Can interactive whiteboards impair learning?

Can interactive whiteboards impair learning?

Summary: Guest post: Morgan Panting is at her first year in college (equivalent junior in high school). Besides being the bane of my life, she's also an opinionated little madam with her own rants and raves on technology and student life.


Guest post: Morgan Panting is at her first year in college (equivalent junior in high school). Besides being the bane of my life, she's also an opinionated little madam with her own rants and raves on technology and student life.

The other day at college (our equivalent of high school) I had to endure three difficult, agonising hours of media class. As I sat through these hours, watching the clock slowly tick by, tick after tick, it slowly dawned on me how annoying interactive whiteboards really are. Interactive whiteboards are essentially a computerised, wall mounted version of pen and paper; a vertical Tablet PC if that still doesn’t make sense. You can plug a laptop into it and share applications with the class, save written notes as files and then struggle using it for the duration, quite honestly.

I really do not see the point in them. I mean, at the beginning of the lesson they waste five minutes orientating the damn thing, and even so, once it’s orientated it still decides to write on the opposite side of the board to where the teacher is actually writing. The alignment of these boards is dreadful; what happened to good old whiteboards? Given half a chance, I’d scale the side of the college building and proclaim to the ant-like students below with anti-whiteboard propaganda. After all, good old fashioned whiteboards are so much easier to look at and don't waste time in lessons.

I do realise they have there good qualities though; when a teacher decides to check their email and they've left it on by accident or to watch DVD’s on a nice big screen. But still, an ordinary whiteboard used as a learning tool would be so much easier to write notes on instead of a computerised pen and paper. This is after all coming from someone who loves the latest technology so much, she makes sure she has it. I can't live without my phone for five minutes and if British law permitted, I’d marry my iPod.

But seriously, it’s getting to that stage where every time the teacher goes to 'write' on this whiteboard, the students and myself groan in disgust and lose all interest in the lesson. We’re teenagers after all; we have the concentration span of an attention deficit sparrow. Can our teacher not see the harmful effect it’s having on our education? If I now fail my media course I will base it purely down to that sodding whiteboard, and set it my life’s mission to burning every single one in some strange Hitchcock-version of a one-woman vigilante.

Why we need something so interactive just to write is beyond me. We depend on technology too much, when the human race has adapted itself just fine with the basic transcribing of information. I’m pretty sure we could use a good old fashioned “magic box with moving pictures”, which at the rate of advancing technology, will probably soon be a thing of the past.

Topics: Legal, Enterprise Software

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  • I totally agree!

    I have also just started college (Brockenhurst College, UK)
    and I have found the same thing. It was also the same at
    my old school too.

    A teacher enters the room with their ancient laptop that
    takes 3 minutes to boot, then spends another 5 minutes
    doing the orientation and finding the right notes file to
    show you.

    After this prolonged process, they write a few lines on to
    the board, set you some work and shutdown their

    What was all the fuss for?

    I have only had 1 teacher that used it correctly. He had
    everything set-up quickly, used it for all his notes and
    then emailed the notes home to students for revision. It
    was brilliant, but he was the exception. The rest of the
    teachers could hardly even switch the damn thing on, but
    still wasted half an hour setting it up.

    I long for the return of the old whiteboard.
  • By the way...

    Well done to be writing tech articles for ZDNet just after you
    have started at college. I'm in the same position and with 4
    A-Levels and Chinese GCSE I hardly have time to stop and
    read the news here!
  • I feel your pain (somewhat)

    Although I haven't experienced the interactive whiteboards, I have experienced it with other technologies. It's like, "Hey prof, if you're going to use something as a teaching tool, how about learning how to use it BEFORE coming to class. We're not paying YOU to learn how to use something with which to teach us."

    So, like I said, I can feel your pain.
  • RE: Can interactive whiteboards impair learning?

    At the University I go to in New Zealand the lecturers have enough trouble with a simple computer and projector. So imagining them with a interactive whiteboard makes me cringe. I too love technology, which is why I can't understand why teachers and lecturers who do have trouble with such things can't go on some sort of course or learn a trick or two from a student..
  • Whiteboards old-fashioned???

    Give me a good old-fashioned chalk board. Chalk doesn't fade to illegibility as the stick wears, and it's remaining life is obvious so it's harder to be caught off guard without a spare piece.
    • More on Chalk

      That percusive CLACK CLACK of chalk on the board demands attention. Its also nice to have that chalk handy to hurl at a sleeping or merely inattentive student. Mister Smythe, as long as you are in my classrom, you might as well stay awake!
    • additionally--

      I was never asked to supply chalk for my children's classes as I am to supply dry erase markers. The TEACHERS pushed for whiteboards, and yet the PARENTS must supply the markers?

      My kids' elementeary and middle schools have the interactive boards, and the teachers make good use of them--because they use them all day long, and the teachers aren't the only ones that "interact" with them. The students do the marking on the board, sometimes several at a time; because the teacher knows exactly how to use it and does her prep work appropriately, they enhance the learning experience.
  • RE: Can interactive whiteboards impair learning?

    1. Untrained teachers can make any technology seem absurd. In the US we have the same problem. Technology is thrown at the schools and the Teachers either don't have enough time to learn how to use it and integrate it into their classroom presentation, or they don't care to use it.

    2. Some interactive whiteboards need updated software or are first generation. So they don't work well.

    I work in K-12, we are integrating interactive whiteboards and it so happens the manufacture of ours is from the UK. They are fine, when properly tuned. But using the board needs decent software. If you don't move the PC or the board, you only have to tune it once. I have used a virtual machine on a computer in another room through the system managing the I.W. and it worked fine. It was actually quite amazing. Mac-RC-Windows-VM, it was just a test.

    The interactive whiteboard is a screen, with a pen mouse, and the PC is tuned to the screen, similar to a Palm Pilot. Once that is done, it's just like a mouse. I think it's a bit more intuitive than a mouse.

    If you take someone who has never used a computer before, and you gave them a choice, board or mouse. They would take the board.

    If the software doesn't work, and the teacher wasn't trained, then they won't have anything to do with computers at all, let a lone a mouse or interactive whiteboard.
  • Isn't using a chalk board "greener" as well?

    I suspect it would be far more resource efficient to use chalk! First off the boards are already there in most classrooms, chalk is a cheap and easy to obtain. No upgrades for software or for brains...of course you can't get high sniffing the chalk.