Could Your Regular Whiteboard Do That?

student-at-smart-board

Anyone old enough to remember the transition from chalkboards to whiteboards in their classroom would likely rank this upgrade closely in importance with the widespread move from overhead projectors (and all those transparencies) to sophisticated document cameras. Between these two additions to the classroom, conveying information to students never seemed easier. And then came the interactive whiteboard. A new technology that perfectly married whiteboard functionality with computer and document camera use. While some teachers leapt at the potential of interactive whiteboards, others viewed them more skeptically. After all, are they more than just glorified chalkboards?

Bill Ferriter is one such teacher unconvinced that interactive whiteboards are worth the thousands of dollars spent installing them in classrooms. In his article, Ferriter offers a diatribe against interactive whiteboards, arguing that they do little to promote student discovery and collaborative work, which essentially renders them an expensive way to teach the way teachers have always taught. However, Ferriter’s argument rests on an assumption that the teacher using a given whiteboard has no knowledge of how to use it and no desire to spend the time or energy finding ways to make interactive whiteboards a meaningful addition to the classroom. Granted, Mr. Ferriter wrote this article in 2010, and perhaps he has come to recognize the value of this technology since then. Either way, let’s take a look at all of the benefits afforded teachers by interactive whiteboards.

For math teachers specifically, interactive whiteboards, in conjunction with document cameras, broaden the scope of questions that can be addressed. Because interactive whiteboards enable teachers and students to write “on top of” whatever image is on the screen, teachers can take pictures to create their own problems. For example, a teacher might take a picture of a house, then using his interactive board overlay the picture with gridlines so students can find the slope of the roof. Alternatively, teachers might use their document camera to enable students to share their work with the class. Interactive boards are advantageous here because they allow teachers to annotate on student’s work on the board without actually writing on the student’s paper. Interactive boards also enable teachers to meaningfully incorporate tasks that involve graphing calculators with software programs that emulate interactive graphing calculators on the screen.

These examples only eclipse the many ways in which interactive boards can engage students in learning. Dick and Hollebrands (2011) maintain that the value of technology lies in the new questions it affords teachers. By this criteria, interactive whiteboards have earned their place in the classroom because they enable teachers to ask innovative questions that promote student discovery and collaboration.

Reference

Dick, T. P., & Hollebrands, K. F. (2011). Focus in high school mathematics: Technology to

support reasoning and sense making. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of

Mathematics.

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