Sunday, May 20, 2007

IWBs as a Panacea?

In the rush to prepare students for finals and make sure everything is in order for end-of-year celebrations, I've been inattentive to the blog. The number of posts waiting in Google Reader from Miguel Guhlin is mind-boggling.

Still, a story appeared in our local paper a bit ago and it worried me a bit. You can read the whole story here.

Two aspects of the story me worry me.

Sarasota County has spent an estimated $12 million on purchasing an interactive white board for every classroom in the county. The intent was to roll out the first wave of installs to those teachers who most wanted the boards so that they could then assist those teachers who were more resistant to the new tool. This was mostly how it worked out. To be sure, there are some boards out there in the classrooms of teachers still hesitant to post their attendance online let alone give up their overhead projectors.

The fact that the newspaper took notice of what's going on in the classrooms excited me.
What worried me, made me cringe really, was this:
What is not clear is whether the Activboard will be a panacea for public schools, boosting the graduation rate or closing the achievement gap.
Let me solve the puzzle. Under no circumstances will the mere presence of ActivBoards act as a "panacea" for lagging test scores or troubling graduation rates. That is similar to implying that students' ability to read will improve simply because there are new books in the classroom. As with any other tool, the ActivBoards' potential will only be reached when teachers explore their own potential to utilize the boards as educational tools. Implying otherwise is frighteningly wreckless.

More frustrating still was our union exec's quote a few paragraphs later "...the fact of the matter is, technology so far has not been shown to have a tremendous impact."

I'm fairly certain we can't blame the technology.

Doug Gilliland, a tremendously inspiring high school science teacher and a colleague of mine, is quoted later in the article saying, "How well will they use it? I don't know. I think it will be like other teaching tools. Some teachers will grab on and run with it, and others will do the bare minimum."

This too worries me. It worries me because we are part of a system where Mr. Gilliland's prediction can come true.

The answer is an uncomfortable one for those in education who see the roles of teacher and student as mutually exclusive - we must raise the expectations for teachers.

Expectations for teacher, not just student, achievement must be higher than ever before if we are to serve our communities well.

I do not mean this in the context of standardized testing or any of its ugly stepsisters. I mean this in the context of personally guided exploration. Or, as Will Richardson put it a while ago, "It's the Empowerment, Stupid!"

Teachers must take the reigns and begin to direct their own learning. While it would be easy to let an IWB sit in a classroom unused and complain about a lack of training, it is also lazy.

How do you motivate teachers to own their learning? Anyone?

More later.

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