IWB slides: A crutch or a necessity?

Let’s start with a question:

[poll id=”2″]

I had an interesting conversation last with NQT Tim Handley about use of Interactive White Boards. He was planning a unit of work for himself and another teacher to follow and asked if it was normal for people to create matching IWB slides for every lesson as part of this process. Talking to other PGCE students and NQTs it seems that creating slides for every lesson is quite common practice.

This made me think about my use of IWB’s. During my PGCE I visited a school where they did just this; one person planned each topic and created IWB slides for all lessons which everyone else followed, almost like following a plan. At the time I thought this was great, as it got everyone creating good resources for the IWBs and using them, and I replicated this in my own practice. I remember boys in my first placement class used to love checking the number of slides I had prepared for their maths lessons, and came in very impressed one morning…

“Wow Mr Quinlan, 35 slides for one lesson!”

Fast forward to the end of my NQT year and now I hardly ever pre-prepare slides for my lessons, and there are several reasons why..

The first reason why my prolific production of slides wound down was time. It takes ages to prepare them and I simply didn’t have time as I took on a full timetable. However, as I took up my own classroom with no room for a carpet I also found there was lots of wasted time when I invited children to interact with the board. I was ending up with minutes per lesson wasted as children got out of seats, navigated around other chairs and tables to get to the board, then began interacting, then navigated their way back. Whilst this was happening 29 other children were basically waiting and wasting their time. 1 minute wasted in my classroom equates to 30 minutes of learning time wasted. Wasting lesson time is not an option.

I also started to ask myself who I was creating the slides for. As I found myself writing reminders on slides for activities I wanted the children to take part in, I realised that they were in many ways a crutch for me, an alternative to nipping over to my desk to check the plan for the lesson. “Put the structure of the lesson on the slides and I can still follow it if I panic”, I was thinking and this was something quite useful as I was starting to build up my teaching confidence. However, if the structure of a lesson is pre-defined by slides, it makes it much less likely that you will change the structure of the lesson to respond to the needs of the learners…

As I began to wind down with my slides deeper pedagogical questions as to their usefulness came to the forefront. Unless you are going down the road of the Lessig Method, more slides likely means more time with the teacher stood at the front talking and explaining them, and less time with the pupils actually doing anything. This is an appealing model of teaching in that you feel like you are imparting lots of information and you have the whole class focused on learning, but in their heads they could very well be focused on what they had for dinner last night. I really believe at Primary level the longer you stand at the front and talk the less real learning happens, so lots of slides is not conducive to a learner centered pedagogy.

I strongly believe that technology is used to its best to facilitate personalised, learner centered approaches where pupils are actively participating. Listening to me explaining slides is not active participation. Despite what IWB manufacturers claim, one child stood at the front interacting with the board, even with a few others helping them verbally, is not active participation for the majority of the class.

However, obviously there are some times for teacher led explanation, and so I still do use the IWB in these circumstances, but I still rarely prepare slides. The reason for this is that pupils learn a lot from modelling and ‘osmosis’, especially where ICT is involved. If I want to display some photos from flickr to facilitate discussion I could search for them at home, download them and put them onto IWB slides to load up again at school. To me this seems inefficient when I can just search flikr for them on the board. It is almost as quick as locating and loading the file, and I have also just modelled some good use of ICT to the whole class in the process (It is a good idea to check what results you will get for reasons of esafety).

Similarly if we are looking at a Maths problem, I could pre-prepare a great big scaffolded template on slides, or I could create it as we talk it through on the board. In the second example I have just modelled the structure for solving the problem to the whole class, as well as modelling some good use of ICT if I have used copy, paste or any other useful tricks to do it. Better still I could ask them to come up with the structure for the problem, but that’s a whole other hugely inspiring video…

As I wrote previously, a lot of teaching the age group I do is about the little things, and constantly modeling good use of ICT makes a big difference. Not using IWB slides is also much more sustainable in terms of my time, and encourages a pedagogical approach that makes much better use of the pupils’ learning time. That is why I largely don’t make IWB slides for my lessons. I wonder how many people do, and what their reasons for doing so are.

Forcing change
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26 thoughts on “IWB slides: A crutch or a necessity?”

  1. /me throws something into the mix…

    Collaborative white board using Scribblar/primarypaint or PrimaryPad…

    You can create then pupils can add to your IWB in real time during your lesson. It hasn't been explored much in Primary but is becoming quite popular in other environments, especially USA HE/FE/.edu

    1. That is something I have been meaning to do for ages, and have to admit I have not achieved yet. Will really be focusing on using tools like that next term John, thanks!

  2. I find this really interesting, I do prepare slides for most classes and I do feel that they are almost a crutch in a few instances, although over the course of my NQT year,I have learnt to use them less for this reason. I have always tended to use them for a starter, learning objectives and a plenary with the possible addition of one or 2 slides for activities (differentiated between learning ability and appropriate nature of task). I was unsure from the post as to whether you have slide structured a lesson, whether 35 slides per lesson was normative. My classes also were 'impressed' with a topic's powerpoint of 200 slides, but these included tens of ideas and possible images or activities I had for the entire topic! I did not have an IWB this year and as such, have realised the limited nature of tasks that one or two pupils coming up to the board can create, class wide work seemed to be engaged with more and show a higher level of learning, particularly with GCSE classes. Having used an IWB in my PGCE year, I can see the appeal of both ways and feel that in my own practice, I am beginning to find a comfortable medium!

  3. Oh and another thing, blimey this comment is long for a Saturday night!My network has a very tight filtering system and does not allow photo sharing websites, so the preparation of flickr images (a popular engagement task for my classes) is an absolute must to be able to use the wealth of quality images that sites like these have!

  4. I preprepare things like:
    Extracts of texts that I plan to read with chn and annotate
    Pictures that we are going to talk about in the lesson
    Pictures that are ready and covered with screen shade so you can reveal a little at a time
    Maths resources eg a hundred square, protractor and angles ready prepared, shapes and ruler, all that sort of thing

    But most of the time I do the things during the lesson. I love the IWB for shared writing. It’s handy for maths as well. I used to have a normal dry wipe whiteboard and you would only have room for one problem. Now I can flick back and forth to look at how we solved previous problems and compare answers.
    Same for literacy, we can save the previous day’s work and get it out again. (I know, it’s like a flipchart isn’t it! Except you can edit more easily, delete words, rearrange a sentence to experiment wth subordinate clauses, etc)

  5. I agree that one child up and down to the board is a waste of time. I do however think that using the IWB for small group games or sessions during a maths lesson can work. So within a lesson I will have 1 group on the computers, 1 group at the bard and 1 group playing a game or doing a worksheet. it works for me! I also have to program for 4 different maths groups led by 4 different teachers. So I use a title slide and program within the slides for the different ability levels. Complicated and lengthy but useful as next year I will just adjust to suit.

    1. Henrietta, I still can't help feeling that small group could be doing the same thing on a handful of iTouches or IPads or netbooks, for a fraction the cost of an IWB!! Am I missing something? (we have IWB's in every room)

      1. You are right, and it might not be the best use of Money for new spend, but if Henrietta has an existing IWB then this is a really good way to use it I think. Although I wouldn’t buy a new one, I have one in my room so it’s best to find pedagogically sound ways of using it rather than just let it sit unused.

      2. You are right, and it might not be the best use of Money for new spend, but if Henrietta has an existing IWB then this is a really good way to use it I think. Although I wouldn’t buy a new one, I have one in my room so it’s best to find pedagogically sound ways of using it rather than just let it sit unused.

      3. You are right, and it might not be the best use of Money for new spend, but if Henrietta has an existing IWB then this is a really good way to use it I think. Although I wouldn’t buy a new one, I have one in my room so it’s best to find pedagogically sound ways of using it rather than just let it sit unused.

      4. You are right, and it might not be the best use of Money for new spend, but if Henrietta has an existing IWB then this is a really good way to use it I think. Although I wouldn’t buy a new one, I have one in my room so it’s best to find pedagogically sound ways of using it rather than just let it sit unused.

      5. You are right, and it might not be the best use of Money for new spend, but if Henrietta has an existing IWB then this is a really good way to use it I think. Although I wouldn’t buy a new one, I have one in my room so it’s best to find pedagogically sound ways of using it rather than just let it sit unused.

      6. You are right, and it might not be the best use of Money for new spend, but if Henrietta has an existing IWB then this is a really good way to use it I think. Although I wouldn’t buy a new one, I have one in my room so it’s best to find pedagogically sound ways of using it rather than just let it sit unused.

      7. You are right, and it might not be the best use of Money for new spend, but if Henrietta has an existing IWB then this is a really good way to use it I think. Although I wouldn’t buy a new one, I have one in my room so it’s best to find pedagogically sound ways of using it rather than just let it sit unused.

      8. You are right, and it might not be the best use of Money for new spend, but if Henrietta has an existing IWB then this is a really good way to use it I think. Although I wouldn’t buy a new one, I have one in my room so it’s best to find pedagogically sound ways of using it rather than just let it sit unused.

      9. You are right, and it might not be the best use of Money for new spend, but if Henrietta has an existing IWB then this is a really good way to use it I think. Although I wouldn’t buy a new one, I have one in my room so it’s best to find pedagogically sound ways of using it rather than just let it sit unused.

      10. Absolutely I agree but I do not have any ipads or touches yet but i do have an IWB. So I do what I can with the technology available to me. What I love is that the SMARTboard software is loaded onto my student computers. So I can set an activity and they will complete it individually via the laptops. My students love this and they are learning how to use the software quicker than many teachers.

  6. Big confession: I never use the IWB in the way it's 'supposed' to be used.When I say this aloud (!) I am told that there's so much one can do with it and I should be exploring the possibilities. Maybe. But whatever those things are, they still involve a whole room full of kids facing the front and that's simply not the way I teach. There are times when I want to show things on a big screen, but a data projector would be just as efficient for that (and for showing slides as you say, unless you mean something else?) .If I want kids doing interactive things, why would I get one or two up to the board to do it while the rest look on? I'd rather give them computers or iTouches and let them all be learning at the same time.Hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong!

    1. I agree Edna. A projector for sharing media is really useful, but the extra expense of an IWB… to me that is so much money on something that just perpetuates the talk and chalk model. It is a shame that so many thousands have been spent on putting one in almost every classroom I have ever been in in the UK. Unfortunately up until recently it has not been affordable to get mobile devices for large numbers of pupils, but now it is and I think the money would be far better spent on these so pupils can actively participate. We are currently facing massive cuts to tech budgets in the UK.. but I wonder how many thousands have been spent on IWBs that are only really used as data projectors, or mostly used for lecturing by the teacher….

  7. I don't think I've ever sat down and made a lesson's worth of IWB slides, except when instructed to do so at college. I've just made sure that, if I needed them, I had the necessary diagrams ready (shapes/grids/angles etc. for maths, example sentences/punctuation etc. for literacy) and then filled empty slides with the children.

    Having said that, I use the board a lot… just not necessarily for slides.

  8. Like everything in ICT, it's about starting with the learning and deciding what works. I've been teaching long enough ago to have clear memories of using a blackboard and chalk as well as lots of bits of card with blutak on them to create sorting activities etc.

    The enormous time/sanity benefits of being able to prepare key things in advance and save them and reuse them is unlikely to be disputed – and the ability for children to interact with them within a lesson is great

    But the crutch issue… Yes, I've definitely been guilty of that in the past. It goes in stages, and depends on the subject – and the amount of time I have.

    It will be interesting to see if my use changes as I move from Y6 to Y3 this year… I would really like to focus on the chidlren using the IWB themselves within the lesson – as a resource they can go to/add to during their learning, rather than using it for whole class work.

    I feel a future blog post coming on – maybe October half term…

  9. Pingback: Tweets that mention IWB slides: A crutch or a necessity? -- Topsy.com

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