Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Teaching more content with an IWB is not transformational

I’m absent this week for my Technology 4 Teachers’ class, due to my involvement in the METC 2010 conference. In my absence, a staff member of UCO’s IT department will be coming to my classes tomorrow to share an hour long “Introduction to the SmartBoard” presentation with my students. In collecting a few links about IWBs and SMARTboards this evening, I found SMART’s official YouTube channel and the video, “A Teaching Transformation.”

Here is a transcription of the start of this video by SMART:

Lori Reed, K-5 teacher, Kress, Texas: “Using a SMARTboard has transformed my teaching…”

Rosie Pink, K-8 Teacher, Edina, Minnesota: “…I have been able to cover quite a bit more curriculum, just because we are able to help children understand much more quickly using the technology available…

Several responses to this come to mind.

First of all, it would be great to have MORE of these teachers’ ideas and quotations, instead of just these abbreviated sound bytes. What ELSE did Lori Reed say about “transformed” teaching? The editors of this SMART YouTube video juxtaposed Lori’s statement with Rosie’s, implying that “teaching transformation” involves using a SMARTboard. That might be the opinion of Lori as well as Rosie. We don’t know that, however, because the video doesn’t include any more of Lori’s ideas than that initial sentence.

Second of all, “covering more of the curriculum” is absolutely NOT “transformational teaching.” It is more EFFICIENT teaching. For something to be transformed, it has to become something DIFFERENT. When using the word “transformation,” we need to think of metamorphasis, not simply growth. Transformation doesn’t involve just “more of the same.” It involves something DIFFERENT. Simply covering more curriculum content equates to greater EFFICIENCY in teaching, not a “teaching transformation.”

Third, aspiring to the goal of “covering more content / curriculum” in class is a questionable pedagogical goal. We have over 3000 K-12 educational standards in the state of Oklahoma currently. We don’t need more pressure for teachers to address more standards, and to cover more material. The pressure to “cover it all” remains a major obstacle to the goal of supporting learning environments in our schools where students are engaged in DEEP, authentic learning activities. Videos like this suggest we should be excited and motivated by a technology which helps us “cover more in class.” I disagree with this premise. I agree we should aspire to use BLENDED LEARNING methodologies to cover more OUTSIDE of class, but not the idea that we should simply try to cover more IN class. Ian Jukes does this in his conference presentations, and while he has some good ideas I think his practice of talking faster to cover more content is ineffective and a bad idea. This is generalizable to other learning contexts as well. Let’s agree to NOT be impressed by a vendor, fellow educator, or marketing video which promises, “Our snake oil can help you cover more content during your class period.”

Fourth, I think the idea of recording and sharing teachers’ perceptions about TRULY transformed learning experiences is a GREAT idea. Mike Muir started a project a few years ago titled “1 to 1 Stories,” but the domain he registered has expired and I’m not sure what happened to the initiative. As I recall it was a blogging initiative, rather than a digital storytelling project. Last week in Minnesota leading CASTLE training for school administrators with Jamie Fath, I started thinking about how important it is that we record and share transformational stories of teachers and students learning in 1:1 settings. The upcoming Iowa 1:1 Institute, on April 7, 2010, might offer a superb opportunity to gather and subsequently share these stories online. This could be something our Storychasers nonprofit could get involved with, as part of our mobile learning collaborative.

I’m sure at least some readers are wondering, “Since you’re not a big fan of IWBs, why are you including a lesson in your T4T class about them?” The answer is pretty simple. In addition to preparing students for the FUTURE 1:1 classrooms in which they will be learning leaders, I think it is my responsibility to also prepare students for the CURRENT classrooms in which many of them will teach soon. Like it or not, lots of districts are spending LOTS of money on IWBs. It’s important to be literate in the languages of your local culture, and competency with IWB technologies is a significant part of the edtech learning landscape in many schools today.

In addition, having someone come in to share an IWB lesson with my students is an easy sub-plan. That may not be a noble reason, but it’s certainly a practical one.

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3 responses to “Teaching more content with an IWB is not transformational”

  1. Lori Gully Avatar

    As a long time fan of your blog, I read an article today about mobile learning that made me wonder what you would say about it. Your posting today prompts me to share the URL with you. It may be old news–I neglected to check the pub date, but here it is!

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Lori: Thanks for that article reference, I will check it out.. looks like they have lots of good research articles linked from the same page.

  3. Craig Mantin Avatar

    Could not agree more with your post. There is no doubt that it is a great tool when its potential is realized but transformative, I don’t think so.
    I wrote similarly about this a little while back and was glad to read your take.