Beam me up on the board

11th April 2003 at 01:00
THE future began on the last Thursday in March. Futures often begin in mid-spring, due to it being close to the end of the financial year. This is when there is sometimes a bit of money left in the kitty for goodies after all the essentials have been paid for. And so it was for me.

A few months ago, following the demonstration of an interactive whiteboard, I spontaneously enthused to a senior colleague about the wonderful possibilities of such a device. Had I realised that there was any chance of then being asked if I would like to pilot its use, I might have slevvered on in a more calculated way. As it transpired, spontaneous drooling was enough to implant the idea that since someone had to be first, it might as well be Mr Nerdy.

Now I have a data projector suspended from my ceiling, beaming on to a touch-sensitive screen. The hardware is in place and I will be interacting the moment the appropriate software is bunged on.

The pupils are intrigued, the way they were intrigued 20 years ago when the first microcomputers appeared in classrooms. Some think that the set-up is "cool". A few are even interested in my view that a pupil in primary 1 just now will leave secondary school (or maybe even start secondary school) at a time when this gear is normal.

For this to happen we need one minor miracle and a major miracle.

There's the funding. A lot will be needed but it is not inconceivable that it will be found. Harder to pull off is the conversion of those who wear the "Luddite" tag as a badge of honour. Be prepared for toe-curling self-justification and the snotty subtext that, if you need technology to make your lessons interesting, then your subject or your ability is lacking something. You wonder if, years ago, there were people who saw the Banda machine as the work of the devil.

I do not think that an interactive whiteboard will make me a better teacher. I do think it will make my lessons more interesting. Pupils whose learning styles are not well-catered for by talk and static diagrams may respond well to colour, pictures and animations.

One thing nobody can accuse me of is being a whiz-kid. I am far too old for that. The years have advanced and the hairline has receded, to the point that I was able to fool a gullible fifth year into believing that the projector had to be resited as stray reflections from my bald head were dazzling children in the back row. Yes, the future is bright . . .

Gregor Steele also got a new conventional whiteboard the day after the computer equipment was installed.

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