Even windows are important in a school’s computer room

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 | Implementation Issues | Comments Off

Neglecting to pay sufficient attention to infrastructure issues is one of the most common mistakes made when implementing technology in a school. 

How much thought do you give to the windows in your computer room?

You may think that the windows in the room where the technology will be deployed do not warrant attention.  Wrong!  Consider the following suggestions that could make all the difference in your computer room, or even in your classroom if you are fortunate enough to have technology there:

Vinyl or plastic blinds are better than curtains in a school’s computer room – they’re easier to keep dust free.

Paint windows with enamel paint if you can’t afford curtains or blinds – this reduces glare from sunlight on computer screens. 

Brick up a computer room’s windows, or part of them – this decreases the likelihood of burglaries.

In dusty areas, seal the windows of the school’s computer room with silicon to prevent dust from seeping into the room.

When sealing the windows of a school’s computer room to combat dust make provision for adequate ventilation.

These thoughs were tweeted by @e4africa with the tag #ictschooltip.

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If I have a data projector in my classroom, why do I need an interactive whiteboard?

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 | IWBs, technology | 4 Comments

Many of the things you want to do in you classroom with technology can be done without an interactive whiteboard – in many instances a computer and a data projector would suffice.  Unfortunately many interactive whiteboards are used merely as a display surface – these boards have no value unless they are used for their intended purpose.

Once you start using technology to encourage learner participation, you will be able to judge whether you need an interactive whiteboard in addition to your computer and data projector.

An interactive whiteboard allows you to do exactly what you did before on your old board – you can write on it and erase what you don’t require any longer.  Herein lies perhaps the greatest strength of the interactive whiteboard – in its basic use it does not differ from the board that you’re used to.

But then, it offers much more:

With your computer and data projector you can display prepared material to the class – when you’re using an interactive whiteboard you can use your finger or stylus to annotate and highlight main points, while you are presenting the lesson.  These annotations can even be saved for later use.

A data projector is one-directional – that means it can only display information on a surface and learners can’t interact with it physically by means of a keyboard, mouse or touch screen.  Learners can interact with learning material on a computer, but if you have one computer in the class it is hardly possible for all the learners to participate.  An interactive whiteboard solves this problem.  It becomes a surface on which information is displayed for the entire class to see – but every learner can come up to the board and interact with it, selecting, dragging, dropping, cutting and pasting just as they would do on a computer.

The greatest value of an interactive whiteboard is that it transforms a classroom into an interactive one.  Learners are able to interact with learning material in different ways.

An interactive whiteboard will be a good investment only if you are determined to use it for its unique interactive features, and not only as a display surface.

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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How does an interactive whiteboard work? … for dummies

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 | IWBs, technology | 2 Comments

An interactive whiteboard is one of the most astounding pieces of technology that you can bring into your classroom.  Imagine one of your classroom walls as a huge computer screen, but one on which you can write in the same way that you write on your conventional black board or dry-wipe board.

An interactive whiteboard appears to be sheer magic, but the concept is quite simple.  The board itself is just one of three pieces of equipment needed to produce a miracle in the classroom.  These components, which must be linked together, are:

A computer – either a laptop or a desktop computer. 

A data projector – mounted from the ceiling or placed on a table or mobile trolley.

The interactive board – in most cases the board is mounted permanently on a wall, but portable ones are available too.

When these three components are combined the interactive whiteboard becomes a large computer screen.  Everything that appears on the computer’s screen is beamed through the data projector onto the board.  The amazing thing is that you can use a penlike stylus – or sometimes even your finger – to write on the board.  You can tap on the board in the same way as you would click with a mouse. Whatever you do on the board is sent via an electronic message to your computer.

In a way an interactive whiteboard can be seen as a big touch-sensitive screen, with the board acting as a screen, mouse and keyboard at the same time.  This allows for interactions between a person and the computer.

Various devices are on the market today, which makes it possible to have an interactive classroom without the board – these devices convert your classroom wall into an interactive surface.  Even some data projectors allow you to interact with the images thrown on a wall or a screen – and they respond to your interactions.

Classroom technology has advanced to a level where it can help you to transform your classroom into an interactive one.  An interactive whiteboard – or similar device – allows you to do so.

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Some say an interactive whiteboard is a waste of money – is it true?

Saturday, November 27th, 2010 | IWBs, technology | 5 Comments

An interactive whiteboard can be a complete waste of money – it can also be the best investment you’ve ever made.  It all depends how you use it.

Because interactive whiteboards are big and white and expensive and often unused, the analogy of a white elephant springs to mind.  Sadly, in some classrooms interactive whiteboards are just white elephants – expensive, useless gadgets.

Sometimes the boards are never used at all.  You can’t write on (most of) them with a normal board pen and since the effort to connect the board to a data projector and a computer and to start up the computer takes effort, some teachers find it too much of a bother and rather use their old board for writing.  This is the ultimate in white elephantness – not only is the interactive whiteboard a waste of money, but so are the data projector and the computer.

In other cases the board is only used as a display surface for the data projector.  None of the interactive capabilities are used – a white wall would suffice.  Since the interactive whiteboard is not used for its intended purpose – and could be done without – it is a waste of money.

The situation changes when the interactive whiteboard transforms the classroom into an interactive one.  Skillful users of these devices encourage classroom interaction – not only physical interaction where learners touch the board to select, drag and drop, or write, but also mental interaction where they interact with the learning material and with one another.  If this happens the value of an interactive whiteboard is great – you can hardly express it in monetary terms.

Interactive whiteboards also earn their keep if they help you – the teacher – to come to grips with technology.  Perhaps you were hesitant to use technology before, but since the interactive whiteboard resembles your old writing board, using it may make the transition to technology in the classroom easier.  If your board can accelerate your progress, it is money well spent.

Before buying an interactive whiteboard, first think how you would use it. Many teachers first bring a laptop and a data projector into their classroom and only invest in an interactive whiteboard once they’ve identified a real need for it.

An interactive whiteboard is only a waste of money when you don’t use it optimally.  Of course, this is true of any technology that you buy for your classroom.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

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Total cost of ownership of technology in the classroom

Sunday, November 14th, 2010 | Cartoons, IWBs | 1 Comment

Count the cost before you buy!

 This comic strip was created by Kobus van Wyk using  MakeBeliefsComix – go there to create your own.

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MEC Donald Grant supports the use of technology in schools

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 | ICT in Africa, technology | 10 Comments

Donald Grant, MEC for Education in the Western Cape, visited Bridgeville Primary School on the Cape Flats today to show to the media what schools can achieve by means of technology.

Donald Grant with learners in the computer room

Bridgeville Primary School is a shining example of how technology can be harnessed to improve learning outcomes.  Over the past years the literacy ratings of learners in this school have shot up dramatically.  The principal, Albert Arendse, attributes much of this success to the use of technology.  The school has a computer laboratory with 25 computers, as well as an interactive whiteboard in every classroom.

The next goal of the school is to use technology to improve numeracy, which is a serious problem in most of the schools in the province.

Interactive whiteboards give learners a head-start in literacy and numeracy

MEC Grant told the media that he and the Western Cape Education Department are serious about the use of technology to strengthen teaching and learning in the province.  Through the award-winning Khanya project, 1 225 schools have already been helped to acquire computer facilities, and by 2012 all the schools in the province will reach this status.  The MEC also informed the media that he is determined to find a way to provide broadband connectivity to all schools.

A huge investment in time and money has already been made in order to lay a solid base of technology in the province.  The next challenge for the minister and his department is to ensure that teachers receive continued support for optimal technology use.

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Interactive Whiteboards for Africa

Friday, April 23rd, 2010 | IWBs | 8 Comments

It is with great pleasure that I can let you know that the book Interactive Whiteboards for Africa – 101 Questions was launched last week.  The book is based on postings that appeared on this blog, enhanced by many of your comments (thanks for that!).  See the catalogue for a full listing of all the chapters.

The book will be made available in hard copy format to teachers who do not have access to the internet.  Kind donors made the printing of several thousand copies possible.

Interactive Whiteboards for Africa is not a training manual – it is an advocacy tool that can be used to let teachers know it is cool to use interactive whiteboards.


“The end is nigh” … for interactive whiteboards.

Sunday, February 14th, 2010 | Blogging, IWBs | 5 Comments

Both the title of this posting and the cartoon are misleading – the end of interactive whiteboards in schools is nowhere in sight.

What I mean is that the end of postings relating to interactive whiteboards on this blog is in sight.  I’ve reached my target of 101 articles, answering some of the main questions folks are asking about these boards.  I will now cool it and only write about these wonderful tools when something relevant pops up.

Thanks for all the comments and interesting debates – a story always has two sides!

Click here to go the the full catalogue of 101 interactive whiteboards postings.

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Does an interactive whiteboard lead to digital inclusion?

Sunday, February 14th, 2010 | IWBs | 1 Comment

A huge gap exists between those sections of the population that have access to digital resources, such as computers, the internet, and other technologies, and those that do not. This gap is known as the “digital divide”.

The digital divide includes the imbalance in physical access to digital and information technology, as well as the imbalance in connectivity, and the skills needed to participate effectively as a digital citizen.

This divide is clearly seen in schools today.  The current classroom was designed centuries ago.  The blackboard was invented in 1801 and after all the years still occupies centre stage.  Technology has not yet altered the majority of classrooms on the continent.

While we are teaching learners in venues that are on the wrong side of the digital divide, many learners – in fact, most of them – have already crossed the line and are now digitally included.  They may not have access to computers at home, but they are using cell phones to connect digitally to their peers.  When you send a text message, you’ve attained some degree of digital inclusion.

Sending text messages is a far cry from benefiting fully from the promised land side of the digital divide.  More digital skills are required.  Teachers can play a critical role in helping learners to cross the divide fully.  But it is impossible if they try to do this in a setting created during a pre-digital age.

An interactive whiteboard is a smart step towards establishing a digital environment – it can transform your classroom into a modern digital learning centre, where your learners interact with digital technology on a daily basis.  But the installation of the board is just a beginning. You, as the teacher, must have the courage to cross the digital divide.  An interactive whiteboard will help you too, in a non-threatening way, to walk this road.

The introduction of an interactive whiteboard is an important step towards digital inclusion for both you and your learners.

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

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Why should I stay close to the supplier of my interactive whiteboard?

Sunday, February 14th, 2010 | IWBs | 3 Comments

Vendors of interactive whiteboards are in the business of selling interactive whiteboards – they are not charitable organizations and have a profit motive.  But this is not a bad thing – it can work to your advantage.

It is important for the suppliers of your equipment that you use yours optimally.


Many people – teachers, principals, school governing body members, and even education department officials – are not yet convinced of the value of interactive whiteboards as teaching and learning tools.  They question whether the purchasing of more boards will yield a positive return on an investment in this form of technology.

Vendors know this.  The only way they can ensure future sales is by proving that the use of interactive whiteboards leads to better classroom results.  And the evidence they can point to is the success in your classroom.  They need this!  An under-utilized board harms their case.

Reputable interactive whiteboard dealers – those who are not mere box-droppers – go to great lengths providing a service to teachers.  They understand that, after selling the board to you, they can’t simply walk away and hope for the best.  The service they render includes giving initial training, supplying a constant flow of useful resources and providing guidance on how interactive whiteboards should be integrated into classroom practice. 

This situation is clearly beneficial to you.  If you form a close partnership with your vendor you stand to benefit from:

  • initial orientation and training
  • new operating software releases
  • familiarization in the use of new features
  • advance training
  • user communities – both face-to-face seminars and online networks.

Two things are required for you to benefit from you supplier partnership.  The supplier must render support, and you must make full use of the support.

A perfect recipe for a win-win situation!

Click here for more information about interactive whiteboards.

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Winner - Education Blog

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