Tech Update: Interactive Whiteboards
In many schools, interactive whiteboards (IWBs) are the hot new technology. These boards, produced by companies such as Smart Technologies and Promethean, are becoming ubiquitous in classrooms. There is even a video on YouTube that explains how to create a low-cost interactive whiteboard using a Wii remote (see below). However, there is a potential downside to this technology. I believe that, used incorrectly, interactive whiteboards can reinforce a teacher-centered instructional model, with the IWB acting as a high-tech replacement for a blackboard.
Imagine a visual arts classroom where students are exploring different models of arts criticism. The students have the opportunity to read critical reviews written by others, and then they gather around the IWB. The teacher has prepared for the class by putting statements from the reviews into PowerPoint and projecting them on the IWB. The students look at each statement and identify it as contextual, formal, or intuitive criticism as the teacher clicks through the presentation.
Now imagine a music classroom where students are experimenting with different composition techniques. The teacher has projected a composition program on the IWB. A small group of students is working together to write a composition by dragging notes onto the staff, listening to the resulting group of notes, and giving each other feedback. The teacher stands back and listens to the comments, guiding the students’ work based on the guidelines for the assignment.
In the first example, the IWB is acting solely as a projection screen. The technology isn’t adding anything to the students’ learning experience; a blank wall would serve the same purpose as the IWB. In the second example, however, the students are using the whiteboard to experiment with rhythm and melody. The IWB allows them to take control of the composition program and manipulate sound as they receive feedback from their peers and from the teacher.
Next month, I’ll introduce a model called LoTI: Levels of Teaching Innovation. We’ll look at these two examples again using the LoTI framework, and we’ll explore the framework more fully to identify effective technology practices in the arts classroom.