There seems to be a lot of controversy lately over the impact that Interactive Whiteboards have on instruction. Some say that they increase student engagement and achievement and help to create a 21st-century classroom. Others argue that they are simply a modern tool for an outdated method of learning and that they only promote teacher-directed lecture & instruction.
I left the classroom in 2004, several years before IWBs were common tools in school buildings, so I never experienced actually integrating one into my instruction. I wanted to find out for myself: Do Interactive Whiteboards change instruction? When Bud the Teacher Tweeted about his district's upcoming Flipchartapalooza, I knew this would be an ideal opportunity to see how teachers integrate both the hardware and the software into their instruction. Bud and his fellow teachers in St. Vrain were gracious enough to let me come and observe and ask questions. (And I thank all of you!)
What I saw were teachers learning simple, but vital, programming and scripting language as they created interactive activities for students. I saw teachers realizing that the ultimate goal was having students use these tools. One teacher even stated, "My goal this year is to have students at the board more. [My first year using it], I was the one at the board." I saw professionals collaborating, teaching, and learning together. If technology and learning are going to morph the way I think they are (fingers crossed), teachers are going to have a plethora of tools that they can use to script & program to create individual games & learning modules for students. Having a basic understanding of this level of tech know-how now will be paramount if this comes to fruition.
What I hope to see in the future are students using interactive white tables (of which I've seen prototypes), manipulating and building interactive learning modules to increase their own understanding and to demonstrate learning. Where we are now with IWBs is simply a stepping stone to a more differentiated, authentic, interactive classroom.
In other words, it isn't really about having a big interactive board up in front of the classroom to do your usual thing. It is about creating activities for students to increase their knowledge and understanding.
And, yes, having something that looks like it was invented sometime after the 1970s can't hurt the engagement factor, either. ;-)