Interactive Whiteboards: Students at the Center
What we have found throughout our research is that students using an interactive whiteboard (have increased) interest and enthusiasm for learning because our students are tech-age babies and technology is a part of their everyday lives, so it makes sense to incorporate it into their classroom environment. — Iwona
Like many schools, the Donahue School has invested in interactive whiteboards, and like many schools, it has not necessarily followed up with professional development for teachers on how to use those boards. While that kind of professional development was outside of this particular grant purview, a number of the teachers involved in the SEED grant wanted help figuring out how to use the school’s new SMART boards for writing instruction.
It would be untrue to say that the PD sessions took full advantage of the possibilities of the Interactive Boards, partly due to infrastructure difficulties and firewall issues, but a series of activities designed to break the ice around their use helped support a collaboration of two teachers whose inquiry project examined the potential of engaging students with interactive board activities.
The main message, and the emphasis of these activities, was to put the board in the hands of the learners, not the teachers, and that was a message that resonated through the reflections of the educators. So, for example, using Draw a Stickman to talk about character and plot development involved teachers, somewhat reluctantly, at the board, drawing items to move the story along. That reluctance said a lot about the misperceptions of the whiteboard as a place for experts, instead of all learners.
The use of the interactive board within the safe confines of our professional development sessions allowed some of these teachers to finally have time to experiment with the device beyond use as a projection screen, ask questions about possibilities and work through some of the technical issues they faced in implementing their inquiry project.
A few inquiry collaborators also took advantage of the mini-grant option to purchase interactive whiteboard materials for their projects by buying a series of titles and software-based lessons from which to choose from with their own students.
But it was not just these teachers who worked to integrate the SMART board into their classroom instruction. Other teachers also began to explore how the boards might be a collaborative tool for classroom learning and instruction, opening up the door for more student-engaged practice with technology. This became evident during the presentation phase of the course, as almost all teachers showed increased comfort with the SMART board as a tool for sharing with the cohort.