A sense of proportion…

While the debate is raging on the pros and cons of interactive white boards in response to my last post, a child in Sri Lanka is touching a computer for the first time. It’s school holidays and he’s come along with his mother to a class taught by Clive. She’s learning basic computer skills, along with other teachers, some of whom haven’t used computers at all before.

Reading Clive’s post, and a letter the  child wrote to him, made me think…

It made me reflect again on my visit to India at the start of the year, the things I saw and the things I learnt. I pictured again the school where my son and daughter-in-law worked with Dalit students, from the lowest castes in India. I thought about the comments of a Guatemalan visitor when she saw the opportunities available for kids at my privileged Australian school. I heard my daughter describe the joy of kids in a little town in Ecuador at being exposed to literature and the arts at the library where she volunteers. I saw in my mind the enthusiastic faces of the kids I’ve interacted with in Hyderabad through the SOLES program.

Reading about Clive’s experience made me rethink my post. It brought a different perspective to the whole discussion about interactive white boards which cost thousands of dollars and whether or not they add anything to learning…

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6 thoughts on “A sense of proportion…

  1. HI Edna. Yes, it’s amazing really, isn’t it, that we are even able to disagree on the effectiveness of IWBs when there are some children in the world unable to access even the basics of education. I think we need to keep reminding ourselves that it isn’t about the tool but about the learning that goes on with it, or because of it, whether that is an IWB, a web2.0 tool, ipod touches, ipads or laptops.

    I would certainly miss my board if I moved to a school without one, but what I would miss most would be the access to technology itself.I know that I could improve the way I use my IWB, but I still haven’t seen what I would consider best practice for student learning, although I have seen a lot of good practice for teaching.

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  2. hello edna
    the iwb may seem a bit selfish, but then so may a new gymnasium or a class set of ipads. can i just question every choice that i make or contribute to in my school, and then feel good about doing my best? what if i aim to include a component of global citizenship or community activism in every inquiry that i lead in my classroom? can i demonstrate to my children that i care for their planet as much as i care for shiny technology?
    i am the teacher and i make the choices. i motivate and engage my students. i choose to reject the traditional end-of-year class trip to maccas and the cinema. sure, these are engaging and motivating activities, but how do they prepare my students for their lives as global citizens? so, i may choose to present my class with worthwhile activities, through shiny technology, that enable them to think, connect and give. think, connect, give.
    your wonderful connection with clive, shared with your class, must surely enhance their global perspective.
    hey, let’s hope this post generates as many replies as the last one.
    cheers
    brette

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    1. Thanks, Brette. I can absolutely guarantee that it won’t. Have seen over and over again which sorts of post attract readers and comments. This is NOT one of them.

      Do you teach in a PYP school? Sounds like our kind of philosophy.
      Edna

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  3. Hi Edna,
    I guess this is where I’ll comment on your IWB post and this post too.
    I fully understand why you are having trouble understanding how the IWB adds to your learning environment, and I agree with you that it doesn’t easily encourage learner-centred lessons and full class engagement. To be honest, I’ve never worked any place that has an IWB. Both my unis have blackboards. I use a CALL room, but it has a regular projector and screen. The point is, I’ve never had a chance to use an IWB. I’ve seen one at a conference, but I’ve NEVER seen one in a Japanese classroom. I don’t think many Japanese classrooms have them, and if they do have them they are probably being misused. I heard that one school got all the students iPads – in order to get the students to do grammar exercises! The point is that one would think that in a wealthy technologically advanced country like Japan that technology would play a big part in classrooms but it doesn’t. When it is used it’s often misused. I’m constantly struggling with the students at my main uni because they are mostly computer illiterate and computerphobic. I’m really reflecting on whether or not I’ll seriously cut down on the technology I use in the classroom. Sometimes I think that the only REAL benefit of using technology in my classrooms is the opportunity for my students to share their work with the whole world and interact with their peers in other countries, but I must be honest, I’ve been disappointed with the interactions that have happened. NONE of the interactions I helped them start were carried on, and some students have told me that they were not interested in interacting with people outside Japan. In fairness to them, it’s very difficult to pair them up with their peers. Most learners their age are well beyond their proficiency. They are not interested in interacting with learners younger than them, and when they get feedback from their peers written in English they can’t understand just depresses them, and so it goes…. . Furthermore, like you, I have experienced learning environments in developing countries including Laos, The Philippines, and Bangladesh. The Mangyan children I taught in the Philippines can’t always get enough food to eat – in fact, one of the big reasons they were so happy that my colleagues and I came to their village was that they would have a feast that day! So I wonder about my priorities sometimes.
    Hmmmm, that was a rather long and not particularly positive comment. Sorry.
    If you’re interested in the situation I’ve briefly described above you can read an article I wrote here: http://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110007576938/en
    Cheers!

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  4. Hi Edna,

    I’ll write about IBWs from a little different perspective. Though I have never taught with an IBW, I had a chance to see a demo by its vendor and a teacher who used it in his classes about 2 years ago. I remember I wasn’t really interested in using it myself, and I thought I wouldn’t choose this tool if I could use 300,000 – 700,000 yen (about $3,000 – $7,000). Seeing the demo by the enthusiastic teacher, I understood it could be a great presenting tool, but I couldn’t think of more student-centered activities like those suggested in the discussion.

    What made me reluctant to use it most, I remember, was that IBWs weren’t ubiquitous at all. At that time the ministry of education, MEXT, was planning to introduce an EFL coursebook designed to be used with an IBW into elementary schools (that’s why my previous university was interested in using it in the teacher training course and I saw the demo mentioned above), but this plan has since been given up due to budget cuts. I wouldn’t say I predicted so, but I imagined only one or two IBWs would be provided to each school. Teachers couldn’t play with it freely to learn or come up with how they can use it in classrooms. Students might only use it in a particular classroom, say once a month. I couldn’t be happy about teaching/learning that had to rely too much on a hardware. Also, if I had an IBW in my classrooms and my students could constantly use it, then I might start playing with it, but still it would be a classroom tool, unlike a laptop.

    Come to think of laptops, Japanese students may be relatively better-off, but may have less access to technology than they can afford. I’ve met many Japanese students who are computer illiterate as Michael said, and you may remember I tweeted before that majority of freshmen in one of my classes never use a computer at home (or they don’t even own one). So I would prefer to provide them with laptops.

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  5. Edna, what an experience you have with the connections to schools around the world. Getting a peak inside these other classroom puts many things into perspective. Education is still not equal.

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