Thursday, August 31, 2006

Parent Information Night - Interactive Whiteboards

Last night, the school held a Parent Information Night on Interactive Whiteboards so that they could see first hand what we are implementing here with our IWB program. I started the evening off with a modified version of Karl Fisch's "Did You Know?" slideshow to give the gathered parents a global picture about information and how technology is aiding its exponential growth. A really powerful presentation - it is amazing how it just stands alone without any intervention or explanation and had all people in the room shaking their heads in wonderment, awe or amazement. This gave me the context for my "big picture" lead in which was based on part of the presentation to the Middle Schooling Conference. I covered the concepts of digital natives and digital immigrants, how technology tied in with our school's vision, moving onto what an IWB was and all the components that made it work.I talked about costs (always of interest to the parent community) and talked about the steps involved in IWB implementation into the classrooms. I had three volunteer teachers who were ready to share their use of IWB in their classrooms and so I handed over to them for a closer nuts'n'bolts look.
Our first presenter was Suzanne, a Reception teacher who deals with five and six year olds on a daily basis. The first flipchart she showed was on the deconstructing of a sentence. By writing words that could be recomposed into a sentence, she worked with her class to cover many aspects of writing key to young students - by being able to move the words around they covered concepts like finger spaces, full stops and capital letters. She also involved her students in the constructing of alphabet charts - she used images from the library matched to sounds to make it fun. One sound if the student pressed the wrong image and applause if they pressed the correct one. She used patterning with student names with different colours for different letters as both an art lesson and a literacy exercise. Suzanne also talked about the usefulness of being able to connect a Kidspiration diagram constructed in the resource centre to the classroom and continue the learning from one location to the next. To finish off her section, she showed how a simple flipchart made up of numbers, their word versions and images to match was a really great way to teach the concept of numbers and how to associate the different forms. Oh yes, she also talked about the use of a CD-ROM game, Franklin The Turtle where all the different parts that the students knew were used to create a shared understanding of the game with all of its activities. This was also a great way to enhance social skills as students negotiated and informed each other about the various activities.
Our next presenter was Maria - from the Middle Primary section of the school and a relatively new user of the ACTIVboard. She started with an English example which was using Connective words. It was really easy to generate an activity that demonstrated the concept and gave the students a hands on opportunity to manipulate the right words into position - but the important part was the discussion that it generated. Her turning point came one day in the classroom when working on a Water Conservation activity connected to her class's Problem Based Learning unit. She started in a traditional way with a poem on the water cycle, then moved onto an interactive website - connecting the concepts quickly and in a way that made meaning. Maria also used resources and diagrams that a student had found on the web (a great boost for his self esteem) - comparing the two to show the class that there are many ways to represent the same concept. She used the IWB as an opportunity to pull many pieces of learning together - "just in time" learning that would have been difficult to do without the board. Maria then finished off by showing some of the great online resources available for teachers to use within their classroom, a simile website with different activities.
At this stage, we had a great parent question to challenge us - Are classes without an IWB being disadvantaged in their learning? That's definitely a hard question to answer effectively because the technology is only effective in the hands of an excellent teacher. Simply plunking an IWB in the classroom is no guarantee to improved learning opportunities - but what we are seeing that quality teachers love this tool because they can run with it and connect up the different concepts more efficiently and in a way that is meaningful to the students. I also hypothesized that IWB's are a great intermediary between the teaching and learning of concrete and abstract concepts.
Finally, we had Marg who talked about the IWB impact on her class of middle school students. Demonstrating her mastery of many of the multimedia tools embedded in the ACTIVstudio software, she showcased her students' thoughts on having an IWB by using sound files of students speaking about their IWB experiences embedded in photos. Marg described how her students use the resources in the library and from the internet to create presentations for a current events program. She emphasized the engagement factor, pointing out that one child spent many hours on their presentation. Marg also demonstrated how she uses the IWB to build a positive classroom atmosphere and boost self esteem - highlighting students' birthdays, sporting results, showing class activities instantly in photo form (dance sport, excursions, casual days), critiquing other's work and so on. One example she showed was a brainstorm annotated over an image from Beach day highlighting key words and ideas from the day. Marg also showed many other examples of how she covered the curriculum using the ACTIVboard as the platform for setting up tasks, explicit teaching of concepts, constructing learning and presenting student work.
Overall, it was a great presentation and the parents expressed their appreciation in getting a first hand look at this new technology and hearing from the teachers so that they get a bigger, deeper picture beyond the "wow, isn't this amazing" factor. Thanks to Suzanne, Maria and Marg for their professional input.


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