Interactive whiteboards — a board connected to a computer or projector with a display that can be manipulated by a mouse, stylus, or touch screen — have been slowly replacing traditional blackboards in classrooms across the nation. While many educators tout whiteboards as powerful and necessary tools that should be in every classroom, others continue use of the traditional blackboard.
Is one really better than the other? What are some of the pros and cons of this new interactive tool? Here are some factors that can help you decide whether or not an interactive whiteboard deserves a place in your classroom.
At about $5,000 each, interactive whiteboards are not cheap, and many educators believe that students are better served by allocating funds to teacher salaries. In addition, some critics argue that interactive whiteboards are only as good as the teachers using them; by cutting salaries in favor of installing these expensive units, a school district could be in danger of losing talented and dedicated teachers.
According to Education Week, one of the biggest complaints about interactive whiteboards is that they are often underutilized by poorly trained or technically-challenged teachers. These teachers might write a few problems or assignments on using these boards, but fail to utilize any of their other features. Also, some teachers would simply rather use a blackboard or non-interactive whiteboard than a computerized display.
Using interactive whiteboards, teachers can create lessons that incorporate video, moving diagrams, and online content to help explain difficult material and to keep students engaged.
The multimedia capability of interactive whiteboards also allows teachers to convey information in many different ways. If a teacher is doing a lesson on Australia, for instance, he can show his students a map from Google Earth, PowerPoint graphs on city populations, and a National Geographic video about Australian animals. For most students, these types of lessons are a lot more interesting than a straight lecture.
Students can interact in a variety of ways with whiteboards, including writing on them, manipulating objects in matching or sorting games, or voting on answers with the help of handheld devices. Many teachers believe these types of interactions keep students interested and more engaged during lessons.
Interactive whiteboards allow teachers to showcase projects that students have created using software such as PowerPoint. These types of projects may look more impressive on a big screen, and most students enjoy seeing their work displayed in this fashion.
Interactive whiteboards are worth the price if a school has buy-in from teachers who understand their benefits and know how to use them. Low- or no-tech classroom tools can always be used, but if a school’s budget allows for technology that helps students learn, administrators should do their best to maximize the return on their investment.