Alternative to an Interactive Whiteboard

On a number of occasions I have made a variety of negative comments about Interactive Whiteboards and the fact that they now represent an old technology yet still seem to take pride of place at conferences such as the GESS event in Dubai every year.   They also seem to be almost a standard item being installed in brand new schools being built in the UAE without any real consideration for the cost and impact.   I suppose 140 interactive whiteboards pale into insignificance when you are building a brand new school for 2000 or 3000 students.     I strongly believe interactive whiteboards have had their day, and in all honesty I don’t believe they ever truly lived up to the hype which surrounded them.   Now despite being very negative towards interactive whiteboards I haven’t made many comments with regards possible alternative ideas and thoughts so I thought it was about time to correct this oversight.   Given below are a couple of items which I would purchase ahead of an interactive whiteboard.

1) Apple TV and an iPad per teacher

Now a lot of schools are going down the road of 1:1 however not every school can afford to implement this and the cost is certainly more than an interactive whiteboard.   Instead schools could provide an iPad for each teacher and classrooms all with a data projector and apple TV.   This will cost less than the interactive whiteboard and provides the teacher with flexibility in that they are no longer tied to the from of the classroom in order to present or in order to get student involvement.    In addition the iPad provides teachers with access to an eco-system filled with useful and interesting Apps for use in teaching and learning plus also provides opportunities to capture individual or group learning and share it with the full class.   This is only scratching the surface of what an iPad and AppleTv can bring to the class.

2) i3Lighthouse

Came across this only recently.   Its a projection device with interactivity however it projects onto the floor rather than a wall.    Students can then interact and manipulate the projected image.   The beauty in this device is it mobility as it can be moved around the classroom unlike a fixed data projector given all it needs is a flat surface to project on.   I can see plenty of opportunities to take one into a sports hall or multi purpose room.    It is also perfect for those younger students including those in foundation stages as the height of display boards even where they are height adjustable is always limiting however with projection being on the floor students can access the whole area of the display.   I also feel that floor projection is more in line with the habits of young children playing in groups sat on the floor and therefore is more suitable that wall based projection.

3) Two Screens

If you are saving money by not purchasing an interactive whiteboard then why not purchase an additional data projector or display screen.   With two screens you can provide the learning materials via one screen and a back channel for students via the other.    For example the second screen could show twitterfontana focussing on a specific hashtag for the subject or group with students encouraged to tweet feedback or questions via the hashtag to the display.    This allows the teacher to identify emerging ideas plus also common misconceptions or difficulties the students are having as the lesson is progressing.    A second screen could also be used to allow students to develop a mind map of concepts, key words, etc as new content is being delivered.    Another option might be to use the second screen to allow student to indicate their confidence in their own understanding of the content being taught possibly using google forms to gather this feedback.


Now the above are just three possible ideas which could be used rather than spending money on an interactive whiteboard.   Some people at this point will be wanting to point out the success they have with interactive whiteboards and I am sure they are correct however in general they are expensive and seldom effectively utilized or at least for only a limited period of the year.   If they really are needed then deploy a small number to key areas of the school and save the rest of your money to implement some of the ideas above or similar other ideas.


Regressing to the mean

The below post was written around a year and a half ago as I returned to the UK from the UAE to interview for the post I now hold.   I dont know why, however I never got around to posting my thoughts however as we head towards the end of 2016 it may be an appropriate time to share my them:


etihadIt was almost 7 years ago that, following accepting an educational consultancy post in the UAE, that I flew from Manchester in the UK to the UAE for the first time.   As an inexperienced flyer I was racked by nerves regarding the flight, regarding my new job, regarding relocating myself and my family from the UK to the UAE, regarding how I would adapt to a foreign culture and regarding a multitude of other things.    It hasn’t been until today some 7 years later that I have came to reflect on how I felt back then.

So why do I find myself reflecting you may be asking.   The answer is that I find myself once again sat on board a longhaul aeroplane this time travelling from the UAE back to the UK, a distance of 5500 Kilometers according to the display screen in front of me. The purpose of the flight is to attend an interview for a school in the UK. Again I find myself wondering about the interview, the school, the task of potentially relocating, the need to adapt back into UK culture and a multiple of other issues.

Now I think if you asked my colleagues 7 years ago as to what they thought regarding me taking up post in the UAE they would have all at least described a sense of surprise and some possibly a sense of shock.    I suspect my current colleagues and friends in the UAE may also express the same should I raise my current thoughts regarding returning to the UK.

So why do it, if I am so nervous and my friends and colleagues so surprised?    I think the answer relates to diversity. I am a creature of habit so in my day to day operations am happy with the status quo, with the same routines, the same people and the same locale. That said, I also believe that a constant reliance on the status quo will result in atrophy. To use a statistical analogy, when looking at performance of a skills based task, over time, performance of an individual or a group will regress to the mean. In other words the result will tend towards the average or each persons average ability over time, with freak lucky or unlucky results smoothed over.   In my life I am happy with the average and over time I appear to get into a pattern, or to “regress to the mean” if you will.   This is where I believe I am now, in that comfortable place settled with “average” or familiar patterns and events.   It is this that leads me to be on the plane on which I now sit for every so often I feel the need to mix things up a little and try and push for an extreme result away from average, to both unsettle and challenge myself and to disrupt the average or status quo.  It would appear the time period for this for me is around the 7 or 8 year mark.

I hope that this current endevour meets with an extreme positive result however only time will tell.   If you yourself have been happy with the average then good for you, however consider this: shaking things up could make you happier as it has done for me over the last 7 years during my adventures living and working in the UAE.   Sat on this plane I believe it may be possible that this chapter is closing.     This is a positive thing, as the closing of the current chapter means the beginning of new chapter, new challenges, risk, change, excitement, frustration and many other emotions and experiences (at least for a while until I regress to the mean once again!!!)

Image by Richard Vandervord licensed under creative commons attribution-share alike license.