How is a SMART Board Like a Mosquito Net?

Residents of Zambia, provided with mosquito nets to help reduce the number of cases of malaria, have been wreaking havoc on the nation’s beleaguered wetlands. The thing is, they have no intention of using the nets over their beds, which make handy – and freely provided by well-wishing developed nations – fishing nets. It’s not that the mosquito nets aren’t needed, it’s just that hungry now is a more powerful motivator than malaria someday. The worries do not end with the misuse of the nets. Laced with a pesticide that is carcinogenic to humans and also especially poisonous to fish, this makes the Zambians’ entrepreneurial spirit problematic.

I’m going to use the above situation as an analogy for something I’ve noticed in classrooms in my province, and probably around North America. I’m not making light of poverty in African countries and I certainly don’t have a beef with SMART Technologies or any other Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) manufacturers. However, in order to meet a need for technology integration, funding has been provided to districts to place IWBs in classrooms, but, from what I see, teachers at fishing with their IWBs when they should be using them to protect themselves from malaria.

IWBs are touch sensitive devices that allow the user to manipulate programs on a computer using fingers, pointers, or any other object that you can tap the board with. They can make a math class more interactive by calling up manipulatives for students to interact with, making learning more authentic. They can be used to draw geometric shapes that can be rotated, translated, or reflected to help students become more spatially aware. IWB manufacturers typically bundle their products with handy software that includes gallery images, clip art, interactive flash tools, maps, and more. If the PC brings the whole world to you, the IWB shares it with your class. Nevertheless, IWBs can also be used to show videos and slideshow presentations, which is what I see most teachers doing with them.

There is a place for videos and presentations in the classroom, I’m just saying that teaching can be so much more effective. What about getting the kids involved?

Teachers need to use technology in the classroom, but it just might be the case that we have provided the wrong tool to meet that need, just as the people of Zambia needed protection from malaria, but needed food more.

Students should be involved in learning, not watching it happen. They need mobile devices in their hands to research, create, and collaborate. They need to get connected with and to learn from experts around the world, and to know that what they are working on has meaning and value to them.

So, if you are fortunate enough to have an IWB in your classroom, what are you using it for? Do you use it as a station for math to allow students to interact with it directly? Could you Skype in an expert from the country that your class is studying to talk about his or her culture, geography, and government? Instead of demonstrating for the class, call a student up and take advantage of some formative assessment. Got better ideas? Post them below!

Above all, make your students’ time in class matter.

References

Gettleman, J. (2015, January 24). Meant to Keep Malaria Out, Mosquito Nets Are Used to Haul Fish In. Retrieved from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/world/africa/mosquito-nets-for-malaria-spawn-new-epidemic-overfishing.html?_r=0.


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