Monday, 13 April 2009 | 6 Comments
This may be the first of several posts as I review the effectiveness of having an Interactive Whiteboard in my classroom.
The installation of the equipment is poor. The projector mount was installed before the whiteboard was hung and before the projector was connected. End result – the projector is not centred to the whiteboard, and the keystone correction is at it’s limit – meaning that the image projected is a trapezium. Not good if you’re trying to convince students that the image on the screen is actually a square. The other problem is that the projector is mounted too close to the screen, meaning the image is smaller than the screen – you really want as big as possible image, obviously.
The connection to the computer, and use of the computer has not been thought out. I have not received cables to connect it all up, meaning that I’ve sourced my own temporary cables, and will be purchasing more that I can bundle together. Also, I’m using an overhead projector trolley to hold the laptop, which is lower than ideal.
Lesson: the installation should be done by someone with experience in mounting this sort of equipment who has thought through the process. Make sure the school is aware of the extras required (cables, trolley, speakers).
My use of this equipment so far has been less than inspiring.
All the worksheets I use I have as a softcopy, so I can quickly show the worksheet on the screen and work through it with my class. This saves time re-creating things on the blackboard, and it allows the worksheet to change it’s purpose slightly from simply practise to be part of the initial learning. It also means that I can capture the early problems with the concept with several students working together with me on the board.
Whilst I originally thought I just wanted a projector, the whiteboard allows me to write all over anything on the screen. The software, Promethean ActivStudio, has a transparent “flipchart” function will allows me to use the pens over the top of any application.
Year 10 has been looking at Consumer Arithmetic since I got the board, this topic does require notes – the class preferred the notes to be in PowerPoint than written on the blackboard. Suits me.
I’ve used it to show one video so far, a short 3 minute intro to saving money.
Having the web in the classroom has allowed us to explore things that crop up. For example, again with Year 10, various employment awards, the current tax tables, salaries for various jobs.
Flipcharts are the name of the presentations used by the Interactive Whiteboard software, Promethean Activstudio. So far, I’ve used one “flipchart” about 3D Shapes with a Year 7 class – it was engaging to move the labels for “face”, “edge” and “vertice” onto various shapes.
Generally, the quality of the flipcharts available from Promethean Planet, the Activstudio community site, and around the web are poor [i.e. flipcharts I have found, you may have had a better experience, please share]. What I’ve found has been nothing more than PowerPoint presentations with an occasional box you can remove to reveal a word, or something like that.
The other thing I’ve found with shared flipcharts, or PowerPoint presentations, is that teachers are cramming more text in than they would if they had to write it on a Whiteboard. To me, the purpose of these “new” technologies should be to make better not more.
The biggest ongoing issue will be time. Time to develop resources that make use of this technology. As I just said, the shared resources I’ve seen are poor, so you will want to make your own.
I’m not sure whether it’s the board or the projector, but the resolution is not great, meaning that writing or drawing on the board is poor. It’s funny, but a normal Blackboard or Whiteboard has far higher resolution, when you think about it, you can put more on those old technologies and maintain sufficient clarity for everyone in the class to see.
Despite the board having softkeys, it seems that they won’t work with the Activstudio software – as the board is a different brand.
Awful piece of software. Completely unintuitive. Overrun with icons and layer after layer of options. What should be one-tap to clear a transparent flipchart is two – simple stuff, but incredibly annoying. Promethean have released a new version, ActivInspire, I have no experience with it because, it looks as though all public schools in NSW are shifting to different software.
I have wanted a projector and computer in my classroom before I even had a classroom. Unfortunately, or obviously, the implementation has been poor. The laptop is old and slow, the board and projector were poorly installed.
Despite this, I’m looking forward to expanding the ways I can use these resources, but the biggest challenge will be time. My current target is to start small. With laptops being rolled out to Year 9 students in the second half of 2009, I need to concentrate on collecting and developing resources for them.
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Simon Job — eleventh year of teaching maths in a public high school in Western Sydney, Australia.
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