Electronic Whiteboards have been around for a while now but how many teachers believe they are regularly using theirs to anywhere near its full potential?
There is plenty of information available on how to use Electronic Whiteboards in the sense of the technical and IT skills involved but not so much down to earth practical advice that is teacher and subject specific. An EWB is essentially a really big touch screen. They have a lot in common with ipads and other e-tablet type systems in this respect. The major difference is, at this stage, they don’t have their own inbuilt processor/storage/network connection but this seems the most likely next logical step in their development.
First Principles: Tools Not Toys
The first problem that teachers usually encounter when they start using an EWB for classroom lessons is what I like to call the Donkey Kong dilemma. Students are used to looking at screens and manipulating interactions through them. How many of the students in your class have a Playstation, Xbox or Wii at home? They see an interactive screen and unless they have been trained and made familiar with the regular use of technologies in the classroom the first thing that goes through their heads is playtime. Once you have committed to using an EWB in your classroom you need to make its use a regular part of your teaching practice otherwise your students will disassociate it from the normal activities of classroom teaching/learning. Unfortunately in some classrooms EWB’s have already become the easy replacements for solid teaching that extraneous Videos and DVDs used to be.
Content Related Not Technology Driven
Every classroom teacher should have a syllabus that they are following. The syllabus is still one of the best program organisation tools that teachers have and perhaps the safest path to tread if you want to keep your job, especially in the public system. Many teachers when faced with using new technologies in their classroom will slot the technology into their teaching program as if it is a content area. Maths first thing on Monday and then Computers for an hour followed by Art, this instead of integrating the use of computers into Maths and Art, as it should be. Don’t timetable the use of your EWB if this is at all possible. In some schools with limited access to resources you may have no choice but it is necessary to have this mindset anyway otherwise the EWB will be used only when it is timetabled and not when it is needed as an essential tool in the teaching/learning process.
Teaching Software Applications
EWBs have, from their inception, been the absolute best tool for teaching students the use of software applications. If the computer lab is set up correctly (student workstations in rows facing the EWB at the front of the room) students can glance up from their monitor to the teacher at the EWB and copy the teacher’s instruction and demonstration on their own workstations as soon as it is given. For example: Click on this button here. Right click here to access this menu etc.
Teacher’s concerned about not being able to see student monitors with the above classroom configuration should consider purchasing a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse combination or control pad which will allow them to teach while controlling the EWB from the back of the classroom. This also eliminates the problem of the teacher inadvertently blocking a full view of the screen from students.
In both primary school and secondary subject classes, apart from being utilised as a big screen that the whole class can see, the place where EWBs really shine is in collaborative learning. This process of whole class involvement in problem solving and project creation can be an excellent tool for peer and group learning. When the EWB is used in conjunction with remote desktop sharing software such as brigit (used in NSW DEC schools) the process can happen securely across schools. Imagine, for instance, an English/Japanese lesson in which students from both Australia and Japan take turns presenting phrases for immediate translation via EWBs with linked desktops. Most EWB software also allows for the saving of these sessions for printing or later reference/review in a variety of digital formats.
Short Lists of Things to Do With Your EWB
- Annotating (text, paused video, still images, music scores etc.)
- Question/Reveal activities
- Big story books
- Interactive Games
- Video and Still Backdrops for student video and photography projects (needs a short throw projector to eliminate shadows on the screen)
- Creative Writing
- Music using sampling software
- Team quizzes (any subject)
- Brain storming
- Project Design and Development
- Desktop and Web Publishing
- Group Summaries or Critiques
- Realtime Chat with remote campuses
As stated these are only short lists. Future articles will explore some of these ideas in depth and present new ones.