Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Whole School Change via IWB

The ActivBoard Pioneers were lucky enough to get some more advanced training from Commander's new trainer based in Melbourne. She came out and gave pairs of teachers some new technical skills to improve their own repertoire - embedding video, layering etc. We also had our first initial touch base meeting with our Flinders University contact who will work with us in acion research to produce a case study of our IWB journey. The key to this research seems to be the question, "Can interactive whiteboards assist in whole school change for learners and pedagogy?" I may not have worded that correctly but the gist of it all is that there is quite a bit of evidence and research that showcases the improvement in individual teacher's skills and documentation on individual class achievement but the whole school improvement could be unchartered waters, particularly here in Australia. There is also the point of IWB's being promoted as a teaching tool by their vendors and some schools (which is certainly important) but is there potential for this technology to become a learning tool for students as well? I am really looking forward to this research study and accessing expertise that I certainly don't have and getting an outside perspective of what my school is trying to achieve and how we can measure that achievement. Exciting times ahead.

Monday, March 20, 2006

ActivBoarding's New Toy

Added a visitor's map a little while back to see if anyone was still reading this blog, and the results are very encouraging! Visitors from Canada, Melbourne, Kentucky and London. So I'll keep plugging away - maybe this will inspire the other Contributors to maybe contribute!

Friday, March 10, 2006

IWB Pioneers Answer Back

On Tuesday, our pioneer teachers met with leadership to assess where they were at with their progress in their use of our ActivBoards. I've already blogged my responses prior to the meeting and I was looking forward to hearing from the others. Unfortunately, Meredith, our Science teacher was ill so hopefully, maybe she can blog her responses on this blog. (Especially as she has been quoted as saying this site has potential!) So, in summary, here are my notes from that meeting. If anyone from that meeting feels that I've been inaccurate in my recollection, let me know via the comments. And we'd all be keen for any other IWB users world wide for their responses to our questions - an open invitation here or at Teaching Generation Z.
1. Why do you feel that IWB's are an important step towards our school's vision of "up-to-date-technology"?
The pioneers felt that the IWB enagages kids through the use of visuals. Using a diagram or a highlighter pen is much better than on a traditional whiteboard. Our junior primary teachers felt that the IWB takes advantage of the technology already in the school and then extending them further. They also used CD-ROM programs like Franklin Goes To School for group teaching and shared class expertise to improve their understanding and use of the program. This also led to improved use and access of these programs in the computer room, along with students working more collaboratively. Our Year 6/7 teachers felt that the student interaction with the boards could increase in comparison with the JP teachers, mainly due to a very busy program. A real benefit in an upper primary classroom was the interactive multimedia access - it was really easy to include snippets of video and DVD and here-and-now access for information access via the internet. There was comment passed that there was no fear factor for the students in using the IWB. Some kids had spent plenty of their own time preparing current events presentations on flipcharts. The other positive factor identified was the ability to save flipchart lessons for others to refer back to, be it for revision or students who were away. Another JP teacher talked also about the engagement and collaboration and how useful it was for smaller time slots of learning. She talked about a grouping exercise with her class where they dragged multiple images onto the screen and grouped them. Group discussion and social interaction were words mentioned a lot during this conversation - as well as "just-in-time"learning.
2. What's the best lesson or activity that you've managed using your IWB?
One upper primary teacher talked about the use of the IWB in small groups for a literacy/punctuation activity. Another teacher had focussed on a poetry unit including the showing of students' published work. One of the JP teachers had taken a photo of a child's work and they had critiqued together as a class group - this was more efficient than having kids queue up at the teacher's desk waiting for their writing to be checked. Our other JP pioneer talked about using the IWB in music - as a great way of writing up notes and the fact it could be saved for future use. To finish up, one other talked about a good lesson on time zones where the content was the same as in the past but the students enjoyed the visuals and multimedia used to enhance the IWB version of that lesson.
From here, we didn't really stick to the script in terms of doing the final three questions in sequence. Because I was part of the discussion, when I got wrapped up in the conversation, my note taking dropped off to a certain extent.
3. What have been the most significant hurdles towards getting the IWB integrated in your teaching & learning program?
Here there were a few legitimate gripes including - out of action laptops and a projector (still waiting to get them back), technical glitches, no real backup when things didn't work, a need for more tech support for troubleshooting issues and greater network priveleges for IWB teachers to install and uninstall programs and addons like widgets, Google Earth etc.
In the interest of accuracy, I think I get the participants to e-mail their responses to the final two questions as my notes dried up. (Or they can blog here direct - pleassssee!!!)
Next week, we have a visit from Trudy Sweeney, a lecturer at Flinders University who is going to work with us to document more accurately the impact this program has on student learning at our school. Her take on the whole thing will be very insightful.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Time For The Hard Questions

As the school looks towards the next purchase and implemenation of our IWB program, I am gathering our pioneers together for a reflection session to gauge the progress made thus far. I've prepped them with a few inquiry style questions to make sure we don't just skim the surface and talk technical stuff for the hour. The quesions posed are as follows:
1. Why do you feel that IWB's are an important step towards our school's vision of "up-to-date-technology"?
2. What's the best lesson or activity that you've managed using your IWB?
3. What have been the most significant hurdles towards getting the IWB integrated in your teaching & learning program?
4. Where do you see the IWB making the most significant, transformative differences in your future practice?
5. How ready are you for a mentoring role with the next wave of IWB users?
And to be fair, I will be submitting myself to the same blowtorch and bringing my own reflections along. See my blog for my efforts.