I’ve ranted a few times around here about interactive white boards and how they are being used in the classroom.

While our overly large school district seems to have a lot of them in our schools, the saturation here isn’t nearly that of Great Britain.

Their Education Ministry started installing the devices in their classrooms in 2004 and now have them in 90% of the nation’s schools.

But even with all that experience using this “multimedia technology”, it sounds as if the primary purpose for the boards remains student motivation.

“Rather than sitting behind desks and looking at a piece of paper, the pupils can play with things on screen and move things around.

“The kids are used to it. They walk into a room and if the white board has something written on it they follow it instantly.”

He acknowledges that most of the time teachers use it as a glorified over-head projector, but says in the right hands it can save lots of preparation time.

It’s also a pretty expensive over-head projector. According to the BBC, the boards cost £3000 each (at today’s exchange rate that’s almost $6000!).

I just wonder if any of that money was spent on teacher training. Or on creating activities that take advantage of the technology to do more than just catch the kids’ attention.

So, if technology like the interactive whiteboards is being purchased to compete with “all the Playstations and X-boxes that the children have”, maybe we should just give in and use the game machines too.

That’s the approach being taken by some educators who are creating instructionally-focused games.

While I’m still not sold on the arguments for installing expensive, unmovable pieces of hardware, this justification offered by one educational gaming advocate caught my attention.

“We’re on the leading edge of change, bringing a new tool into the classroom and responding to learner differences that have evolved with technology,” Simpson said.

Her argument goes like this: Youngsters nowadays can find online anything they need to know, any time. That renders the old teacher’s saw, “Someday you’ll need to know this,” less convincing than ever. But with a computer game, relevance to life becomes incidental; students need to learn in order to play the game in front of them.

Learning motivated by an immediate, obvious purpose. Interesting concept!

I don’t know enough about these new instructional role playing games yet, but considering the incredible immersive environments now being used for entertainment, this is an area of edtech with great potential.

Of course, games like the ones described in the article will not mesh well with most of our current schools. Using this approach is going to require some major alterations to our concepts of teaching and learning.

Interactive whiteboards, on the other hand, are a technology that fits very comfortably into the traditional educational structure we’ve inherited from the last century.

interactive whiteboard, education, gaming