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Are Interactive Whiteboards an ICT4E Wonder or Waste?

By Wayan Vota on June 4, 2012

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At eLearning Africa 2012 there was a strong interactive white board (IWB) presence. Yet I wonder how effective they are for ICT for education interventions in the developing world. I’ve only seen one teacher use IWB’s effectively, and she was one of the best teachers at an elite private school in Jordan.

Teachers across Africa and South Asia are usually working in schools that are overburdened and under-resourced. The teachers themselves often lack training and professional development opportunities. Or as Doug Crets says:

I think that white boards are great, but they were often purchased with out time for training, or resources for smart implementation. The problem is not really the tech, it’s who purchases the tech, why the purchase it, and what they do after it’s purchased. It’s hard working in a school system where other people decide how a teacher uses things, or where they spend money on things without consulting teachers. This is the story I hear, generally.

In this resource-poor education environment, is an interactive white board practical?

I’ve not see teachers in Africa use them nor have I heard teachers talk about using them. As teachers rarely use any ICT in the classroom it could be that IWB’s are no better or worse than other technology interventions. But somehow the big flashy IWB vendors at conferences seem more out of place than the computer manufacturers.

Now if there were only a cost-effective, low-tech IWB option

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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3 Comments to “Are Interactive Whiteboards an ICT4E Wonder or Waste?”

  1. JimTeicher says:

    Wayan, I appreciate the link to CyberSmart Africa as we have implemented an IWB that is appropriately adapted for low-infrastructure schools — the vast majority of schools in Africa. However, the major consideration we address is ongoing teacher professional development and the type of pedagogy that must be in place in order for interactive whiteboards to be effective instructional tools — as opposed to a wasted investment. Learner-centered pedagogy, where the teacher facilitates an active and highly motivated classroom, is at the heart of what can make an interactive whiteboard a wonderful teaching tool.

    From a budget perspective, the interactive whiteboard itself must be low cost because the vast majority of funds must be allocated to ongoing learner-centered professional development, not equipment. It’s also important to emphasize that equipment usage training is the least important aspect of IWB professional development. Teachers naturally learn how to use the equipment as they learn how to manage an active classroom. TCO studies reinforce the fact that only 25 percent of a school technology budget should be allocated to equipment, the rest to pedagogical training, content, and ongoing support. In summary, the IWB must be bundled into a comprehensive learning solution in order to have the kind of impact students deserve.

  2. John Hawker says:

    I really like this guy, does some great stuff with simple technologies. Here is a simple whiteboard:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s5EvhHy7eQ

    while I used to dislike Interactive white boards, after using one, I do like them, but there are so many way’s I’d use funds in a poor school first, before spending it on this technology.

    I think Air Con is important too, not high on my list either.

  3. Jakub Simek says:

    We at Pontis Foundation equiped 5 secondary schools in Voi District, Kenya with IWBs among other equipment and I agree with Jim, that training and learner-centred use is what matters. In the former pilot project the problem was breakage of interactive pens and improper installation of eBeam that resulted in bad calibration. Now we use eBeam Edge, Mobio View and interactive response system together with locally produced white boards and provide training on the use and maintenance. But overally we shifted the focus to project-based teaching and the ICT equipment plays a secondary role.