It’s Not About the Board

My friend, Karen Chichester, first turned me on to the possibilities of podcasts as professional development after reading her blogpost on the subject. I don’t have quite the commute as Karen, but I still manage to listen to a few podcasts each week. The very first podcast I subscribed to was the EdTech Classroom podcast which Karen co-hosts with Joe Wood and Burt Lo, two California educators.

Today, on a drive home from the airport,  I listened to Season 2, Episode 10. One of the topics was interactive white boards (IWB), p best known by the brand names SmartBoard or Promethean Board. Joe’s district is in the midst of an large IWB implementation. One facet of the implementation is ABUG or Active Board User Group. The goal of this group is to really dig in to the nuts and bolts of instruction using the technology. The have a rubric based on the mnemonic It’s Not About The Board in which each letter stands for a facet of instruction. This really spoke to me, so I listened to it again at home and took some notes*. (More or less direct quotes of Joe.)

Interactivity: “making sure the lessons are truly interactive, not teachers being ‘sage on the stage’ students are coming up to the board,”etc.

Nonlinguistic Representation: graphic organizers, multimedia graphics, and students are actually doing things with the graphics—sorting, organizing, etc.

Assessment: incorporating formative assessments into the lessons (e.g., through student response system AKA clickers) “targeting higher-order thinking skills, not just regurgitation of facts.”

Teaching Strategies: “looking at the board as a tool to take your teaching to the next level.”

Be Cognizant of Design: are the “cool things” you can do with the board (moving things around, etc.) really helping the student learning goal? (Burt noted: “It’s the teacher equivalent of students using all the sound effects and bullet noises in PowerPoint.”) Don’t be “stuck in the software.” If it’s appropriate for the lesson, then do it. Lesson design elements like “visually stimulating lessons that are truly multi-media” (i.e. incorporating web links, sounds, images); only present core content and use visual cues to highlight important information (key words, vocabulary); chunking content for appropriate pacing.

This podcast is timely for me for two reasons. Just last week I had a conversation with some colleagues as we were working on our Title I/school improvemnent plan, and in our dialogue about technology, I said “using the computer is not necessarily using technology.” This idea is something I have come to understand through conversations on Twitter through #edchat, but had a hard time explaining. The ABUG acronym does it quite nicely!

The second reason my ears perked up over this conversation is that over the next two years, every classroom in my district will have an IWB installed. Being the tech geek I am, I’m excited about it. But on a more important level, I really want to think deeply about how IWBs can impact the work I do with teachers to improve student reading and writing. One of the things I’m doing in the meantime is collecting sites and tagging them in diigo and delicious.

UPDATE 2-17-10: Thanks to Joe Wood for commenting and providing the url to the ABUG site, which I linked above.

[*I used the earbuds from my ipod shuffle and used the pause button–quite handy for note-taking!]

7 thoughts on “It’s Not About the Board

  1. So, this is my fault that you listen to us. LOL.

    Thanks for listening. I am glad that you gained useful insights from Joe’s discussion of his district’s IWB professional development.

    I find that I learn more from doing the podcast with Burt and Joe than just about anywhere else. That’s why I keep doing this. One day I hope to actually be in a room with the them.

    Thanks again.

  2. What this post really points out is the power of the teacher. Great teachers, with or without an IWB make a difference in the lives of their students and the points made in your post really underscore that. My concerns relative to the IWB are not with talented teachers, because I think they see them as just one of many tools at their disposal. My concerns with IWB’s are two fold:
    1. They keep kids and classes tethered to their classrooms.
    2. They don’t provide the ubiquitous connectivity that other tools do. For the price of an IWB, computer and projector (~$1,500) a classroom could purchase a bunch of itouches, each of which could be connected to the web. The IWB and connected computer only provide one conduit to the world.

  3. Linda-

    Thanks for the post and shout out. I would be happy to share our “Its Not About The Board” rubric/checklist via email. Just let me know if you would like a copy. Yesterday I actually spent the day preparing for our next ABUG meeting which is focused around the question, “How can we use classroom response systems as formative assessment tools?” This meeting will be centered around learning goals, formative assessment, feedback events, and accountable talk (Lauren Resnick). I’d be happy to send you that checklist/rubric too. I’ll try and post all of our resources on the ABUG site as I generate them.

    I would agree with Tony, that honestly its all about the teacher and pedagogy. Technology allows certain instructional strategies to work more effectively, but a teacher who has the tools, but lacks the instructional background will be dead in the water. At the heart of our Promethean Learning Plan is the idea that we have to build both teacher technical and pedagogical knowledge. We used the “sweetspot” factors identified by the Marzano Research Laboratory, along with the TPACK framework and Puentedura’s work on the phases of technology integration to form our plan. While our plan focused on IWBs, the structure of the plan would work quite well for any technology tool.

    I would also agree with Tony that IWBs are very pricey. A full set up (board, projector, speakers, and classroom response system) runs about $5K-$6K. For teachers like me (and I assume you too) who are comfortable with student-centered technology and understand the instructional strategies that must be employed when using these tools, installing an IWB might be a waste of money. However, we have found in our district that IWBs are a gateway from no-tech teaching to teaching with student technology. Our most successful technology implementations have been at our schools that started with IWBs and then a year later added student technology. I used to teach at one of the schools that started with student technology (1:1 Macbooks for all students) and added IWBs later. That implementation has had many bumps in the road and most of it was due to the steep learning curve that takes place when you move from no technology to every student having a computer. There are huge psychological and pedagogical shifts that take place when this happens. Some teachers are prepared (they tend to be flexible, student-centered teachers), while others get very, very frustrated and make a return to worksheets and textbooks. I think its interesting iPod Touches came up in this conversation. We have two schools with iPod Touch carts. They haven’t really taken off.

    If you enjoy reading I would suggest the two books below

    The Interactive Whiteboard Revolution by Betcher & Mai
    This particular book opened by eyes to IWBs. I have to admit I was a bit biased against them before reading the book.

    Teaching with Classroom Response Systems by Derek Bruff
    Great ideas for using CR systems for more than just quizzes.

  4. Thanks, Joe, for stopping by! Yet again you put into words something I was thinking about. I, too agree with Tony that it is ultimately about the teacher, and IWB installations are expensive. And, you nailed it with your comment about the learning curve and psychological/pedagogical paradigm shifts which must occur. I also think about the COWs (Computers on Wheels AKA laptop cart) in some of our buildings which are now out of warranty, laptops with dieing batteries, etc. With larger class sizes, even 3 laptops out of commission can throw a wrench into 1-1; teachers get frustrated with not having enough equipment for the students, and therefore, the carts aren’t used as much as they could be. 🙁 [UPDATE: Batteries are (being) replaced in the laptops!]

  5. Oh, Karen, I have “better” things to blame on you! It was that post of yours (therefore your fault! lol) that pushed me to buy my ipod Touch! And a little later my flip. 😉 All kidding aside, as much fun as I have with my itouch, I really love the ability to tap into limitless knowledge. So, from the bottom of my brain and heart, I thank you!

  6. Yes! Has to start with the purpose then the tool, and the tool needs to add something to the lesson (hopefully an addition that engages, motivates, and increases learning).
    I have been putting together SMART Board resources (although many of these can be used with other IWBs) on my wiki that others are starting to add to-
    Good luck!

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