Doug over at Blue Skunk Blog wrote about the results of a survey on the use of interactive whiteboards (IWB) in his school system and generated a pretty good discussion (of course, I tossed in my two cents).
In a follow up post, Doug summarized some of the concerns about IWBs and then asks four good questions about both the boards and technology in general.
1. How are concerns about IWBs unlike any other technology application we have placed in schools?
Doug’s right that the concerns are pretty much the same, especially when it comes to effective use of technology. That effectiveness, however, depends heavily on teacher training and a change in the teacher’s approach.
2. Is the “gee whiz” factor positive or negative in technology implementations?
I would argue that we are largely still in the “gee whiz” stage for almost everything except basic computer use. And at this point it’s more of a negative.
3. How do we know when any technology’s cost is justified?
Good question. Our IT folks talk a lot about “total cost of ownership” but they never really define what that means in terms of the instructional use of technology.
The bottom line is that we don’t have an unlimited budget for ed tech, so choices must be made based on what will make the biggest impact on teaching and learning.
Some would argue that, under that criteria, the IWBs are a good value. I would not.
4. Are we asking too much of devices? Which comes first the technology or the methodology to use it well? And who defines “use it well?”
I think the attitude is still with us that just putting technology in a classroom will automatically lead to better learning.
As I’ve ranted about many times before, all the hardware and software will have little impact without a solid training program and fundamental changes to classroom procedures reflecting the power of the technology.
As to who defines “use it well”, that’s all part of the discussion. How’s that for a cop out? :-)