Thursday, October 06, 2005

Term 3 Overview

Well, we started off the term with the promise of our interactive whiteboards and we've ended up with something with more potential and scope then we could have hoped for. We held a very successful Staff Development Day where the team members drove the day (see my post A Highly Productive Day) and we scratched the surface of the possibilities our boards could give us in the classroom. So this post is to touch on some of the milestones throughout this term and put my spin on them. Maybe team members might feel inspired to post a comment, put me straight on a few things or blog their version of events.
Actually getting the boards installed was a major undertaking. I had to liase with the ActivBoard suppliers at Commander, the installation company while considering the aesthetic and technical requirements to make the whole scenario work. Remember, no-one really knew what this would look like. When I described to Steve, our on call technician what I wanted as a working solution for the laptop set-up, he was also using intelligent guesswork as he hadn't seen a school with ActivBoards before and didn't know how the connections to our network should be made. The laptops also had their fun moments especially when I thought they were defective but I just hadn't stumbled onto the correct resolution for the data projectors. Note to any schools going down this path and you want to use notebook/laptops for your computer link to the ActivBoard, don't go for widescreen. Well, the first one was installed into Learning Area 21 and we had our training from Peter Kent and I know my head was buzzing from that session. I think the frustrating part was that most of you guys didn't have a board yet or the ActivStudio software to play around with. Then it turned out that the laptops needed insurance before they could leave the school grounds! Anyway, looking back at my digital notes from that day I recalled the following points:
- configure USB port (this process is actually on the CD-ROMs that came with the board)
- board calibration (once every two or three months)
- ActivStudio toolbar - TRAINING BOOKLET learn the software go through the tutorials to gain a specific level of competency
- stores a history of sequential flipcharts
- ideal viewing is Yellow font on blue background - minimum font size 24.
add ons for the AlB - microphones, multimedia speakers
The USB port isn't an issue that will bother most teachers unless they stick the USB link to the board in a new port. The board calibration is an important thing to remember as I've a couple of callouts where the flipchart window couldn't be closed but on close examination the cursor was about 2/3 cm away from the point of the pen. That's a calibration issue and you just re-calibrate using the appropriate tool from the palette. Now the availability of the tutorial booklets has been a sticking point - we only got two (or three?) and I've had plenty of requests for extra copies. I was assured that a pdf copy would be e-mailed to me last week from Commander so you could print or use it from the file. Personally, the lack of a tutorial/ training manual isn't an issue as I can learn a heap more from playing with the ActivBoard, but I realise not everyone prefers or learns that way. The preferred colour note is interesting because I trialled a few colour combinations with my Maths Group to see what they preferred. They ended up telling me that lime green font on a black background is superb to look at but it could be just that is a cool colour combination that doesn't measure up optically! Also, I bought a pair of multimedia speakers which have been trialled by a few teachers. Annabel was less than impressed when she viewed a German DVD with her class but a "digital native" informed me that the sound was down because the laptops sound settings were set too low. See. we're learning from them all the time.
Anyway by mid-term we had all boards installed and all but Meredith's in the Science Room up and running. Hers turned out to be a connector problem, sorted out eventually by the installers. This was frustrating for her as we were looking forward to our Staff Development Day, she was under pressure to report back to the powers that be on the progress on her Science Grant and she hadn't even conducted a working lesson involving the ActivBoard. Team members, don't forget to support her via her blog New Wave Science - post a comment, give her a link, offer to review some of her research.
One big issue I touched on the training day was the need for us to show the way for our fellow staff members. Some of them are still unaware of how the whole interactive whiteboard thing works (can I come and play with it sometime?), some want to be ready for the next rollout in 2006 and a bit of awareness raising on our part on how big and steep the learning curve won't go astray. They are watching us with interest and we have that responsibility to keep them up to date with realistic, not idealistic, information. We have to think of ways to give them hands on experiences which we, in a lot of ways, didn't get. We are the digital pioneers and I have seen a lot of really great stuff from all of you just in passing or in professional conversations around the school.
One last thing before I finally wind this post up. I think that being accountable and documenting our learning journey is really important as we go. Being time poor, I think this blog is the best way for all of us to have a conversation that is not dependent on all of us being in the same room at the same time. I am really thrilled to see that several of us have started their own blogs and can see value in this two way technology tool. Our colleagues can then read up on our findings, frustrations, check our resources and be part of documentation that is living. Please contribute any little bits you can to ActivBoarding and make it part of your week to either post, read or comment on this blog. My thoughts and ideas will get pretty boring after a while if others don't put in their point of view. As Marg has said in her blog digital immigrant - It certainly was food for thought pointing out that it wasn't much good if we used technology such as the active boards to produce vamped up versions of old curriculum.
Thanks, Marg - couldn't have put it better myself.

2 Comments:

At 8:11 am, Blogger Graham said...

Graham, I've also been using IWBs, so was particularly interested to find your blog - will be keeping an eye on it - I take it the IWBs you're talking about use ATIVStudio 2 and are made by Promethean? Or am I wrong?

 
At 9:28 pm, Blogger Graham said...

You are correct. We've had six installed in August this year and are hoping to purchase and install another six in 2006. Not too bad for a primary school with 18 classes and 480 kids. I actually originally tracked your blog via a Technorati search for "interactive whiteboard" and "activboard". I'm still blown away by the opportunity to link up and interact with educators all over the world. This is way better than merely browsing the Promethean forums for ideas and issues.

 

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