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Back to (Blackboard) Basics?


Next year, the amount of federal, state, and local money American school districts will spend on high-tech classroom devices will hit an astonishing $16 billion, and one in every three classrooms will sport an interactive whiteboard. A recent Washington Post article asks if this is tax money wisely spent. The boom in ed-tech gadgetry results from a flood of federal dollars, heavy-duty marketing by manufacturers, and the widespread notion that embracing these technologies is the only way to prepare kids for a 21st-century life. And manufacturers, the Post notes, are quick to point to research that they claim proves the technology is doing the job.

Critics, however, are just as ready to note that much of that industry-sponsored research is less than convincing, and that gizmos only make classrooms different, but not necessarily better. Some naysayers, the Post says, claim that whiteboards lock teachers into teaching big groups of students by lecture, a 19th-century instructional method that runs counter to more recent theories that support small-group lessons.

The Post reporter monitored a history class in a suburban Fairfax County high school and didn’t find the kids particularly engaged by a whiteboard-based lesson. Still, teachers tend to love whiteboards, the article reports. Chris Dede, a Harvard education expert, told the Post that manufacturers purposely designed whiteboards to suit the instructional method — lectures — that most teachers perfer. The companies, he says, are “just doing what a capitalist society tells them to do.”

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One Response to “Back to (Blackboard) Basics?”

  1. Note that whatever is done on an INTERACTIVE whiteboard can be digitally saved. This can be done as a complete narrated movie, or as sequential .pdf documents.
    This is remarkable easy to do of course, by a teacher OR a student..

    DELIVER this saved work over the internet via a learning management system (Blackboard, Angel, Moodle) and the nature of the content becomes MORE than whole group instruction and opens up many possibilities, including:

    1. ARCHIVED availabilty for review from any web-accessible computer (and for some, mobile device);
    2. IMMEDIATE access for homebound or sick students who missed a day of in-class instruction;
    3. SHARING this work across courses, schools, and/or geographic areas;
    4. having STUDENTS CREATE such “board work” also.

    Seeing the whiteboards as replacement for a simple blackboard is not seeing the evolving, transforming nature of a classroom containing this technology, hooked to other technologies, and used in ways our students would expect them to be used!

    Of course, if a teacher ONLY uses this to replace an existing blackboard or NON-interactive whiteboard for whole group instruction, then the premise of your article makes sense.

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