At the recent ULearn Conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, I was asked (along with many other educators, I hasten to add!) to be part of the EdTalks series. Naturally, I was thrilled to have been asked and readily agreed, although I must admit that in the flurry of preparation for ULearn I really didn’t think about it very much until I got to Christchurch. Sitting in the foyer of the Chistchurch Conference Centre, quite by accident, I bumped into Matt Tippen, one of the brains behind EdTalks, who said “Oh, so you’re Chris Betcher. Are you ready to record your talk?” I wasn’t, but I did it anyway, and essentially just made it up as I went along.
EdTalks is a project of CORE Education, a leading New Zealand educational consulting and training organisation, and is described on their website as “a growing collection of videos featuring New Zealand and International educators talking about learning. EDtalks is CORE’s contribution to your professional learning; a free database of short video interviews with leading educators and thinkers.” It’s one of those wonderfully simple ideas – use video to capture teachers talking about what they do, then sharing that with other educators on a completely open, accessable website.
Anyway, as I said, I wasn’t actually prepared for it, and really hadn’t given much thought to what I might talk about. The topic of interactive whiteboards came up, and next thing you know I was recording a piece about them (Curse that book! I’m getting typecast!) While I do think that IWBs have a worthwhile role to play, and I think I’ve given a fair amount of thought to how teachers might use them sensibly and effectively, I don’t know that I really want to become known as “the IWB guy”. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s the EdTalk I recorded.
The more I think through the arguments for and against IWB technology, the clearer I think I become about it in my own head. It took me a while to get to this point, but I do believe that IWBs are a worthwhile addition to a classroom. I also don’t think that my opinion is simply based on having drunk the Kool-Aid of the whiteboard vendors, who too often promote the technology as an instant panacea. It’s not. I think it’s taken me a long time to get it clear in my own head just where the value proposition lies for IWBs, and where their true strengths are.
Of course, it’s not just IWBs. The same process has applied to so many other area that I’ve developed a considered opinion about. It’s really only been this process of “thinking out loud” in public spaces like my blog, my podcast, or in various other online forums like mailing lists and Nings, that I have managed to hold some of these debates in my own head and come to conclusions that actually make sense to me. There is enormous value in being challenged by others who hold contrary views and who will debate and raise the level of critical thinking so that the end result, at least in my own head, is something that I can feel happy with. You know what they say… if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
It makes me wonder… I know many people who don’t/won’t take their thinking into a public space and expose it to the scrutiny of others. How do those people decide where they stand on controversial issues if they don’t blog or write about or somehow share their thinking with the wider audience?