School White out

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

Kids love the Interactive White Board (IWB) in the classroom. In a grade 1 classroom it is hard to keep their greasy little fingers off of it when I am lining them up for lunch.

Having said that, my experience is in english language schools teaching kids core subjects like science, math and language arts. In these subjects, I have used the IWB for math manipulatives, calendar time and as a open canvas. Teaching English as a second language is another story.

For the teacher:
I see an IWB as a gneral tool for presentation to the group. For example showing the same page on the board as the kids need to turn to and completing examples from the book. This might help alleviate the panic of “what page are we on?”. IWBs make presenting lessons consistently to different groups and animating groups a little easier for teachers.

For the traditional whiteboard/chalkboard space an IWB takes up in the classroom – the options are endless. My only problem is that the surface is never big enough for me. I am a drawer and a doodle advocate. I illustrate explanations as I talk. Kids love this and when I click the arrow… I can always go back to my previous drawing to remind them, or explain further, adding colour and details if I want. Dr Mary Ann Bell lists 12 reasons why she likes the IWB. She notes the less obvious benefit of NO CHALK DUST or SMELLY MARKERS!!! It used to be my job in grade 4 to clean the chalk brushes, which, although I was proud of this job… could NOT have been good for my health.

But having said that, the point of a IWB is not supposed to be for the teachers… it is for the kids. If you digitize it – they will stay awake … Right?

For the kids!
An IWB could be great for workshop style activities. This means that one group each day would have use of the IWB for the activity. Last week I saw two 7yr olds who never write anything, spend a full 15min working together to creating a story on the smartboard during their writing activity.

Access to the web as a group is a huge plus with an IWB in a classroom. Google Earth makes me feel like I am flying and interative historical maps bring history to life. Any interactive teacher application is open to a classroom with an IWB. Check out my article about Kinect for Xbox 360 for some great ideas.

Show it off
SHOW it…. just the practicality of having the screen ready to go attached to your computer is amazing. This also means that presentations by kids are low maintenance for the teacher. Since they know that they will be able use digital tools and the internet for their presentation, the students are excited about creating their presentation. The best way to get primary kids to create quality is promise them they will get to show it off. Offer Animation, powerpoints, filmed skits and anything they can present on the IWB and you will see them work.

Fill ‘er up!
My favourite use of the board is really the filler activities. In elementary school content is planned, covered and evaluated but school is build around transitions and different pacings for each student. IWBs offer endless activities to allow for catch-up, sponging and rewarding for the kids. Hangman is always a winner as is just doodling. Bill Zimmerman’s website encourages doodling and teaches kids to expland their mind through their pens with starter drawings.

Be careful!
Technology offers the temptation of consumption to many. Chris Betcher rants on his blog about the use of IWB to watch fancy content. His IWB mantra is “it’s not about what happens on the board. It’s about what happens because of what happens on the board”. So true! I have seen teachers only use the IWB as a glorified projector.

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The only question left for me is… when can I have an IWB that covers my fridge?

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