A few weeks back I ranted about my lack of enthusiasm for interactive whiteboards and got quite a reaction.
While my focus then was on not seeing a compelling instructional purpose for the expensive devices, there was something else about their effect on education that was in the back of my mind.
It didn’t come to the front until one day when I was helping install one of the boards.
Mounting the technology in one place in a classroom anchors the focus to that one place. In many ways it reinforces the space as teacher-centered with rows of students facing one way, the attention on one spot.
But that wasn’t all that bothered me about sticking the board to one end of a room and shining a projector at it. The whole idea was still an incomplete buzz in my warped little mind.
Until I read Gary Stager’s thoughts on the issue.
Over the past few years we, like many school districts, have been advocating (not to mention spending a lot of money on) the use of laptops and other mobile devices to make “anywhere, anytime” learning possible.
At the same time we install these interactive boards that lock instruction to one place, severely limiting both the where and time loosened by portable computing.
Stager takes an equally dim view of the devices.
They’re big, expensive, stationary and make excellent backdrops for political photo-ops. If your definition of school is four walls with a large writing area bolted to at least one of those walls, then whiteboards are for you. This should not in any way be confused with modernity or the future of education.
He also goes back to a point I made earlier about creative teachers and the larger number of those who use technology grudgingly, if at all.
I know that some teachers can create classroom wizardry on their “interactive” whiteboards. This is a greater reflection on the creativity of that specific teacher, than the technology. I would imagine such teachers could dazzle with a chainsaw. This argument does little to advance the hope that expensive whiteboards will transform teachers who have refused to use modern technology for a quarter century.
We always seem to be relying on the Field of Dreams model of instructional technology: if we buy it they will use it – and education will be magically altered forever.
Interactive whiteboards seem to be the ball field de-jour.