Saturday, May 13, 2006

More Great Tools With IWB Potential

Via Derek Wenmouth, this interesting new search tool called Quintura which harnesses the power of your preferred search engine (Google, Yahoo etc.)but displays your results in a key word cloud with fewer sites listed on the right. I think this could be a great tool in the primary school classroom where the graphic nature of the way the results are displayed really demonstrate the power of key words in locating relevant information on the World Wide Web.
The second find comes via the TALO Google Group where James Neill has pointed this great blog, The Generator Blog with heaps of interesting tools to generate your own choice of text in different formats - clapperboards, road construction signs or cartoons. For teachers with IWB's looking for new engaging ways to present titles, key concepts or any other pieces of text in their flipcharts, there are many options here - all in the one location. A few examples below.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

IWB Research Smorgasbord

Via my EDNA rss feed, US National Clearing House for Educational Facilities has a Resource List on Interactive Whiteboards. A few familiar links for those of us tracking IWB implementation across the globe, but some new useful links.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Jeff Does It Again - Audacity Basics

When the IWB Pioneers were being trained on Wednesday, some played with Audacity for the very first time. In the timeliness that only the edublogosphere can manage, Jeff Giddens from SEGATech has posted a great post, Sheer Audacity: Sound Ideas For Learning that is a great starters kit for the use of this great freeware tool.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

IWB Interest From Across The Tasman

Rachel at Bard Wired has posted today about IWB's and poses the question of their worth in the classroom.
They have been around for awhile - why have our cluster schools not picked up on these until now? Are they another fad or fashion? Like any learning resource, (according to my sis who has worked in UK schools where they are ubiquitous) they are only as effective as the teacher who is using them... So if u follow that line of thought a lot of our cluster teachers could do some wonderful things with this new tool :-) Not cheap @ $7000 + a dataprojector another $2K - how much of a bang for bucks in the difference to children's learning could we achieve? Lots of our schools are already using Data Projectors in classrooms - how does the interactiveness of the whiteboard improve on this? Couldn't this be achieved as simply and cheaply as students using a wireless mouse & keyboard to control what was happening on the big screen?

Rachel also sounded me out via e-mail for my opinion (for what it's worth) and I left a lengthy comment at her post.
Alright, Rachel, you have set a challenge here and I will try to give you an answer that makes sense to me - if not to you. Your post is timely as we had a training day for our ACTIVboard Pioneers with our trainer from Melbourne showing some more advanced techniques in using the software. My boss and I took the trainer off to check out Technology School Of the Future which is our major training facility here in South Australia for teachers. TSOF have not taken up interactive whiteboards in any way at all - possibly because like a lot of government funded places (making do with less) so they don't have anyone specialised to oversee any foray into this area of technology. It has been left up to schools to forge their own way and make their decisions (and mistakes) in this area. She was asked about why IWB's are an important technology and she was able to field that question with ease (I can't recall her exact words). She was able to justify why she believed the ACTIVboard to be the better IWB choice! It is a bit like comparing Macs to PC - it's a matter of preference. I think governments see the IWB as an expensive technology buy and aren't keen to boost school technology budgets. I agree with the statement that the IWB is only as good as the practitioner in front of it. I have seen really great things happen in the junior primary section of our school - I can't speak for Smartboards but the software bundled with ACTIVboards is extremely interactive and kids can drag and click on the big screen to solve problems, review ideas - I think you can only glimpse the potential when you see a really skilled practitioner using one. I have seen a group of kids playing an interactive game on the big screen, rolling the virtual dice, making choices collaboratively, discussing the best way to do things and the pay off has been much more efficient use of PC's in the computing room because they have all learnt from each other about better ways to complete the task. I did cover the IWB vs. the data projector only argument before and I do believe that the IWB does an excellent job at explicit teaching. However, at times, I sometimes have questions of its use translating into an effective learning tool, especially as more technology for learning becomes more portable and mobile thanks to wireless. It is about making sure the school's technology dollar represents good value for money. If you are really keen to read more try my Interactive Whiteboard category on my blog or our ACTIVboard Pioneers blog at Activboarding.

I hope that was informative for her and it is telling that my own grasp on how IWB's can be used in schools rolls off the keyboard pretty fluently. By the way, today's training day was great and all participants had to produce a lesson or resource in ACTIVstudio to show the rest of the staff at our meeting. Everyone produced some great stuff and my contribution was a simple use of the "create a magnifying glass" effect where I used the layering tool to overlay two images of a Google search so that the magnifying glass revealed annotations about various bits of the Google search page. See screen grab below.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

First Steps and IWB Involvement

Quite a few of our staff spent two of the recent holidays at First Steps For Writing training in a bid to standardise our school approach to English with the new Australian reporting guidelines in mind. It was a jam packed two days with what was normally an 18 hour course squeezed into 12. First Steps is a West Australian initiative and is very construtivist in nature but with clear mapping of skills and loads of excellent Teaching activities. With a full day of advanced IWB training coming up tomorrow, I kept thinking how different classroom scenarios could be enhanced with our ACTIVboards. The trainers talked a lot about investigation and modelling of writing formats - what better way to model writing process than on the big screen? So, this could be a good combination - First Steps methodology with ACTIVboard technology. I still wonder how to move the IWB beyond just being a teaching tool - perhaps as we all become more familiar with the First Steps program, more learning opportunities could unfold.