We’re all aware that the introduction of the iPad / tablet into education has led to a revolution in a way that teachers are able to deliver content; not only in class but when setting homework too. It has also, however, seen a large number of schools opting to remove and discard their Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs), some it would seem with barely a moment’s consideration. Having used IWBs for nearly ten years now, I think this demonstrates an ignorance of just how useful IWBs can be, as well as showing a real disregard for the money that was spent installing them in the first place.
Yes, tablets allow for a vast number of functions and applications that offer a huge range of possibilities, with some apps like Socrative and Nearpod erasing the need for expensive and, some might say, cumbersome IWB add-ons like voting devices. And whereas the point-and-shoot immediacy of a tablet camera makes using a document capture device seem the equivalent of wearing a sundial on your wrist, I still believe IWBs have a place in teaching. While certain apps are a no-brainer for certain tasks ‒ Educreations or Explain Everything for flipped lessons ‒ I find that IWBs allow for a certain ease of use, both in the creation and utilisation of activities in the classroom.
IWB activities are easy to make, transport and share; and can be altered, added to, or simply destroyed by students in class with no lasting damage having been done. If you’re not hyperlinking to the web then there’s no reliance on Wi-Fi, while the sheer largesse of IWBs makes for easy viewing from all areas of the classroom. Meanwhile, the capacity for students to interact with activities on their feet before the class allows for shifted lesson focus, whilst also helping those students to develop speaking and presenting skills. These aren’t exclusive features, by the way; there are plenty of overlaps - but I would argue that the IWB is the perfect tool to fill the gaps that tablet users still encounter when creating materials or delivering content in class.
If this sounds like someone rallying against new(er) technology, then you couldn’t be more wrong: I just think that, as someone who has made and shared hundreds upon hundreds of IWB activities over the past ten years, it would be a shame to confine them to the dustbin of history ‒ particularly when they continue to do such a good job for me. And while there are those who might argue that investing in new IWBs might not make the best economic sense (something I might well agree with), throwing out the boards that are already screwed onto classroom walls leaves me scratching my head and toying with ‘baby and bathwater’ clichés.
At the moment, the tablet is one of many tools we can use to educate: despite what the some developers might tell us, however, don't foget that there are still other options out there.