Sunday, March 08, 2009

Not Only is the Jury Still Out... Court Isn't Even in Session

This is my third year at my current school. I arrived when the IWBs did. That first year I found it difficult to lead the charge because I was trying to figure out a new school, a new country, and Windows after many blissful years in Mac Land.

I thought all would be different my second year because...
- I finally had a board of my own.
- I wasn't quite so new.
- I'd been doing my reading and gathering resources.

Well, it turned out, my lab was closed most of the year and the room I taught in could accommodate the IWB or the children, but not both. And while my reading was helpful, it only took me so far. Our wonderful trainer that we brought in, Jenny Black from Tanglin Trust School, could show me excellent examples of the boards being used for higher order thinking, but I was unable to transfer those examples to my tech class.

So now we are in year three. My admin is comfortable putting boards in the rooms of teachers who want them, and has been helping me find time in next year's calendar for more training. I have a few teachers doing great things with the board. It is integral to how they teach. They aren't using it as an expensive mouse. The kids are at the board doing work. The work is captured and saved to the CMS where they can refer to it as they work on their homework. Many other teachers are using flipcharts created by a teammate. It is better than not having the board, but it is not disruptive, not leading to the revolution.

Given this history, you can see why, when someone asked me recently to explain why IWBs are so essential, I was unable to do so. It is not that I'm convinced they aren't essential, it's that we are still mostly using them in old ways to do old things. We get glimmers of new ways, but just glimmers as we scurry here and there under a pile of worthwhile but large initiatives. We spend time feeling bad we haven't put more time into IWBs.

But of course, that is just more doing old things the old way. I suspect that as long as we look at the in-service model for transformation, we'll never get there. Too often, in-services are dead ends. We need instead to look more at the Understanding by Design model, and look at where we want kids to be and work backward from there. Training staff is important, but I've found kids learn tech skills best when I don't teach them as separate skills, but embed them into projects. The point then isn't the skill, it is the project, and we get a two-for-one type of deal.

Can we do the same with IWBs and other potentially disruptive technologies? Can we quit holding in-services to get teachers up to speed, and instead, start with where we want kids to be and then pull in the tools that best help us get them there?

I don't know. I think it might work better for some. Others probably won't feel comfortable to make the shift. They'll keep wanting direct instruction, waiting until they are good enough at it to use it. Of course, they never get there.

What do you think? Could this model work better? How would you start it? I'm interested in what you have to say.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Need IWB Resources for Chinese Teachers

I'm really struggling to help our elementary Chinese teachers use their IWBs to powerfully impact student learning. They've seen people using them to present Powerpoint presentations, and they are correctly unimpressed.

I've looked through the blog posts from IWB Challenge participants and I learned a bunch from them, but my teachers are needing to see and use ready made charts.

I've check Diigo groups. I've searched Promethean Planet and found a few flipcharts that helped them. But I need more. I need to innundate them with ideas, or put them in touch with an active group. Making this more challenging, is that they don't teach writing. They are a speaking and culture class.

If you have any suggestions of where I can find the resources I'm seeking, please leave me a note in the comments.

Thank you in advance.