A Reflection on IWBs, Mobile Devices and Support…or lack of

I read an article yesterday, written by taught.it developer Jason Orbaugh and posted by Edsurgeabout the failure of interactive whiteboards. It was interesting and did make a few valid points. However, sprinkling a bit of misleading data into the equation along with ideas to begin with serving only those that will use the technology in lieu of those that will not, left a bit of an aftertaste regarding the vision behind the article. The comments that followed via twitter missed the entire mark and immediately began to sing shouts of “bye bye to smartboards” which I imagined to sound a bit “Paul Revere-like”. As someone who spent 8 years in a school district that outfitted every classroom with IWBs, created and implemented a plan for teachers in another school, and works for a district that is trying to move towards more mobile learning options, I felt compelled to respond from my point of view.

Are We Really Focusing on Interactive Whiteboards Only?

If I wanted to write an article, drumming up conversations regarding MY product, I would pick the one topic that gets a rise out of the educational circuit as well. However, I encourage you to read the article with a new set of eyes and every time that you see the acronym “IWB”, replace it with a different technology. For example, the following is a paragraph from the Edsurge article. I’ve replaced IWB with “ipad”…

“Unfortunately, it was the enthusiastic administrator in search of a silver bullet to improve instruction who was slow to appreciate that although the IPAD carried much promise, the actual transformation was dramatically overstated. And in a classic push-and-pull scenario, the ultimate success of IPADs was dependent upon the teachers’ willingness to transform their practice. Many didn’t.”

Let’s try another sentence…

If an educator is to adopt IPAD technology in their classroom, he or she must feel some sort of ownership over its application in their practice.

If we are going to start a conversation about the downfall of any device, let’s be real and include them all because the same rules apply. If you bought it and didn’t support it, you’re doomed.

Don’t blame the whiteboards.

Mobile Devices vs IWB

I have no doubt that eventually the physicality of the IWB itself will be a thing of the past. SMART, being fully aware, is well on its way to focusing on its software and its use on any technology…period. I believe that putting the technology at the fingertips of every child is more feasible and responsible when it comes to student learning. However, the same support rules apply.

For the last few weeks, I’ve met with countless teachers with access to mobile devices and limited access to ongoing support. Their ipads are used for consumption. Chromebooks that are being dispersed about campuses will be no different. They’ll be used for web games, typing in google docs and a bit of edmodo. We have a BYOT policy which puts the right of usage in the hands of teachers, meaning that they can choose when technology is appropriate…almost always NEVER.  We also have teachers with IWBs as well as interactive projectors and I have yet to see any instances of those being used beyond a writable display either. The devices changed but approaches to teaching did not. By the way, insert the name of each of these devices into the Edsurge sentences above…no different.

The problem with IWBs and every other device isn’t stuck in the implementation but in how we support teachers beyond initial training. To be clear, it doesn’t matter what type board, display, device or technology that is being used, if it is not supported intentionally and with fidelity, it will more than likely NOT be used in a transformative manner…period.

How to Avoid the Downfall of (insert device name here)

We have to focus on pedagogy. Sending teachers to training to learn basics of a device does little to support them in where that technology fits into their instruction. You can hire the best trainer on earth but if that teacher does not understand the mechanics of student learning, instructional design and delivery…you are almost certainly guaranteeing a failure in usage. If that training is not ongoing development with buy-in in the form of teacher voice and reflection, you are most certainly guaranteeing failure in usage.

In other words…focusing on the device itself is a huge mistake. Focusing on how the device fits into the learning process AND providing sustainable support helps teachers, reluctant or not, increase their likelihood of successful integration.

With that said, especially when it comes to mobile devices, we should all be focusing on the one component that seems to go untapped in the majority of purchases…STUDENTS.

What device, if any, works best for them? What do they want? How can we better support them in their learning? Where does the device fit into that equation?

In essence, if we are moving with the tides of education….all matters of technology, including devices should be centered on what is best for learners.



Comments 2

  1. This is a great post Rafranz! Thanks for contributing to what I believe is an important conversation.

    1. Post

      It is an important conversation. The problem with this conversation though, is that people get stuck in the device itself and in most cases, that is in smartboards, promethean, mimio or others. We don’t always consider the ramifications of how our lack of development exceed a singular system but applies to all. I just felt that the message needed to be clearer to that point. Thank you for starting this discussion. Now let’s continue to work on the solution.

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