After a year of adjustment, the device was finally and sucessfully integrated to the classroom. According to the article, after only 3 years the students graduating from this elementary school were among the top 3 in the ministry test for the whole area of Beauce. Moreover, the general average of their students went up of 17% and the failing rate went down nearly 3%. Even though a deeper analysis of this topic is material for another blog entry, the article suggested that this device, along with the use of an IWB, might be the key to enhance students’ motivation, their autonomy in learning, to develop higher cognitive skills, to increase their level of reinvestment and to maximize the interactivity in the classroom.