In case you don’t know, interactive whiteboards and “smartboards” are the hot, new classroom technologies. Replacing the old blackboard and chalk, these boards can show PowerPoint lessons, copy what the teacher writes so that kids don’t have to take notes, and enable a variety of Wow! kinds of presentations. Think of those interactive maps now used by TV weather reporters and you’ve got the rough idea.
Writing for Education Week, “Educator Bill Ferriter makes no bones about his distaste for interactive whiteboards, calling them ‘sad examples of careless decision-making and waste that are crippling schools.’” (His article is called “Why I Hate Interactive Whiteboards”):
Seen as the first step towards “21st century teaching and learning,” schools and districts run out and spend thousands of dollars on these gizmos, hanging them on walls and showing them off like proud hens that just laid the golden instructional egg.
I gave mine away last summer. After about a year’s worth of experimenting, I determined that it was basically useless.
Sure, my students thought it was nifty, but it didn’t make teaching my required curriculum any easier. I probably crafted two or three neat lessons with it, but there was nothing unique about those activities. I could have easily put together similar lessons using the computer stations I already have in my room and any number of free online tools.
I share Bill’s feelings. Not all technology is great or helpful or worth the cost.
We need to think first about what we are trying to accomplish educationally and then create the technology to achieve those goals. Instead, we often spend tons of money on cool-looking gadgets with little educational payoff.
The main goal of education needs to be to stimulate students’ brains…to get them to read with understanding and write clearly and research purposefully and problem-solve and think autonomously.
I question whether interactive whiteboards, as well as much educational computer software, does this. I fear that such technology often relies too much on exciting kids eyes and ears and doesn’t do enough to provoke deep thinking. I also wonder about the effects of such technology on attention span and the development of self-control. …