Our school district has invested $14 million dollars into putting Promethean ActivBoards into every classroom and Media Center in the district. This ambitious project has been an ever changing work in progress. The first phase of installs has been 15% of the classrooms. The teachers that have gotten ActivBoards in there classrooms have primarily been receptive to their new teaching partner, while the kids have just loved it.
Let me explain what an ActivBoard is so you can better understand how it changes the way a teacher has to teach. Watch an Overview here to see it in action. The ActivBoard is a large “Interactive Whiteboard” that you don’t use dry erase markers on. But as you can see it is much more, it is a PC, a VCR, a flipchart, a PowerPoint, a DVD player, an interactive lesson with your students, a center during class, the Internet, a TV for special events and more. An ActivBoard can be attached to a PC, either a laptop or a desktop running ActivStudio Professional or ActivPrimary for Elementary Schools K-2. Also standard with our ActivBoards are speakers with an Amplifier and a DVD/VCR. Along the line we will be adding a document camera, but you can also attach an ELMO and other devices to the ActivBoard.
Can you imagine showing a video or DVD of Martin Luther King, pausing the DVD during “I Have a Dream”, changing to the PC in two clicks where you have flipchart or a web page showing something that you want to focus on at that point in the speech, then switching back to the DVD to continue where you stopped? You can even have the students use the ActivBoard to answer questions about the DVD and the Flipchart lesson afterwards using the ActiVote personal response system that captures student responses by asking students to make a choice on the hand held voters by clicking a button. A mini quiz without the students knowing it. The kids think it’s a game, answer the question right and be the first or get the most questions correct.
I want to stress how much the kids really love the ActivBoard. It’s interactive, it’s entertaining, they get to use it and most important, they listen to the lesson. From my life experiences, when someone enjoys doing something they tend to pay better attention, learn more and retain it better. I have no statistical proof, but this would lead me to think that the kids will improve in grade point average and to some degree on the standardized tests that the lawmakers seem to think are needed to show Yearly Progress. The ActivBoards are by no means the only way we should teach, not at all. We should be doing some things the old fashioned way, like writing and reading. We shouldn’t stop going on field trips just because the ActivBoard can go just about anywhere, while it doesn’t have to move from the room. We shouldn’t stop going outside, sitting at a set of lunch benches and reading out loud with our students.
ActivBoards are a good advancement in teaching methods, they should be used in conjunction with current teaching methods. Some day the ActivBoard will break, you’ll need a backup lesson plan to do it the old way. Don’t replace the car when you are just adding a new coat of paint.