The Interactive White Board is emerging as a useful tool for the classroom for teacher input to the whole class. But it’s easy (as always) to develop a view on the form factor (It’s a must-have tool / its too expensive, etc) rather than on what it is capable to achieve inside the classroom.
Like any other tool, it is only as good as the outcomes it can produce in a classroom. Hence the right questions to ask are -‘Does it increase engagement of students in the classroom? Does it improve understanding and retention of concepts? Does it improve the critical thinking skills of students?’
But all this shall not happen on its own. It has to be orchestrated as an overall programme with well defined timelines, mea-surement and course correction (if required). It is important to carry all stakeholders in this journey, including parents and school management. There is a tipping point for technology in classrooms, at which point a critical mass of teachers have started experiencing the benefits of technology and are able to assume the role of attracting other teachers towards their approach.
We are excited about Interactive technology in the hands of the teacher. It empowers teachers with newer ways to engage the minds of students. We have been deploying this technology for over 7 years now in classrooms. We have developed over 50,000 lessons to be used by the teachers on the Board. We have researched the key factors that impact assimilation of technology into the teaching-learning process in schools/ with individual teachers. The dominant cluster of issues includes school end leadership, expertise in teacher training and ongoing support during implementation.
There are some pitfalls to avoid. Using technology is essential in the early stages, its important to give hands-on experiences with the Board to teachers, so that they do not remain arm chair critics. The initial success is because of the fact that the White Boards are reliable and easy to use and in continuity to the existing chalk and talk method. Thus, teachers are enthusiastic about the possibilities of technology and are inspired to use ICT often in curriculum delivery. The single large visual focal point in the classroom is a strong magnet to attract and retain student attention and motivation towards the lesson.
But using the Board in the classroom is no guarantee for a sound pedagogy. The sound pedagogical principles have to be built on top of the basic functionality of the Board. Making the class to think, involving them in collaborative work, correlating the curriculum to the student’s daily life have to be fostered by the creative use of software functionalities on the Interactive Board. It is important to help teachers use the pace and flow of lesson delivery through the use of ready-made models/diagrams/animations, so that time can be freed up for teachers to focus on discovery based learning scenarios in their classes. Overall, the Board is a great tool for the constructivist educator.
On popular demand, we have now extended our professional development programme on ICT integration to individual teachers. More than 10,000 teachers in over 200 schools have already benefited from our immersive approach to ICT integration in the teaching-learning process. Teachers also get access to our rapidly growing community of practitioners who share ideas and best practices from their classroom experiences. The subject workshops allow teachers from a particular subject to discuss software approaches for their respective lessons in greater detail. Other training modules include the one on leveraging the Internet in classrooms and for student homework/projects and assignments.
Above all, we believe there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach at work here. It is better to inform the teachers about the creative possibilities of crafting engaging/visual and interactive lesson plans, to give them raw material to build such lessons and then allow them to make final choices on how best to create the lesson and to involve the students in the classroom. This choice has to be with the teacher.
The author is an expert in educational technology and the co- founder and CEO of classteacher Learning Systems.