Are interactive whiteboards undermining our classroom management?

Are interactive whiteboards undermining our classroom management?

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In recent years, more and more technologies like interactive whiteboards have been enthusiastically introduced into classrooms. But has the impact on classroom engagement been wholly positive?

In this episode of School Behaviour Secrets, we explore whether interactive whiteboards (IWBs) are a positive force for classroom behaviour... or whether they're quietly undermining the teacher's ability to run the class.

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan  0:00  

When was the last time you heard the word inspiring a PowerPoint put together, but because it's easier to use PowerPoints, that's what we automatically do. Interactive whiteboards are kind of clunky to write on, so we bang up a PowerPoint and we talk through the slides. But are they really inspiring? Are they really going to have the children on the edge of their seats in the same way as an engaging conversation? Well, no one should have to endure hour upon hour of PowerPoint, let alone kids. 

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to  school behaviour secrets. While other educational podcasts dissect issues with the skill of a fine surgeon were more like my mate Gary who works at the local butchers. Well, I say work he volunteers because he just likes cutting things. I'm here with my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma. 

Emma Shackleton  1:27  

Hi, Simon. 

Simon Currigan  1:28  

Before we talk about the content of today's show, I'd like to ask you a question

Emma Shackleton  1:32  

Oh a break from tradition then go on.

Simon Currigan  1:35  

What's the one piece of technology you couldn't do without?

Emma Shackleton  1:38  

Just gonna say the obvious one that springs to mind immediately. And that's my mobile phone. I'm sure if you asked most people this, they would say the same. Why do you ask?

Simon Currigan  1:47  

Because today we're going to have a debate. We're asking the question, are interactive whiteboards, undermining our classroom management? Because they're a big new piece of technology that's just entered the classroom in the last sort of 15 years, we're going to look at the pros and cons of this type of classroom technology and give the verdict. Are they good for classroom behaviour? Or are they actually working against us?

Emma Shackleton  2:10  

Okay, I like a good argument. So I'm looking forward to it. But before we start that debate, I've got a favour to ask our listeners. If you find the content in this episode useful or thought provoking, or interesting, don't just keep it to yourself, share the podcast with three friends or colleagues who would also find it useful. You can do that by opening your podcast app and tapping the Share button. And your podcast app will send a direct link to any of your contacts by text messaging or email. It's easy and it only takes about 10 seconds.

Simon Currigan  2:42  

That means it's time to pop down to the gentleman's outfitters dispense with our old tight jeans and trouser that expanding waistline we call behaviour.

Emma Shackleton  2:51  

Welcome to the Court of Common Sense that is school behaviour secrets. Let's start our debate. Are interactive whiteboards undermining classroom management in our schools?

Simon Currigan  3:04  

So you take the case for the defence for interactive whiteboards, and I'll present the case against them.

Emma Shackleton  3:09  

Okay, Simon, tell me why are interactive whiteboards bad for classroom management?

Simon Currigan  3:15  

I think they're bad because they have lost their impact. So let's start with the over use of videos. interactive whiteboards are often used simply to put a video on the screen something from YouTube and 15 years ago, yeah, that had a wow factor. Nowadays, it's lost its impact. It's become normal, it's become boring. It's become commonplace when you think about it. When was the last time you saw a truly inspiring YouTube video used in the classroom? And while I'm on about it, does every lesson really need a video, a friend of mine has got this saying that goes "To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail". If you've got an interactive whiteboard, it kind of encourages you to always use a video always use a PowerPoint and you end up relying on the same lesson format over and over quick bit of intro is a YouTube video I need to explain something, I go and get a video off the internet that's lost its impact. Kids find that boring now. So they're starting to switch off and then you get problems with classroom management.

Emma Shackleton  4:22  

Okay, that's a pretty compelling argument. But I would say right video at the right time can be really engaging and can offer something additional that the class teacher wouldn't normally be able to do. For example, I was in a classroom the other day and the teacher was beaming some footage from around the world about a very specific part of a very specific rain forest and it was really fascinating to see something that the children in that class would never have been able to have access to in real life.

Simon Currigan  4:54  

But videos are passive. When we have passive learning activities. We know that that leads to off task behaviour from the kids. The kids are zoning out, they're not engaging actively with a topic, when you put a video on an interactive whiteboard right for the kids is different to listening to someone who's engaging, who's interested in their topic, because that interest and enthusiasm really pulls you into the lesson. We've talked already in previous episodes about how someone with great presentation skills, eliminate behaviour issues, because the kids are eating off their every word. And you just don't get that with a video. And in fact, I would make an argument that the overuse of videos is actually undermining the development of presentation skills in a whole generation of teachers. Because in the past, we had to learn to have those skills to hold the classroom. And now, which is bang on a video,

Emma Shackleton  5:47  

I think you've got to get the balance here. Though used in the right way. videos don't have to be passive if the children are actively searching for information if their note taking if the teacher is pausing the video to ask questions, what they're doing is adding to their toolkit, they're using their presence, and they're using a video to enhance that presence. Children switch off from teacher voice children are used to multiple sources of input. They play video games, they play music at the same time, and they have their phone in their hand at the same time. Sometimes just listening to the class teacher talking is boring. Using videos adds another dimension, as long as the teacher is encouraging the pupils engagement and giving opportunities for them to be actively involved. I think it really does make the children think about what they're watching and learning.

Simon Currigan  6:42  

But it's never going to be as fluid as a fast moving dialogue between the teacher and the kids. And another thing I see more and more often nowadays, is videos are used to fill time, which in the past would have been spent in relationship building, there might be five minutes at the end of a lesson when our lessons run short. In the past, we would have read a book or played a game got to know the students. More nowadays, you just see someone putting on a YouTube video and standing at the side of the room wasting that opportunity losing that chance to really connect with the kids in a way that's going to support the development of their classroom management in the long term.

Emma Shackleton  7:19  

I do agree there it is about finding the right video at the right time. So it's about teachers using professional judgement to make sure that the video is wholeheartedly relevant and is adding something extra to the lesson. The best teachers that I've seen using videos are still doing those relationship building activities as well. They're still reading to the class. They're still having a quick game. They're still doing team building activities with their pupils. They're not just putting videos on day in day out. So it is about right video. Right time.

Simon Currigan  7:54  

Okay, let's move on from videos. Let's talk about PowerPoint and specifically death by PowerPoint. No adult should have to endure hour upon hour of PowerPoint, let alone children. You know, this should be against the Geneva Convention. PowerPoints are dry. PowerPoints are boring. When was the last time you heard the word inspiring a PowerPoint put together. But because it's easier to use PowerPoints on an interactive whiteboard. That's what we automatically do. interactive whiteboards are kind of clunky to write on. So we bang up a PowerPoint and we talk through the slides. But are they really inspiring? Are they really going to have the children on the edge of their seats in the same way as an engaging conversation? Well, no one should have to endure hour upon hour of PowerPoint, let alone kids. 

Emma Shackleton  8:42  

But PowerPoints can be brilliant, and they can be really effective. We all know that just reading out the slides is bad practice. Remember the rule dumb slides, clever presenter, what we need is a little bit of information on the slide that gives a prompt to the teacher about the conversation that they would naturally have around the topic. I totally agree reading off text from the slide is super boring. But when the slides are there with a prompt that reminds the adult what to say next, and gives them a structure for the teacher to talk around making sure that they adapt what they're saying to the needs of their audience. I think that works really well. It's again about that relationship building and it's about the presenter altering the technology to fit their needs rather than just going with a stock or standard PowerPoint and not adapting it to their own class.

Simon Currigan  9:37  

But those PowerPoints, they lack again, that fluidity, they're too structured. They discourage the teacher from going off at tangents and following up the children's questions. If you think about using a traditional whiteboard or a traditional chalkboard, if a child asks a question, you've got the opportunity to go off at that tangent and explore it and write different things on a board with a PowerPoint. It's almost like a railway. The lesson chugs along following the line of tracks where it was predetermined, the lesson would go following the slides robotically, because it is just really hard to adapt a PowerPoint in real time to kids questions and ideas in the way that you could have done very easily 20 years ago using an old fashioned whiteboard or chalkboard,

Emma Shackleton  10:20  

Yeah, but I think this goes back to the point of the structure of the PowerPoint. So if you're just putting in little ideas and little hooks, you can allow the children to go off at a tangent. And don't forget on interactive whiteboards, teachers can write on the slides to adapt them using pens and other technology. They just need the training and to feel confident to do that.

Simon Currigan  10:41  

I'd just like to take a pause for a moment and say that if you're finding this podcast useful, then you're going to love what we've got waiting for you in that inner circle programme. The inner circle is your one stop shop for all things behaviour. It's a comprehensive platform filled with videos resources on behaviour inspiration to get you unstuck with classroom behaviour. We've got training resources on de escalation, supporting kids with anxiety support strategies for conditions like autism, ADHD, and PDA. practical ways of helping pupils deal with strong emotions, assertive behaviour management techniques for managing the whole classroom setting out your classroom environment for success resetting behaviour with tricky classes, and more. Our online videos walk you through practical solutions step by step, just like Netflix, you can turn an inner circle subscription on or off whenever you need to, with no minimum contract Plus, you can now get your first seven days of inner circle but just one pound, get the behaviour answers in you've been looking forward today with Inner Circle, visit and click on the Inner Circle picture near the top of the homepage for more information. 

What you often find as well is people download PowerPoints because they kind of fit the lesson of their learning intention, but they don't adapt them. And as a result, that PowerPoint doesn't specifically fit the needs of their kids that they have in the classroom right now. And the teacher doesn't have such an awareness or knowledge of the content in the slide, you see this problem as well when teachers use other people's lesson plans. If you're not invested in the development of that lesson plan, if you don't know the choices that went into developing that plan to make it in the format it is now it means you've got poor knowledge about what's going to be delivered in the lesson, which always leads to a poor lesson. So if you've got a PowerPoint that doesn't quite fit, unless you're adapting it, unless you're making sure you know what's on every slide like you would do if you developed it yourself, it's going to result in a poor quality lesson. And if you don't know the content, that means you're going to find it way harder to be flexible in the lesson. If a child asks a question, you're not going to be able to flip back and forth through the slides anticipate content and the way that the person who wrote the slides can. And you know that to be fair, PowerPoint, it's boring, it's the same format over and over and over. Here's a title here, three bullet points. Here's a little comic picture that we found in the bottom right hand corner. And I'm just gonna say one of the things about PowerPoints is children don't get to see the adults write. When you use an old fashioned whiteboard or chalkboard, the children have the opportunity to see the adult demonstrating and role modelling handwriting what it looks like to write on a page. Now with PowerPoint, everything's typed out in advance. So kids don't get the opportunity to see that that's another experience that they're missing out on.

Emma Shackleton  13:41  

I think what you're describing is somebody who's gone too far the other way, though, we need the balance. PowerPoint can be useful. But of course the children also need to see the adults write too and that's what good teachers are doing. They're still doing that modelling, they're still doing that writing. And the problem of downloading resources off the internet isn't just restricted to PowerPoints, you could say the same about lesson plans, being downloaded worksheets being downloaded. Good teachers take resources and adapt them so that they're appropriate to their class. They don't just accept the resources as they are, whether that's from the internet or from other teachers. It's just about using the tool in the right way to enhance the children's learning.

Simon Currigan  14:24  

Okay, let's look at another reason why interactive whiteboards are affecting classroom management in schools from my point of view, and this is the issue of people being glued to their laptops and not using their presence. So what you'll often see at the start of a lesson is a teacher or an adult chained to a laptop in the corner of a room hiding behind their desk trying to present from that part of the room and you just can't do it. You can't have impact. You can't have presence. If you're sat down behind a desk, in front of a laptop, it's going to limit your presence and that life engagement or reduced engagement is always going to have an impact on classroom behaviour.

Emma Shackleton  15:05  

I do agree with this point in a way, Simon, but you know what I'm going to say teachers don't have to be chained to the laptop, they just need the training and the confidence to use the tools correctly. They're called interactive whiteboards for a reason. There's loads of tools so that teachers can stand at the front of the room and interact through the screen. Rather than through the laptop, there's no reason why any teacher should be sitting behind their desk chained to the laptop, they can get up and move around, they must get up and move around, they need to lighthouse the room, they need to make eye contact with all of the pupils. Whilst using the interactive whiteboard at the same time, it definitely can be done. I've seen it done brilliantly, lots of times.

Simon Currigan  15:49  

But 80% of teachers don't if they're standing at the front of the room, and they want to move slide, they don't tap on the whiteboard for some reason, they walk over to the laptop in the corner of the room and do it we both know that the first five minutes of any lesson are crucial that sets the stage for the rest of the lesson, you get the first five minutes right, then the rest of the lesson is likely to go well. Being at one side of the room, it limits your stage presence so much. If you think about where an actor stands, when they want to command the stage, when they want the attention of the audience, where do they stand front and centre in the middle of the stage where they can get everyone's attention and focus their words and really engage with the audience, you can't do that presenting from the side of the room

Emma Shackleton  16:33  

Agreed great teachers will still be mindful of their stage presence. And they will certainly be making eye contact and greeting every child on arrival, they should be doing that before they even touch the technology. There's nothing to stop them doing that.

Simon Currigan  16:48  

So another issue I see that's related to this is when the kids come into the room first thing in the morning or after lunch, and we have to take a register. Now, so many registers these days are kept on computer systems. And what happens is the teacher sits down at the laptop and starts doing the register using the computer system. And this has destroyed interaction, as kids come into the room, it limits opportunities for eye contact, the teacher is sat stationary, they're not moving around the room, they're not monitoring behaviour. And the way you can do with a simple clipboard or so when you're doing the register, the kids don't believe you're paying attention. If you're looking at a screen the kids expect that your attention is being directed to the screen, and not to them that makes them think they're not being monitored or their opinions aren't cared about. If you think about going to the doctor's nowadays. And I know there's a lot of research and talk about this at the moment. If you go to the doctor nowadays, do you believe they're listening to you? Or do you think that they're looking at their screen a lot looking up and down your notes, he gives the impression that the doctor isn't listening. Now I'm sure doctors are doing their best to listen to their patients to work out what's happening with their symptoms and helping them to resolve their problems. But it's mirror signal manoeuvre if you're doing something but you don't look like you're doing it, that still gives the impression to the other person that you're not listening. They get in the way of us actively listening and showing we're listening to the kids and showing them that we're paying attention.

Emma Shackleton  18:14  

But you can still do all of these things, there are our solutions to the register problem to I would just delegate if you're lucky enough to have a TA or a responsible child, have them mark the register while you read out the names. Or you could do the register on paper or just make a note of the children who aren't there and feed the attendance in later, you could take the register using an iPad, which allows you to be much more mobile and present in the room. There are always ways around these problems. It's just a matter of thinking it through and getting the best of both worlds where you can have the interaction. And you can use the tools available to you as well.

Simon Currigan  18:55  

So that was a bit of fun. Emma and I have taken on opposite points of view and played devil's advocate for this podcast. But here's what we really think interactive whiteboards are a tool. And like we have lots of other tools in the classroom. If we overuse that tool, if we overuse any one form of presentation, which happens a lot with video PowerPoints and interactive whiteboards, or you don't use that tool in the right way, then it's going to backfire. It's going to work against us.

Emma Shackleton  19:24  

So we have to use the tools in the right way at the right time with the children we have in our classroom today. Mix up how you present lessons. Remember, you're the key presenter in the room. And don't confuse passivity with engagement just because the children are sitting there quiet. does it really mean that they are taking in the learning? And if you've got a few spare moments in class, invest them in some human to human interaction rather than sticking on a YouTube video. I promise it will pay you back tenfold

Simon Currigan  19:58  

Hold on. I've got one Last thing to mention, power cuts.

Emma Shackleton  20:02  

Yes, power cuts are a problem. But the debates over now

Simon Currigan  20:06  

Want to know more about improving your classroom management? We've got a completely free download that goes with this episode called that classroom management score sheets. Inside the score sheet, you will find a list of 37 factors that have an impact on classroom management.

Emma Shackleton  20:20  

The score sheet is a list of things that you are clearly either doing or not doing. It's like a roadmap to improve your presence in the classroom. It's based on 1000s of observations that Simon and I have conducted between us, so that you know, it's grounded in solid classroom practice.

Simon Currigan  20:39  

And if you're supporting a colleague with their classroom management, it can help make your feedback and action points even more clear and objective. Get it now by going to  clicking on the free resources option in the menu, and you'll find the classroom management score sheet download near the top of that page. It's completely free. Get it today, and I'll also drop a link in the episode description.

Emma Shackleton  21:04  

Next week we'll be talking to Deborah Miller, author and expert on the subject of EFT tapping, and she'll be talking us through how to use this technique which is similar in some ways to mindfulness to helping children manage strong emotions like anxiety, anger, and fear.

Simon Currigan  21:23  

To make sure you catch that interview, you could climb into a heavily converted time travelling DeLorean sports car, fire up the flux capacitor, and head into the future like a young Marty McFly or if you don't have access to your own time travelling machine. Simply open up your podcast app, press the subscribe button or follow as it's now called in Apple podcasts. And your app will automatically download the next episode as it's released, so you never miss a thing. And if you go with the first option, don't forget your skateboard.

Emma Shackleton  21:54  

And last of all, don't forget if you find this episode interesting or entertaining, don't forget to forward a link to three of your friends. Just use the Share button in your podcast app.

Simon Currigan  22:05  

Until next time, have a great week and we look forward to seeing you again on school behaviour secrets. Bye now. 

Emma Shackleton  22:12  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)