Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interactive Whteboards

An interactive whiteboard is "an interactive display that connects to a computer and projector" (Wikipedia, 2009). Interaction and control over functions is enabled through the use of a pen or finger.

I have never seen an interactive white board in action before as was curious to see what they would look like in a learning environment. Like Bob Moore, Executive Director of Information Technology- Blue Valley School District Kansas (from the
first YouTube clip on Moodle) I was a little worried that these whiteboards were simply an electronic form of the traditional whiteboard and that teachers regardless of the expertise and skill would fail to meet expectations of how this technology could be used in the classroom. He put forth the notion that there needs to be a change in teachers' paradigms as well as training in the use of this technology in order for it to transform our classrooms.

However after watching MIT Sketching my opinion of this delivery mode began to change. I could understand the comments of Doug Brown, Head of Learning Technology, Department of Education and Skills for the United Kingdom. He stated that "in terms of some of the uses of the whiteboards pace of lessons was improving, motivation was improving, engagement was improving and teacher preparation was improving (ESN TechWatch: Interactive Whiteboards, 2007)".

As could be seen in MIT sketching, the whiteboards would be a valuable problem solving tool in the classroom. I can also see that the whiteboards could provide a base for both teacher directed and student centred learning. By allowing students to use the whiteboard it gives them a sense of ownership of their learning. I also believe that because the interactive whiteboard is more than something that notes are copied from students will view this as a valuable learning source rather than a giant canvas to draw on in free time.

"You will find some appalling teaching using (interactive) whiteboards - this is not about the technology; its is actually about the teaching" Doug Brown

The ability to save work to the whiteboard as well as view movies and web links on the screen means that it becomes very close to a all in one learning resource for teachers and students as per Oliver's Learning Design Construct.

Interactive Whiteboards are an expensive piece of equipment with prices starting from around $4000.00 per board and projector. As such I imagine it will be a while before this delivery technology becomes a regular feature across all schooling organisations. I would love to have this resource available to me in my classroom as its ability to give live demonstrations of concepts for learning areas such as maths and science as well as provide a link to other electronic resources would be invaluable.


eBeam edge and eBeam scrapbook -- by eBeam

Friday, August 21, 2009


Since starting this course I have discovered new technologies that can be used in the class room as well as opened my eyes to technologies that I use everyday that I didn't realise or think could make a difference in my classroom. Today's students reside in a media rich world. With so much stimulus for learning and games and activities available on the Internet we would be crazy to not take advantage of digital technologies to engage our students in the classroom. Today's students are Digital Natives (Prensky, 2001) and for Digital Immigrants there needs to be a shift in thinking that traditional teaching methods are going to engage students and give them the education that they need.

When I have my own class there are some technologies I have seen that will definitely be used in my classroom. These include Web quests, Wikis and You Tube to list a few.
Web quests will become a valuable learning experience. As a teaching technology they fit perfectly into Kearsley and Schneidermann's Learning Engagement Theory. Web quests enable students to be "meaningfully engage in learning activities through interactions with others and worthwhile tasks" (Kearsley & Schneidermann, n.d). Collaborative aspects of these quests help to develop motivation in students to learn as well as provide opportunities for group work with students from different backgrounds (Kearsley & Schneiderman, n.d). The project orientation and authentic focuses that are embedded in this delivery method are also key elements that keep the students engaged. Web quests also demonstrate Oliver's Learning Design Construct as all three areas (tasks, supports and resources) are inter-related and aim to achieve the same outcome.

I like the ideas of a class Wiki - and on-line learning classroom that can be accessed at school and from home. When set up correctly I think there is a real opportunity for students to band together in their learning and become more respectful and cooperative human beings. As I mentioned in my Wiki blog post, the online nature of the Wiki means that problems are more likely to be discussed and more solutions are likely to be found than in a traditional classroom setting. This in itself means that by searching for solutions and using problem solving skills students are engaging in higher order thinking, and this is with their own teacher necessary. I don't mean that it creates lazy teachers... I'm saying it would be great if this meant creating lifelong learners!

YouTube is another way of connecting with students. Studies show that "students learn better from animation and narration then from animation and on-screen text" and memory retention is "improved through words and pictures rather than words alone(Stanbury, 2008)." It is important though to use this technology (and any other technology for that matter) to its best effect and to not use it too often. We can become bored very easily when we are constantly being saturated with the same old, same old.

There are some factors that need to be considered in this new look classroom. We will have classes with students from diverse backgrounds, including those who do not have access to a computer or the Internet outside of school, students who are from different cultures, students with English as a Second Language or Indigenous Australians. However we should try and view this not so much as a disadvantage but use these technologies to embrace the diversity in the classroom. Go on YouTube and pod casts to discover other cultures. Create work that celebrates diversity and allow before and after school access to computers for your students. As well as this there are also child safety issues to be considered when children are on the Internet. It is important that students understand the dangers and know how to protect their identity while they are online.

Today's students are not what they used to be. They are not even similar to University students who may have only graduated high school three or four years ago. Yes these technologies may be a little work to set up and yes for some teachers becoming a proficient Digital Immigrant will be a lot of effort. However if it means that our students motivation to learn is increased, their engagement in class is increased and they develop a joy and passion for learning...creating an e-learning adventure for students is well worth the effort!

Kindergarten is Fun - by Woodley Wonder Works

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Learning Management Systems

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are designed to be "a way of delivering, tracking and managing training/education...over the internet (Wikipedia, 2009)". LMSs such as Blackboard, Moodle or WebCT act as web-based resource that can enable access to "learning content...and enhance and support class room teaching (Wikipedia, 2009)".

Since starting University, Blackboard has become part of my everyday life. While I appreciate the ease of access I have to course information I can't help but feel at times that this is just an electronic source of the blackboard we used to copy from at school. Kearsley and Schneidermann () describe their engagement theory as a process of human interaction not just "individual interaction with an instructional program". The theory comes from the idea that "computers in education...(are)...communication tools rather than some form of media delivery devices".

Having said this it may be that I don't use Blackboard to its full potential however I can see the value of having a LMS for the classroom. Students are able to gain access to information they have missed out on at school and homework tasks can be found and completed within the system. The LMS could also become a place that caters for differentiation such as gifted ad talented learners, or lower level learners who may need just a little extra help. The LMS is also a great way of showing other stakeholders what is going on in the classroom. I like how Moodle for this course makes use of forums and all who are enrolled feel free to voice problems and offer solutions. Netiquette would have to be established before school students used forums and Kearsley and Schneidermann suggest students create a brief bio of themselves so that others can get to know them.

I personally feel that Moodle is a better example of a LMS and can appreciate that a LMS can be a valuable teaching tool within the classroom.