I have been teaching for 11 years, and while I wasn’t a super fantastic teacher out the gate, I can now say I’m a good teacher. I don’t think that is an arrogant statement, it is simply a fact. How do I know I’m good? Sure my students always improve on the state tests, but I know I’m doing something right because my students improve period. They always get better. From September to June I watch as my students become better readers, better writers, better thinkers and yes, better test takers (not that it matters, but I’ve never even looked at a state test, so no, I don’t teach to the test). So where am I going with this? I just got an interactive whiteboard in my classroom. Around school I am known as the techno geek and all around go to person when it comes to anything technology related, so it only makes sense that I would have an IWB in my room. I’ve been super excited about this for a month, thinking of hardly anything else (see, I really am a geek). Now it’s finally here, in the flesh, and… I’m not sure I really want it.
I spent the better of this past week going through the software, searching online for extras, watching video tutorials and essentially thinking about how I will incorporate this “tool” into my daily lessons. You see I found out this board, and all the accessories, cost the school about $8000, so I feel a huge sense of responsibility for using the heck out of it.
After spending the some time doing all of those things a thought hit me: why do I want this? I’m already a good teacher, without any technology in my (physical) classroom. How is this going to make me a better teacher? How will this make my students better?
Then as I’m thinking about all of this I start going through some old blog posts that I am (very!) behind in reading and there is this one at The Tempered Radical , Bill Ferriter’s blog, that further confuses things. His post about technology in the classroom is actually a spin-off from another blog I follow, Will Richardson’s, Weblogg-ed. You should most definitely click over to those posts, but the gist is a back-and-forth conversation about technology being useful in the classroom. Bill quotes Marc Prensky’s comment which essentially says that verbs are skills and nouns are the tools we use to teach those skills. Verbs are essentially static, changing little over time, yet the nouns will continually be dynamic. Bill response to that was what really hit me:
Prensky’s right when he argues that fixating on individual tools is a dangerous trap that schools fall into.
Look around any building in your community and you’re bound to see thousands of dollars of wasted resources: Classrooms outfitted with interactive whiteboards that students never touch, sets of student responders used to ask low-level knowledge and understanding questions.
Now I have all these thoughts swimming in my mind. Add to that the realization that if I really am going to use this tool properly it requires an immense amount of pre-work. It isn’t like walking up to a whiteboard and writing a journal topic. There are slides that have to be pre-programmed, etc., etc. Sure, there are some pretty cool things I’ve found, but they all require pre-planning like I’ve never done before.
So here’s my bottom line… I have to wonder, is this going to turn into a “be careful what you wish for”, or am I just not seeing the big picture yet, and once I get into the school year will find my new IWB to be the best “noun” since sliced bread?
I would love to hear your thoughts!