Home > General, Personal > Are Interactive Whiteboards all that useful?

Are Interactive Whiteboards all that useful?


This is a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now. Our school is one of the first, if not the first to have every classroom kitted out with data projectors and SMART Boards in South Africa. Each class has also has a fixed computer with full network access, as well as speakers and a DVD drive. It’s often used as a marketing hook, and the school takes pride in the fact.

In theory, this should and often does produce a rich multimedia experience in lessons. It far outstrips a plain whiteboard, stuffy notes and a teacher that may drone if the subject is a dry one. It certainly beats the old static overhead projector! However, on the flipside, I think that too many teachers rely on this thing as an essential tool, without making backup plans in case of power cuts, tech issues and so on. A teacher should be able to continue teaching the lesson even if the board conks in during the middle of a lesson.

Many a time, we have had a projector go down, board act weirdly or some other issue that prevents a teacher from using the board for a period. All of a sudden when that happens, the teachers become lost and have no idea what to do. In some cases, some classes don’t even have plain whiteboards in them anymore, so the teacher can’t even use that.  Usually we try to minimize the delay as much as possible, but sometimes the factors are out of our hands.

I’ve also seen that the IWB’s make more sense in some subjects than others. Maths, science, geography and biology greatly benefit from it, but subjects such as languages, history, accounting and so on don’t have such a benefit, at least in my view. Often, the board is used more as a projection screen than anything else. Kids also sometimes see the board as a novelty, and after a while they no longer pay attention.

I’ve read that in UK schools, they have hit a similar issue where they have thrown all this technology into the class, but students don’t necessarily do any better. In many cases the tech even goes unused because the teacher isn’t skilled enough to use it. We haven’t hit such a point in our school yet, but I can’t help but wonder if and when we will.

In the end, I’m still a bit ambiguous about the whole concept. I know that it would have made a difference in some subjects when I was in high school, but in others not. Taken into account the fairly high maintenance cost and extra electricity used, it again leaves me wondering. Technology definitely has its place in the class, but I think it comes down again to how well teachers are using it, and if it really makes a difference. If a school is going to pour money into IWB’s at the expense of textbooks or other crucial areas, the whole benefit of the IWB becomes a moot point.

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