The data projector debate …

Every Thursday morning we have a faculty meeting where our Head Teacher reports on the minutes from the executive meeting held the previous day. To be completely honest with you, I only ever half-listen to the minutes being read out with my attention being grabbed only by that which is made salient by my personal interest – technology.  Today I was in luck – as technology made a brief personal appearance on the minutes.

A HT from another department was concerned that too many different types of data projectors (IWBs, portable projectors, some kind of cheaper, pseudo IWB) were being bought … he suggested we have some consistency. My HT reminded us that he had budgeted for one of the cheaper, pseudo IWBs to be fitted into a colleague’s room (she already has a ceiling mounted projector – supposedly this ‘extension’ makes it interactive?) and had a little bit of money left over to buy another type of data projector. He indicated that there is something available that has a tablet with it and is meant to be quite good.

So … my contribution to the discussion? Can’t you get a tablet for around $70 that hooks up to your netbook? You could use it with the portable projector from the library. Yeah – thrilling contribution. My whole way of thinking about IWBs et al has altered dramatically since the beginning of the year. I don’t think we need to be investing so much money in them. I really don’t. (Insert Holden voice here).

I can see the benefit of them for watching movies … for student presentations at the end of projects and the occasional teacher presentation but really, do you need to ‘present’ every lesson? Do you need to have your students strapped to their chairs and facing the front like prisoners in Guantanamo Bay whilst you ‘perform’ in front of them? I just haven’t felt the need for that in 4/5 of my classes. (The fifth is the ‘HSC class’ … no avoiding content swallowing there … OK, there is, but I’m still finding my feet in that area.)

IWBs just reinforce the traditional teacher-centric model of education that so many educators now realise is ineffective for the 21st century. Money is being thrown willingly to satiate the voracious appetites of supposed ‘educational technology’ suppliers in order to tick the trendy ‘technology school’ box.

If I was in charge, I’d look at how money could be used to transform our school space from 19th century school house to 21st century learning environment. Oh well … lucky I’m not in charge anyway – you should see the state of my desktop!


22 thoughts on “The data projector debate …

  1. When, back in the day, I got to design PBL rooms, the first thing I did was remove projectors and IWBs, then make the tables half the size so kids couldn’t put laptops on them 1:1. Result = circle time anytime.

    You will be blown away at the IWB sellers at ISTE. They can be used well, but when money is tight, and time is limited my experience is that they make marginal impact unless people read something like Chris Betchers book, with the actual intent of changing their behavior.

    • I agree with the circle time anytime approach as this is mine although I do have 1:1 as well – students are often using edmodo to ‘meet’ and ‘share’ although of course they are chatting f2f as part of this.

      My feeling is that they are making marginal impact for students. I could be wrong. Actually, I probably am – from a survey of Year 10 students last year it was revealed that students disliked the netbooks and wanted more IWBs. I guess everyone is happy except for me, haha.

  2. I know what you mean. At our school I’m really encouraging the teachers to get the kids using the IWBs in groups so that they can work collaboratively on tasks rather than using them merely as an instructive tool which as you say is just an electronic version of calk and talk.

    • Yes – this is the best way to use these very big and expensive pieces of equipment. I just don’t see that happening when they are being installed at the front of the room and all chairs point that way as well. I guess I’m not blaming the device, I’m blaming the way they are ‘sold’ as a replacement for the traditional whiteboard/blackboard.

  3. IWBs in all our classrooms? No, not necessary… When some of our colleagues struggle to remember how to open new documents, print and save (I kid you not) how on earth will they make efficient use of an IWB?! but in some, certainly.

    Teaching stage 4 (with a smattering of stage 2) LOTE this year has been fun, and I’m pleased with how much my kids have learned, but an IWB (or, ok, a data projector, with something nifty like mouse mischef) would help me involve more kids, and add something a little more exciting and tactile to my lessons – peek-a-boo words, drag and drop resulting in bells and whistles for correct answers, etc, etc… I’d also love the opportunity to use IWBs in my stage 4 HSIE classes. My senior kids? Well an projector and my DER laptop (with a USB DVD player for docos) is fine for us.

    Maybe I’m just sad cos I haven’t had too much opportunity to play with an IWB – and so far this year, my junior lessons have been in a room with no projector or even Internet access… I’m looking forward to the installation of the IWB in the BER room I often teach in (and am worried about some internal politics which might see me have to move out once the IWB is installed. Ugh.)

    Anyway – IWB in every room? No, not in secondary schools. An IWB for every lesson? No. But IWBs are part of our toolbox, and regular access – for those who will use them to engage (rather than just those who use it as a pretty tv screen) is important, still.

    • In a class of a much smaller size (such as LOTE classes) I can see that using IWBs in small groups for these ‘interactive’ activities could have their appeal. But my feeling is that the appeal would have a certain life-span. Not saying that isn’t the case for PBL either … although I’d wager it’s a pedagogy that will be around for a very long time to come.
      I hope you get to keep your BER room with its IWB. I’m like you, I don’t have one in my room – I access one occasionally and make do with a dodgy portable projector. It is annoying when I want to display tweets or edmodo posts to the class. I don’t stand around in front of it every lesson though.

  4. In my limited world view, IWB usually = waste of money. I believe you can get much more bang for your buck with a net connected laptop, preferably with no filters.

    It’s all about creation, info gathering and problem solving.

    In my English classroom the laptops have made a world of difference. Students are constantly creating and responding in so many different ways. People are now crying for more IWBs around the school. I just think of how many new books I could buy to share with the students, or how many effective and meaningful out of school experiences that money could buy.

    I know step off the soapbox for the next person.

    • I agree with you 100%. Our book room is embarrassing … my student had to read Animal Farm online (which is fine) … but I would LOVE some new novels to teach, biographies … non-fiction … documentaries … films … video cameras and microphones … ipads … all of these things scream ‘create’ … the IWB just yells ‘listen’ and ‘watch’. I want my kids to unlearn ‘passive learning’ and learn ‘active learning’.
      Oh well … when are you starting that school? Where do I send my resume? ;0)

  5. I dislike the debate as i am a self-confessed fan. I have a class with two IWBs soon to be connected via cable, have also ordered portable IWBs and use fully digital learning units on student laptops. My work is usually presented by Powerpoint (identical to student work on laptops) so i can change by remote access as i am rarely at the front of the room (dont even know what that is anymore) and the only reason the IWB is at the front of my room is because (as in most schools), the other 3 walls have windows. Do students regularly interact with the IWB? No. Why? because we employ a collaborative learning framework and have 60 in the class. When disecting a source from next week, students will use the portable IWD to communicate with the IWB…and boy are they excited about that! My year 10 and 9 (2010 & 2011) do not and will never write any notes in my class – that is a rule the students set last year after a survey. Often it is edmodo running on the IWB and we sometimes stop the class when an important issue is raised or an excellent resource is discovered by students. Every room in my school has an IWB and I have witnessed teachers make great strides in their pedagogy. Electronic chalk and talk, well yes it happens, but it is a starting point for some and marks the beginning of a change. Regardless of technology, less innovative teachers will never get the most out of their resources, however, were you teaching in my learning space Bianca you would find amazing ways to blend the technology into your PBL and it would be mindblowing…….don’t blame the tool, blame the tradesperson!

    • I love your vision for education. I don’t begrudge your use of IWBs at all.

      My analogy is this: Don’t blame the drug, blame the dealer.

      Unfortunately the dealer in this case is the edu-tech companies who win over very busy executive staff who perhaps feel pressured to tick certain boxes. But like I said above, I’m just whinging really – two years ago I was crying that I didn’t have an IWB (not that there’s an view to me getting one installed in my classroom anyway) … guess there’s no pleasing me.

  6. Think products like the dell s300wi that incorporate an interactive whiteboard inside the projector hardware itself at a nominal increase in price ~$1300 rrp will make the question of which to purchase a mute point. The current reliance upon a single vendor’s lesson creation software however will be limiting if no transition strategy is implemented as well as the large range of vendors already installed as IWBs.

  7. My ideal classroom would have an IWB, computer access for every child (no labs), modular furniture, bean bags, floor space, and whiteboard, slabs of butchers paper, iPods, and cameras and most importantly access to the outside world via a connected COLA. That is my definition of a “multi-media” space. While ever schools continue without these spaces, while libraries linger in old, damp demountables with little connectivity and resourcing…. I am thankful that my students have access to an IWB. #justsayin #justdreamin .

  8. In regards to IWBs I have a foot in both camps. There is no point buying IWBs just for the heck of it, just because they look good and give the air of a technologically focused school. Many teachers just use them as a whiteboard and a dvd projector. That is a waste of our limited resources, as has been said. Many opt to buy cheaper options eg data projector, panaboards with long throw etc and they just don’t work that well.

    On the other hand, I LOVE my Smartboard!! Yes, at times I do just use it as a whiteboard and video player but I also love that when we are watching a movie I can freeze on a frame, get the kids to come up and draw the vectors, highlight different things etc then take a picture of their work and send it to them. We have whole class interactive quizzes with countdown timers, buzzers etc an it really get the kids focused and engaged. Lots of the software tools are great for all sorts of lessons like teaching how to write about setting by embedding sounds etc. Plus, if a student is away I can record and save everything we do and upload to edmodo/moodle or email.

    As well, now that the laptops also have Smart Notebook, I also get the students to create their own interactive lessons, quizzes etc which they share with each other on the laptops and the best ones are then played on the big board.

    So if I was given the chance, would I get one? Absolutely but I would be ensuring training so they were being used properly and fully so they don’t become the elephant at the front of the room.

    • You’re right Paula – I think my resistance stems in small part from the fact that I don’t have an IWB in my classroom and therefore have not invested the time in learning innovative ways of using it. I’m sure the students would love it – they seem to love those that other teacher have.
      I wish you were at my school to teach us your ways with the IWB – since I am the primary ‘tech’ person at school not much has been done in the way of training for IWBs.
      But the overwhelming cost ultimately precludes me from supporting them being put into every classroom – or even cheaper alternatives. I just think that for the many teachers who have them they are not doing what they could.
      Like David said, outside of school experiences or workshops run by ‘experts’ could be paid for instead … I do love your use of it for film though!

  9. I’m seeing a lot of talk about this subject lately, and I’m inclined to agree. I have one and it never gets used and I don’t feel bad about that. My students all have laptops and with interractive and collaborative web tools, I find I don’t need to ‘present’ so much.

    • That is an interesting point … what type of laptops do you students use? I find that I would use my data projector every second lesson and only for a minute. I agree with my friend Jay who said that he only uses it at the beginning of the lesson to remind students of the project goals and deadlines. Do you use it for your students to present?

  10. The $2 Interactive WHiteboard mentioned earlier is a good idea, Bianca. THough my reading so far has seen it only in a science/maths context – as an English teacher I am trying to think of ways to use it in my classroom. As a PBL tool it might be worthwhile looking at for you. Don’t worry there is nothing technical about it, I smiled when I saw the $2 IWB; and the case made for its use over the more expensive type of IWB is exactly the point you are making here in your post.

    • Thanks Brendt :0) I shall look into it – if I can have each teacher only spending $2 on a tool they might use infrequently (although admittedly some may use it every lesson) and as a result more funds are freed-up for better books for the hungry minds of my young students, then I am happy! As you would know, a lack of reading 9and not technology) is something we really need to tackle in our schools!

  11. You are correct. Arriving on the scene is the hand-held wireless mouse which will eliminate the IWB. Your PC screen is projected by any old projector onto a wall and the teacher can walk around the classroom, wireless mouse in hand, using standard Windows based software. These cost $20-$40, see the first generation of these searching “handheld wireless mouse” at amazon.
    Ricardo Amigo, MexTesol, Mexico City

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