(See more of my series about the smarty pants board at Boolean Squared)
Since the start of school last year, I have had a Promethean Interactive Board in my classroom, but you would never know that it was an interactive device. It was a nice projector. An expensive projector. Whenever we watched videos, it was like having your own little movie theater in the classroom. It was a beautiful experience.
But it wasn’t interactive. The pen was in my desk and I did everything on the computer.
Writing this post makes me feel guilty, given how much I explore technology, but I wasn’t all that impressed with the possibilities of the whiteboard. There were also some issues with the pen that goes with the board, and a connection error that popped up from time to time. I could have figured it out, I suppose, but instead, I sort of just blocked out a desire to learn at some point. That’s my mea culpa here. I had a piece of technology that our school invested in and I sort of avoided learning how to use it, even though right down the hallway, my science colleague quickly became a master of using her board for interactive activities and she was completely open to showing anyone how to use it. I felt even more guilt in June when our principal announced he wanted to see the upper grade classrooms all using the voting system for a lesson plan that he would observe. Yikes. (He got too busy … so he never made the rounds, but his message was clear to us that he wanted to see results of the investment. It was a kick to the seat of the pants that I needed, that’s for sure. Suddenly, I began wondering about the board in a new way.)
So, what was up with me? Was I scared of the interactive board? (naw, although it could be frustrating at times when it didn’t work quite right). Was I feeling strange being the one to ask for help around technology when usually it is the other way around? (maybe, a bit … maybe more than a bit?). Did I even give the thing a try to see how I might use it? (only a chance and little more) Was I not sure how it might fit into my ELA curriculum? (that’s part of it). Was there not enough professional development with the purchase of the board? (yes, not enough)
This summer, I decided that I could not let an expensive interactive board spend another year as a glorified video projector. When my science colleague offered a morning of tutorials this summer, I jumped at the chance to learn more about using it for Activotes with our voting devices, and containers for grouping ideas, and a few other things. I dove in, and promised myself I would give this board a chance to show me some things.
So far, so good.
I have already used the interactive board for a voting activity around literary devices that sparked some interesting discussions; used the containers for a lesson around building supporting details around a topic sentence: and I designed a vocabulary review lesson that seemed to have helped bring the words into my students’ heads in a different way. I’ve had kids writing, drawing, adding content to prompts, and all sorts of things. The students do love to use it and do seem engaged in the activities. A few students asked if we could do our vocabulary quizzes on the board, instead of on paper, telling me they think they would do better that way. I’m not so sure about that.
I still have a ways to go in this relationship with the whiteboard. Next, I need to start using the data generated by the student’s votes to see who really is getting a concept and who is not, and I need to keep using the tools I know how to use and adding new ones as the year progresses so that the board can keep adding another layer of possibilities for my students. I don’t want to lose what I have learned through inactivity. And maybe there are more tools and possibilities that I just don’t know about yet. In fact, I am sure about that.
I’m still not convinced of all of the claims of an interactive board transforming the classroom learning experiences. And I am not really sure the money invested in boards is quite worth it, given the high needs of all sorts of areas (our school could use more math and ELA support teachers and I wonder how many of my colleagues in the building were doing what I was doing — using the board as only a projector), but at least I can walk in the classroom each morning without the guilt I felt of looking at this expensive board hanging on my wall. I’m making a place for it in my curriculum.
Peace (in the confession),