The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, When Using IWB

So this past 3 weeks, I have been “earning my way” to #ISTE11. “EduStranded” in St. Louis wiped out the stash I had for the trip.  So I reviewed 864 links and Promethean flipcharts in 3 weeks (I categorized them and write a description). Sounds easy but really wasn’t. I had to open each flipchart to view it, add in ADHD, 2 kids, teaching and coaching job, and you see why I finished at midnight the last day it was due. But that is not the point here, sorry, you know I digress.

So after hours and hours looking at these I would find myself either getting excited about some or very frusterated with others.  You hear over and over people arguing against or for IWB. Some of these flipcharts I would look at and this “Yep, that’s why people hate these” then others would cause me to think “What a wonderful student-centered lesson, this is why IWB are not bad.” So I have decided to put in my 2 cents on these flipcharts.

The Good:

  • Student centered: flipcharts where students create things
  • Story telling flipcharts that have animation that act out stories being read by the teacher (yes I understand people don’t like teacher centered but I think all teachers should do a read-aloud with elementary kids)
  • Flipcharts used a part of a learning center (make a set, choose correct path)
  • Self correcting so students know they are wrong and can now search for correct answer without teacher involvement.
  • Calendar Time flipcharts – yes more teacher centered BUT when I taught 1st grade this was really a time we bonded as a class, plus kids love to be in the spotlight to do their “job.” (BTW there are about 200 of these on Planet, so no need to make one.) 
  • Student games – not whole class competitions, but where 1 or 2 students play to advance after problem solving activity.
  • If it is to be used during a lecture, those only 4 slides long with videos and just pictures.
  • Templates for students to use for presenting. Sometimes little ones or non-techy kids need a place to start.
  • Short ones that are mostly used for a 3 minute formatitve assessment.

The Bad:

  • Flipchart = PowerPoint. Need I say more?
  • Pure lecture centered
  • Class competition games – games like that work OK for our honors classes, those kids love competition, but my kids really take failure/losing hard.
  • Covering 100 different topics in one flipchart just to make a cutesy theme. Keep one subject.
  • Pages are just math problems and maybe a picture.

The Ugly:

  • 30 slides of notes. If you have 30 slides of notes, your students hate you.
  • Games or interactives that have a buzzer when wrong. The entire class does not need to know a kid is incorrect.
  • Putting your name as a search word. That was just a peeve of mine and had to get it out there.
  • No pictures, just bullet points. zzzzzzz
  • No interactive anything, it is called an INTERACTIVE white board for a reason.

Ok so there that is my “How To Make a Flipchart Not Annoy Me” lesson. Really this is comes down to one thing – IWBs are a tool. Just like a pencil (remember that rant?), paper, text book, computer, whatever, if you use them for good, student learning will happen. If you use them incorrectly, then it is a waste of money.


I Don’t Rock

Ok I really like teaching earth science mostly because of the fun subject matter. I enjoy seeing students learn about space, weather, oceans, or how to protect our environment.  It is a subject where my inner nerd can come out and it not be too obvious (I am so Sam Sparks on “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs“). The more I enjoy the subject matter, the more “fun” lessons that come from it. I then see students get excited about it.

So now I have begun my Rock and Mineral unit. To me this is so boring. It’s a rock, like takes a million years to do something. I really have trouble coming up interesting lessons. It does not help I am lacking in lab materials and computers.  I worry I am going to end up resorting to lecturing – which would be pretty boring, because I am bored by the subject matter.

Here is the biggest shocker: I have found myself online searching for lesson plans.  I haven’t done that since college! Still not finding much. I think the rest of the world, other than my 2 y/o, is bored by rocks too. My PLN on twitter has helped me some, but still at loss.

Let’s just say I am ready to move on to earthquakes and volcanoes.

So what motivates you when you get stuck on a subject matter you do not really like?  What do you do to make it interesting for your students?

And I have to ask, have any suggestions for this unit? (before you give me a great idea using internet, computers, etc, please note I only have access on Friday for 45 minutes and that is the day most of my students blog).


I’m Human, I’m a Teacher

Ok I am not making this blog post a rant. I am writing this blog post from the heart. I can get mad and rant and post stuff to my facebook or twitter account (I started a small one after reading the article that sparked this post today), or I can collect my thoughts and share.  I am doing the latter.

So where do I start? Budget cuts or test scores or removing teacher’s right or firing teachers? How about I start here: The state of Alabama wants to change the tenure law.  Right now if a teacher has to go to arbitration he/she still gets paid during his/her leave. Ok I understand where they are going here, but the reports, the comments, the ideas behind it that all teachers are evil are upsetting to me. I hate that no one wants to protect teachers who are innocent, but the way this is written I understand why, just look at how the reporter portrays teachers.

I am sadden by the way people view teachers.  We are educated professionals.  Period. Education is a 4 year degree. You cannot do it with out. Not only a 4 year degree BUT a specialized degree that only focuses on our profession.  How many careers can say that?

It is amazing to see how the bodies of our government are treating the education system.  Why are people without teaching degrees making decisions about what happens in our school systems? Why are teachers having “rallies” to try to keep their retirement? Really?

We have test scores to hold us accountable. Well here is the deal, we are HUMANS teaching HUMANS.  Just like I cannot MAKE you jump off a bridge, I cannot MAKE a kid sit and try his/her best on a test.

We are humans. Period. I am saddened by the way media, community gossip, politicians, and interest groups draw a picture of us.  I am saddened that the education system is not respected enough that teachers get a voice in it. We are professionals who do teach because it is our life not because it is a job. Believe me no one would do this if it was just a job.

How are we supposed to get the best of the best to enter the profession if we make it sound like it is a second rate job? The future of our country in on the line here. We need the best to teach our future leaders to be better.

To my fellow teachers out there, I hope this is just a phase our country is going through (isn’t that the excuse we give to kids being disrespectful some times?). Keep your heads up, your students love and respect you, and eventually will be grateful for the impact you had on their lives.  Please keep fighting for reform, respect, and our children’s future. We are humans, I am not sure of a stronger more resilient species, are you?