When I first trained as a teacher the main teaching aid was either an overhead projector or more commonly a roller blackboard. I remember taking an LCD Panel to a school during school placement visits as a trainee teacher. This device sat on top of a OHP and was connected to a laptop, allowing me to project whatever I had on my laptop screen. The staff loved this new piece of tech as did the students. This device was the precursor to the now common data projector which combines the OHP, and its light source, with the LCD Panel, into a single device.
So why the reminiscing? A recent article in the TES titled “The pedagogic perfection of the overhead projector – and why interactive whiteboards alone wont ever match it” got me thinking back.
The article highlights the importance of facing a class when interacting with them and how the Interactive Whiteboard isn’t supportive of this. I agree with this point which is no surprise given my general dislike for the interactive whiteboard as a classroom technology. I have always found the whiteboard as a fixed focal point at the “front” of the class to be limiting. I also find the fact it is stuck in place as a restriction. My preference for some time has been towards mobile devices, such as the iPad, a data projector, a screen sharing setup and a writeable board surface. With this you can accomplish everything you can with an interactive whiteboard and more, at less cost, assuming we are only first looking at issuing a teacher device. It is also a portable solution which can be taken around the class as a tool to work with individual students as well as being taken to the staff room and home to prepare lessons. It’s also a method of recording student progress and building a portfolio through taking photographs…..and that’s before we look at its benefit as a productivity tool in helping teachers in managing tasks, calendars, email, etc. Student devices, either BYOD or school issued add further to this setup and even more so where a 1:1 student:device ration is achieved.
The author of the article goes on to identify digital ink as the next progression in the technology and I have to agree. With digital ink we have the ability to annotate, draw, sketch, highlight, etc. all with a high degree of accuracy, with students instantly having the resulting resources at their fingertips, with the ability for them to add their own contributions. You may be thinking you can do the same with an IWB but the accuracy with inking is higher as has been attested by students. Also you retain the ability to face the class as opposed to having your back to them, plus you can take it with you to a students desk as opposed to it being bolted to the wall at the front.
In thinking back I can now see the evolution of the central classroom tech during the period I have been teaching. Chalk boards then OHPs, Whiteboards, LCD Panels, Data Projectors, IWBs, iPads and Digital Inking bring us to where we are now. Each step has seen improvements, new facilities and developments however often supporting old approaches. Digital inking seems a lot like the annotations I used to draw on my OHPs during lessons, something also identified by the writer of the TES article. The question I now wonder is what the next evolution will be?
image from wiki commons by mailer diablo (Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0)