Monday, June 21, 2010

The Cat's Out of the Bag. More People Are Getting Smart about Interactive Whiteboards

Sebastian Mondrone, from my personal learning network shared today, that he saw an interesting post that reminded him of my debate about interactive whiteboards. In the post the "Two Writing Teachers" blog asks the question, Do we really need SMART Boards to teach writing well?

They began to ponder this after reading the Washington Post's article, Some educators question if whiteboards, other high-tech tools raise achievement. The article shares something I touched on in my post that urges educators to erase unnecessary costs in IWB purchases and goes on to dispel the myths of interactive whiteboards.

From the article:
Many academics question industry-backed studies linking improved test scores to their products. And some go further. They argue that the most ubiquitous device-of-the-future, the whiteboard -- essentially a giant interactive computer screen that is usurping blackboards in classrooms across America -- locks teachers into a 19th-century lecture style of instruction counter to the more collaborative small-group models that many reformers favor.
It goes on to share this from Larry Cuban, education professor emeritus at Stanford University.
"There is hardly any research that will show clearly that any of these machines will improve academic achievement, but the value of novelty, that's highly prized in American society, period. And one way schools can say they are 'innovative' is to pick up the latest device."
The article digs a bit deeper into the research explaining that according to many academics, industry claims about whiteboards are not based on rigorous academic studies. They then share the frequently cited study, conducted by Marzano Research Laboratory and funded by Promethean, which surveyed 85 teachers who volunteered to teach a lesson of their choice to two classes, one with the whiteboard, one without. The teachers then gave a test of their own design, with results showing an average 17-point gain in classrooms with whiteboards.

I have a few problems with the study as do others. First, They are comparing the wrong thing. They are comparing a classroom with technology to one without the thousands of dollars less expensive combo of a projector/Tablet or laptop. Again, this suggests you need to spend thousands for the same thing you can have with a much less expensive alternative. Second, an interactive whiteboard company is paying the researcher a lot of money to do the research, promote their device and tour around the country talking about how it promotes student achievement...huge conflict of interest.

Steve Ross, an education professor at Johns Hopkins University says, "It's a suggestive study -- you can't conclude anything, and that's being generous." One of the most outspoken critics of the research is Jonathan D. Becker, J.D., Ph.D. and professor at the Educational Leadership Department at Virginia Commonwealth University does a peer review of Marzano's work and concludes it to be questionable research.

Perhaps the most insightful is Chris Dede, an education professor at Harvard University, who shares that interactive whiteboards are popular precisely because companies designed them to suit the old instructional style with which teachers are most comfortable. "No one should be beating up on these companies," Dede said. "They're just doing what a capitalist society tells them to do."

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