I got a ton of responses from teachers — and others — about interactive whiteboards and other classroom technology for my article today. Here are a few bits I had to leave on the cutting room floor:
There was no shortage of opinions — and strong ones! Karen Bringas, a third grade teacher at Sandburg Elementary, was wowed by the boards:
Our third grade students have literally soaked up knowledge! Students are able to work as a whole class, using “interactive flipcharts” and continue in small group, or independently work with their netbooks. They are motivated and enthusiastic participants. … As teachers, we are facilitators. Students learn by “doing” and not just by “watching or listening.” Our teaching styles have changed, as technology has become a huge part of our planning. New strategies for teaching = new and exciting ways to learn. “Hopping on board” is NOT an option — it is mandatory and exciting for the future of our students.
On the other end of the spectrum, several teachers who were critical of the technology did not want to give their names because they were worried that they would be evaluated by their principals based on how they used the tools.
Others were excited about the new technology but worried about its future. Caroline Morse, who leads the math department at Montgomery Middle School, had been using an interactive board for years and said it transformed her work. But she fretted about what would happen if the stylus — what teachers touch the screen with — or other parts of the board broke. Community members who are overseeing the school renovation bond that is paying for the technology have the same worry.
There is “a real fear that we’ll enjoy them for a period of time and then they will be shelved when the repairs or replacements cannot be done,” she wrote.
Darryl LaGace, the district’s chief information and technology officer, said most of the technology has a warranty of three years or more, and the boards have lasted as long as 15 years in other school districts. That three years is a onetime deal — you can’t just keep replacing a stylus every three years, for instance — but because the technology is being installed in schools one grade at a time, the warranties won’t expire all at once.
Interactive whiteboards have been a hot topic for researchers. One recent study by academics from the University of Illinois, Kent State University and the Research Center for Education Technology found that students whose teachers used the digital tools had slightly higher — but “minimally meaningful” — performance gains. Getting the tech didn’t make a huge difference by itself. But there were significant differences between the results when teachers who took greater advantages of the capabilities of the whiteboard.
It boils down to the same thing that Bruce Braciszewski from the Classroom of the Future Foundation told me: Technology is as good as the way it’s used. That means that teacher training — and support — will be crucial.
— EMILY ALPERT