By Chris Craft, 6th grade Spanish and Latin teacher in Columbia, SC and InFocus education guru
Dr. Gary Stager set the edu world ablaze with his unabashed critique of interactive white boards (IWB’s). The article and the resulting comments are well worth your time. As a manufacturer of interactive projectors, we somewhat have a dog in this fight. What follows, however, are my honest thoughts of the nature of interactivity in 2011.
One of the consistent critiques of education these days is the teacher-centered pedagogy. Lisa Nielsen says we are suffering from a case of sage-on-the-stageitis. She may be right. So let’s talk about a solution.
There are a variety of competing instructional models vying for your affection. From constructionism to constructivism to connectivism, there are many different ways to teach your kids. Or I could say, there are many different ways to learn alongside them.
One idea seems to resonate clearly through the rumbling of anti-IWB critique, it’s that teachers still want to have a good projector. During my first year in the classroom, I went “shopping” in the new technology support lady’s closets. I discovered an older DLP projector that had a thin layer of dust on it. As I walked the halls of my school the days and weeks before this discovery, I noticed most all of my colleagues using overhead projectors (the kinds that use transparencies and spit out a whirlwind of dust). I took that old DLP projector back to my room and nursed it back to health with a can of air and some electronics cleaner.
The next day I hooked it up to an old laptop I brought from home. The revolution in my classroom had begun.
I didn’t quite realize just how revolutionary that moment was until I watched a superb video by Dan Meyer called the Next Gen Lecturer. In it, Dan talks about his transition from an overhead projector to a digital projector. His experience mirrors mine. The video is embedded here for your convenience.
See the episode guide / commentary at: http://blog.mrmeyer.com/?p=849
In October of 2007 I won an award called the Technology Innovative Program Award at the South Carolina Educational Technology Conference. The award was for the innovative Spanish program I had developed and implemented at my school. The award came with a number of prizes, one of which was an interactive whiteboard. To the delight of my students and the envy of my colleagues, I became one of the first classrooms to get an interactive whiteboard installed.
I began to explore its uses and features. During the honeymoon I wrote on the board all the time, annotating and illustrating almost entire lessons. But I noticed something, the kids seemed to get over the novelty and didn’t much like looking at the back of my head. As time progressed, I wrote less and began sitting among them, rather than in front of them. My interactive board became a projection surface.
Fast forward to the Summer of 2010 and the ISTE annual conference. I met up with the folks at InFocus and they showed me brand new interactive projectors. At first I was jaded, thinking they were trying to replace my interactive board with something identical. But it turns out that wasn’t their goal. Rather than create a product that forces you to the front of the room they created a product that supported the way we learn.
You see, we learn differently every day. Sometimes we do short lectures on basic vocabulary. Some times we do projects using Google Earth. Some times we work on authentic projects. Each day is different, each kid is different. Something I discovered over the years is that having an IWB forces me to front and center, somewhere I don’t want to be.
This year I unplugged my interactive board. I’ve been exploring the InFocus IN3916 interactive projector in its place. So far, I am thrilled. First, it makes any surface interactive. We’ve made the floor interactive, every wall interactive, even the lockers are interactive at times. Having a projector that is as flexible as we are has been tremendous.
The IN3916 comes with an interactive wand. The kids treat it like a game remote and take to it with ease. In a few short minutes, they are interacting with content anywhere in the room in their groups. And since the IN3916 has network controls, I can have any computer in the room projecting onto a surface without having to unhook one and hook the other one up. It all happens through the network in seconds. So any kid can make any surface interactive from any computer. All with no calibrating.
The IN3916 has helped take away some of the obstacles to learning that were previously there. For starters, it’s flexible in its inputs. If we need audio, it’s got built in speakers that create great sound. If we need multiple inputs, it’s got them. It’s even 3D ready.
So we’ll keep exploring how the IN3916 works, and we’ll keep you posted.