The Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) is a technology that promises to truly transform the classroom and yet is seen as a threat or a waste of money by many teachers. Their views range from luddite, regarding the introduction of any teaching technology as unnecessarily contaminating the classroom to the (more reasonable) preoccupation that this tool will lead to a overly teacher-focused environment and a group of learners passively sitting dazzled by the bells and whistles used by the sage on the stage.
It doesn't have to be that way though. In this post, I will reflect upon the recent discussion on the Dogme (teaching unplugged) list about the pros and cons of IWBs, and put forward the view that the key to a successful IWB implementation is in the training, something which seems to be missing when many organisations unpack and install these shiny new toys.
* A good workman never blames his tools
Before I continue, let's stop and take a look at the tool itself. There are many different types of IWBs, but features are similar (consult the Wikipedia entry on Interactive Whiteboards for further details).
The market leaders at the moment are Promethean, Smart and Mimio. These manufacturers make IWBs which have similar features (but with some important distinctions) but it is important to note that the software used by each company is not compatible. Thus, the first important decision to make before buying is which one to choose.
Smart technologies seems to have been around the longest and is very common in the USA, and this is why many people still call IWBs Smartboards, but this is the equivalent to calling a vacuum cleaner a Hoover.
Promethean appears to have gained more ground recently and is very popular in the UK and Australia. The British Council (my employer - I should declare now that I have a bias for Promethean boards because they are the ones I have used the most), for example, is installing ACTIVBoards in many of their teaching centres around the world.