IWBs are Not the Stars. They’re the Overpaid Extras with A Great Agent

I recently explained Why I Hate Interactive Whiteboards Too which like my other posts on the topic received numerous responses. Kent3, who clearly cares about helping students succeed, wrote a thoughtful (three-part) comment which deserves at least a blog entry (or two) in response. I enjoy being challenged in thought-provoking ways on my views and respect those who can move or help grow my thinking.

In this case, though, it’s another opponent in the ring who tried to change my mind about IWBs being tools of needless, misguided spending that has not changed my beliefs. Like the IWB companies who masterfully market to educational institutions to gain huge profits from schools (and all those who they pay), ), Kent3 (surely unintentionally) is confusing the power of the internet, laptop/tablet, projector, speakers with the power of the extra very expensive IWB add-on.

This doesn’t surprise me as these companies spend countless dollars to lead people to believe that the device runs the show. Confusing the masses into believing this, which means big profits for them. The reality is the co-star of this show (aside from the teacher and students) is the internet, which is supported by that fabulous laptop or even better the supah stah...***The Tablet***. Putting them up in lights, is of course, none-other-than the beloved... projector!!! Providing sound is those powerful, but very affordable (under $40) speakers.

The IWB is merely a highly overpaid insignificant extra that can be replaced by any number of other free and more effective substitutes.

IWB just has a very good (marketing) agent that fools you into believing he’s the star. I did read Kent’s entire research report supporting IWBs. Not surprisingly what I found is there is not a single instance where IWBs aren’t given credit for the work of the real tech stars of the show: the laptop/tablet, internet, projector, and software (which can/and often is run independent of the board, whose functionality can be accomplished with alternate free software as well). Examples include:
  • A photo was displayed on the IWB and revealed in portions using the ‘spotlight tool’.
    -Ahem, you don't need an IWB to display a photo or to use a spotlight tool.
  • Speaking Activity – Students reported on current events using Internet News websites via an IWB.
    -Huh? What does the IWB have to do with bringing us current events or websites that have current events. The other hardware stars are responsible.
  • Selected student’s work was displayed on the IWB at the end of the lesson using the visualiser.
    -Ummm...I don't need an IWB or visualiser to display student work and actually, I'm more interested in where this work was authentically published and the global community who was involved in the conversation.
  • Using the IWB students had to write their name on a continuum identifying ‘How well do they swim’.
    -Okay, why do I even need any tech for this??? Let's have students line up and have cool conversations with classmates about where they belong to do so.
  • There's lotsa arranging and prioritizing.
    -We can do this easily, more efficiently, and with more interactivity without an IWB. Why on earth are we using and IWB to prioritize? Not necessary.
  • Downloading onto the IWB and playing the song ‘Come on the bay’ engaged the boys who were usually reluctant singers.
    - Ahhhh! You didn't download on the IWB. You downloaded on a computer. No IWB required.
  • Students were being read to by a ‘talking book’ on the IWB.
    -Well, umm, no. The talking came through the speakers and the book was on the laptop. IWB is unnecessary.
  • The teacher displayed a work sample on the IWB while the students were completing the task. This allowed students to complete the task without having to be continually reminded of what to do.
    -Really? Do I even need to explain why the $2.5K investment is an extra with an overpaid agent here????
There is more than one issue. The extra on the set (aka IWB), really just dumbs down and detracts from the show. When I’m placed in the role of movie editor, the IWB is left on the cutting room floor and in it’s stead, I hire a more reputable, non-biased casting director who could recast the show more powerfully. That cast would trade in the $2.5k-ish salary of the IWB and replace it with any number of more worthy characters able to accomplish all the extras for free and more effectively.

If I had the extra bucks to throw around in these cash-strapped times, I would instead cast a shiny class set of student response systems or Smart pens or maybe 10 iTouches or netbooks. These extras would no doubt soon rise to the role of supporting actor or maybe even steal the show. They certainly would be more worthy of idolization then those overpaid IWB extras who are typecast to a boring front and center role, never mingling among or even having the opportunity to go home with their audience. Instead, my stars would shine, connected to a student, rather than that of an immobile (but valuable) Midas star stuck helplessly in front of the room. The reason that’s important and all the other flaws of using an IWB vs more effective means of teaching and learning is the topic of yet another post indeed.

Stay tuned.
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