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Not Ready For Prime Time

At The Innovative Educator, a guest writer asks the question, Are IWB’s Past Their Prime?

Unfortunately, his analysis is all about the technology itself, not about education.

In the end, schools have to weigh the facts carefully and decide how to best use technology to best serve the needs of their children. This includes examining the school culture, features of competing technologies, physical space available in the school, the school’s comfort level with varying technology models, and the total cost of ownership.

All of those factors are important to some degree, but where is the concern about how this technology is being used?

Or rather how it’s being misused.

I’ve ranted on this topic many times before, but the point still needs to be made that, even before all our recent financial problems, IWBs (interactive whiteboards) were a bad use of technology funds.

Not to mention tools that encourage bad instructional practices.

So, are IWB’s past their prime?  You could say that.

But I’m not sure they ever should have had prime space in school budgets in the first place.


  1. David

    So here I am in a school with like 10 of these things and it’s my job to encourage teachers to use them, and I find myself in complete agreement with you.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself, and I finally found a way we can use our existing IWB. I’m going to start encouraging our teachers to do more “workstation” type lessons where students move through different activities in different parts of the room. One of the activities will be at the IWB, and if the groups are small enough, each student will have a chance to use the interactivity of the white board.

    Many of our teachers spend at least part of their lessons in a teacher centred presentation style mode. One other use, when in this pedagogical mode, is to record your lessons. Whee. Not very efficient, you’d probably be better off “flipping your classroom” (class lecture becomes homework, homework become class practice) than using the IWB to record lessons in front of students.

    This is not by a long shot a cost-effective way to use an IWB. I don’t think there is a cost-effective way to use them. The only other reasonable student centred use of an IWB I’ve heard of was suggested by @remi_collins. He says that some of his students with motor difficulties use IWB as a way to interact with the digital world and actually write, when other smaller forms of media were pretty ineffective for them.

  2. Tim

    Thanks for the comment, David and I certainly understand your frustration. Schools in our district have spent a lot of money on IWBs and I’ve been searching for good ideas to show teachers how to let students assume some control of their use. So far, the workstation lessons you mention is the best I’ve found and that certainly doesn’t justify the cost. Using the boards with handicapped students is also a good idea but that is a relatively small group of kids.

  3. Lisa Nielsen


    Thanks for bringing attention to a topic I write about a LOT. Why IWBs are crap. Here’s more on this- http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/search/label/SMARTBoards

    I’m with you. IWBs never had a prime. I don’t even like them for center time. I’d rather untether the contraption, projector, speakers, etc. and just let kids focus on using the laptop. Anyone who knows about IWBs knows they’re not really interactive. It’s the laptop (with the keyboard connected!) that is where the interactivity comes from. I really hate the station idea because it reduces technology use to a bunch of tapping instead of communicating and creating which is the beauty that occurs when you ditch the purportedly interactive whiteboard and let kids have access to the actually interactive keyboard.

    A few things of interest this week alone. I went to one school where the tech teacher used his 2k interactive whiteboard as a bulletin board with posters taped to it. I went to another school where the library had become a graveyard for 7 unused interactive whiteboards.

    Then get this!

    The IWB trainers came to my center to provide professional development to teachers. Did they use the IWB??? No! It was too glitchy. They solely used the laptop / projector.

    And then…
    We had another IWB training using another brand IWB and same thing. The board was barely touched.

    The teachers are dying for this professional development. Our schools and districts are demanding it. The reality is interactive whiteboards are total crap and those who demand it have been duped.

    I think rather than succumbing to the demands we do our best to educate these folks that they made a bad investment and help them get on with supporting effective learning and teaching practices.

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