Still Moving Backwards

Our annual state technology conference took place earlier this week and, as always, the three days offered a lot to think about on the drive home, including an element of ambivalence as to whether meeting like this are still relevant.

As has been the trend at edtech events over the past few years, many presentations are focused on using interactive whiteboards (IWB) and their adopted second cousins, student response systems (aka clickers).

Part of that is likely driven by the fact that one or both of the largest vendors of these devices are usually big sponsors of the conferences, and that was no different here.

Anyway, I’ve offered more than a few negative posts on IWBs around here, but I still try attend a couple of sessions on the subject with an open mind, hoping that maybe someone has found an innovative way to use them.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything new.

Although students are sometimes invited to poke at the board, the examples still show the IWB being used and controlled by the teacher, and generally locking the classroom into one-way information delivery mode.

And the accompanying software, in which lessons are built, is essentially PowerPoint with lots of extra animation pieces and flashy gimmicks.

Then there are the clickers.

From where I sit, activities using them offer the illusion of student interactivity but are still completely teacher-directed and feel like little more than a multiple choice/true-false quiz show.

Advocates for these technologies always seem to arrive back at motivation as a primary justification for putting these expensive devices in every classroom.

Not that they offer students opportunities to communicate, express their creativity, or even show their learning beyond a basic, standardized test level.

Ok, fans of IWBs and/or clickers, tell me what I’ve missed, why I’m full of it and have no idea what I’m talking about.

Better yet, point me to some examples that use these devices in ways that don’t emulate teaching from fifty years ago enhanced with a few special effects.

I want someone to convince me that we’re not wasting millions of scarce dollars on technology that moves the classroom backwards.