Interactive Whiteboards ≠ 21st Century Classrooms
We hear about interactive whiteboards (SMART, Promethean, Hitachi, etc.) from televised news, parents, teachers, and principals. For the most part people are excited about them being in the classroom. At a recent public forum, Alberta parents expressed to school board officials that technology, such as SMARTboards, must remain a priority for the district amidst financial cutbacks. Even teachers and principals are proud of 21st century initiatives that include purchasing and installing interactive whiteboards.
It is disappointing that so many people have missed the point, or so it seems. Yes, it is nice when students get to use technologies in the classroom that create a novel and exciting atmosphere. But at up to three thousand dollars per equipped classroom we need to expect more than nice. Our students must become disciplined, respectful and ethical (as explained in Gardners ‘Five Minds for the Future’ 2005). Students need to be collaborating, creating and synthesizing. Students need to be doing.
From what I can tell, an interactive whiteboard is perfect for teacher modeling. It is pretty good for students during group guided practice. But as the teacher releases more responsibility towards the students, the interactive whiteboard becomes less useful. When every student is doing, the whiteboard sits. So during this critical stage of gradual release (Fisher, 2006) our expensive whiteboard becomes less than ideal mediums for students to create, synthesize and collaborate.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be installing and using interactive whiteboards. In some respects they have been an important catalyst for a shift in North American pedagogy. But before we spend what few dollars are allocated to education, we must consider how the purchase will change the classroom practice (read: student practice).
The 21st century pedagogue needs to be critical of everything adopted into the learning experiences created. If a lesson, activity, or technology isn’t the most relevant investment for your students, consider not making it.