iPads Are Not Interactive White Boards

iPads Are Not Interactive White Boards

As a tech integration specialist my role is to help teachers learn to use technology effectively in a classroom to support student learning. Most of the technology deployed in the past by schools has been teacher centered such as interactive white boards (IWB).  Now schools are putting technology in the hands of students with a variety of devices. It is my belief this requires a different professional development (PD) model. 

Some devices have a steep learning curve; I would place interactive white boards into this category. When an IWB is installed in a classroom the physical layout of the room changes, where a teacher stands, what boards they can write on, where the computer is located it’s all different. IWBs are teacher centered devices. Teachers need to change behaviors, learn new hardware, new software, and create new instructional materials (a very time intensive task). The board is only available in a classroom; often the skills and materials created are not transferable to another situation.

The general PD model for IWB deployment is instruction on how to use the software, interact with the board and to find ready many IWB lessons and activities to get them started. The expectation is that teachers would use the boards well for all their lessons and in many districts that just did not happen for every teacher. You can teach someone how to use the tool, you can model correct use in a classroom, you can get them started but they need to commit the time to continue to find or create interactive instructional content. Some teachers adapted their previous lessons quickly others took longer. Teachers need to commit a lot of time outside of PD to create materials, learn and practice skills. Most often this was done on their own since not everyone in the schools had an IWB, there was little collaboration amongst department members and colleagues.

But how will things be different when each student has a device? How does this change the PD model?

I have been talking to a number of tech integration specialists about how they support staff and students with the shift learning environments where each child has the technology not just the teacher. What type of PD did they provide? What was effective and what was not? What models led to successful integration that supported learning? I am seeing some common threads in my conversations.

Less Successful

Traditional teacher center PD, treating a mobile device as an IWB. These models followed this format

  1. Training on basic use of the device
  2. A focus on Apps and how to use them
  3. Taking existing lessons and redoing them to be “iPad lessons”
  4. All students doing the same thing at the same time. (I equate this with a trip to the computer lab – the old model of when students had limited access to computers
  5. Requiring teachers to develop “iPad Lessons” – often done in isolation.

More Successful

Student learner center focused PD. These models tended to follow this format

  1. Focus on what can be done on a device. Content creation, note taking, organizing, sharing etc., NOT focused on specific apps. These change too often to become App dependent.
  2. A focus on what students can do with the device to support learning
  3. PD on Personalizing Learning, Web literacy, Research Skills, Digital Citizenship and Copyright and Fair use.
  4. Allow teachers to teach as they always did – but allow students to use the devices for note taking, looking things up when they need to, and complete assignments (most people I talked to noted a distinct change in how classes were organized and content shared over time)
  5. Allow for collaboration by subject area and grade level throughout the year to improve practice
  6.  A collaborative effort to create and share digital content, over time, not expecting it all at once
  7. The development of user groups student, family and faculty
  8. Additional staff to facilitate PD, classroom support and the pedagogical shift.

We are changing the instructional landscape when we put devices in the hands of students likewise we must change the professional development landscape


Further Reading – I would like to recommend Doug Johnson’s post Is Being First Better Than Being The Best. Particularly his point “Educators see positive uses for these devices on a personal or professional productivity level – not just as a tool to use with students in the classroom”.  Many students and teachers are using these devices in their personal lives the carry-over of skills is greater.

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