Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Blackboard......with an attitude.

In the last thirty years or so technology and innovations have infiltrated our society in some many ways. In our homes we have atomic controlled clocks to flat screen televisions to highly efficient gas furnaces--so many different items that we now take for granted. Kids now have cell phones which parents consider as a safety device even in the lower grades. And an iPod with ear buds are standard equipment for many children. One twelve year old recently wrote on his blog that his dad's Walkman was an ancient and very large audio device "...that used TAPE." And he didn't know that you could use the tape on both sides. Indeed the innovations of our time are todays artifacts of anthropology. My oh my.

BUT..... (isn't there always a "but" in these stories? Perhaps I should use "However" instead) go into many public and private schools today and you will see the blackboard still in front of the room. If it is a more well to do school district you may see a white board (dry erase white board).

However, our most progressive school districts are now opting for Interactive White Boards. As I said yesterday, teachers have a need to explain things to an entire class--writing on a blackboard has been the standard since the early nineteen hundreds. In the last fifteen or twenty years schools have replaced the blackboard with a plastic material called the white board. Less dust and easier for students to view from all parts of the room the white board was a big improvement. The one problem was that there were times when the teacher wanted to save the material for the next day or later on in the week. What to do....

Hence, the "Interactive White Board." Let's see if I can describe it adequately. It is a white board that can be connected to a computer. Therefore it can present already developed material (e.g. powerpoint presentations) or the teacher can write on the board and save it to his/her computer to again present the material another day. Writing on the board is very easy by picking up a marker and just writing. As the maker leaves its storage area, it tells the white board what color it is. A teacher can actually touch the correct storage area and write on the board with her finger. Cool.

These interactive white boards have so many possibilities that can assist the teacher in doing a better job but actually it can do a better job for the student. For example, the high school civic teacher can present the US constitution on the board. Kids can't see it in the back of the room? No problem, all the teacher has to do is hit a control button to make it bigger. Want to see a different part of the constitution? Just move it around with your finger. Another example. Let's go to the grade school this time. The fourth grade teacher puts an outline map of the United States on the board and asks a student to come up and trace the Mississippi river. Now erase the Mississippi and show the Columbia river. No problem. The original map stays visible while the teacher erases the rivers. The interactive white boards are essentially computer controlled. They can be used for front projection.

Let me digress here for a moment to explain a long ago frustration. When I use to show a movie in my grade school class I would have to get the projector set up (16mm), pull the shades, turn the lights off and start the film. IF I wanted my kids to take notes they would have to do it in the dark. Not good. So many times I would stop the film, turn lights on and tell them what sort of notes they ought to be taking. Good training on note taking but lights go on and off was not a good environment for watching a movie.

So today the white board can be used for projection of a video. If a student misses something they can instantly go back and view it one more time. OR stop the video and circle that item that you want the students to see. That is so cool--I almost want to go back to teaching just to play with this new device. If you want to see more of this type of innovation go to and see what can be done.

In honor of the Interactive White Board I am changing the formate of this blog from my beloved old blackboard (white letters on a black background) to a new white board style with black letters on a white background. It is easier to read, easier on the eyes. And we are in this blog catching up with the technology in the classroom.

If you remember your teachers writing on a blackboard to illustrate an idea for you, be sure to thank them for all the work they did. And if your school has white boards, be sure to thank the school board for taking that extra step. In any event thank a teacher today. They will appreciate it.

No comments:

Post a Comment