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...Interactive Whiteboards Are A Waste of Money

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

We don’t buy a chain saw for every teacher. If we did, a few teachers would do brilliant work with the chain saws, a few others would cut off their thumbs, and the vast majority would just make a mess. Even in the case of the great teachers, the best we can hope for is one of those bears carved out of a log—not high art. - Gary Stager

I had SportsCenter on this morning before school, and was quite amused by a segment featuring Marcellus Wiley, an ex-NFL’er, current NFL analyst for the network. He was trying to break down and rank the QB’s who are in the playoffs which begin this weekend, but failed miserably, because instead of the graphics department preloading a package for him and throwing them up on the screen as he spoke, he stood beside an interactive white board (IWB) and klutzed around with it like an idiot.

It’s still too soon, I guess for that clip to have made it to YouTube, but I did find this clip featuring Todd McShay having identical problems as he broke down last year’s NFL draft (with comedic break ins from the movie “Boogie Nights”):

I’d normally use this post, at this point, to rant at length about why IWB’s are pointless in a classroom, but I’ll instead defer to this article from which I took the above quote from Gary Stager, who crystalizes my thoughts on the matter much more eloquently.

I will add this, however. I’ve been to technology conferences, education conferences, and technology in education conferences all over the country, and I promise you that every single presentation in which an IWB was used (even by reps from the IWB companies) the presenter had some degree of the problems you just watched. How in the world is this engaging to students and not simply a huge distraction?

In my own district, I’ve experienced the attempt to make mandatory the use of these tools, sometimes to the point where other worthy software was withheld unless the teacher agreed to also allow the installation of an IWB. Thousands were spent on these devices without any general discussion with classroom teachers on their desire for them, and in a couple of cases against the objections of a few individual teachers they did ask.

Before you simply dismiss this as the ravings of a technophobic teacher, understand that I have been at the tip of the spear for the last seven years in my district, prodding us into the 21st century and encouraging the integration of technology into education. What I object to is the reckless top-down purchase of these expensive products to satisfy the whim of people far from the classroom.

Now I’m sure it’s easy to cite an anecdotal example or two to challenge my feeling about these things, and I’m sure there are some areas (special ed) where these devices are being put to good use. But that hardly justifies the millions wasted on IWB’s. In the best case those IWB’s go unused. Otherwise, they tend to reinforce the weakest pedagogical impulses at a time when schooling is already too arbitrary, uniform and teacher-centric.

I know that this will probably not be very popular with my educator colleagues, especially in districts who are forced to make millions in cuts. But y’know? There are cases where schools are wasting money.

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