At UNI today there was a showcase event called Spotlight on Educational Technology that had a strong focus on STEM. I had the chance to talk with educators from schools throughout the state in grades K-12. One educator that stood out to me was a teacher of a kindergarten class who had her students using technology in a few different ways as they observed the weather and sky. As some of you may know, I tend to be a bit critical of interactive whiteboards (IWB), usually because they aren’t used in ways that make the learning any better. However, what I saw today was a great way of using the IWB and software. Based on what I remember of my conversation with this teacher, she had her students taking pictures of the sky and different ways they could represent the weather. These pictures were then imported to the teacher’s computer which was connected to the IWB. The part I liked was that instead of creating a flip chart with the activinspire software, she let her students create the chart based on the feedback of the entire course. The key was that the teacher was not using the technology. She had enough insight to let her students not only arrange the pictures on the flip chart, as well as doing so collaboratively, but she let her students take ownership in the activity by letting them take the pictures. Instead of finding a generic picture on the Internet, she had her students go outside and take the picture themselves. Then later when they began building the flip chart, each student was engaged in where they wanted their picture on the flip chart, thus making students work together as they created meaning of the content.
Too often IWBs are slated as the tool to make student centered learning happen, but many teachers get lost with trying to learn, and teach, all the different things the IWB and accompanying software can do. Instead, teachers need to take this simple example of using the IWB and software and create activities where students are at the center, maybe not each using the IWB, but at the center as they make meaning of the content. If IWBs were used in that way, then I’d be a believer.