Where’s that whiteboard?

Chalk up another one for the subtle art of networking and being proactive.

Our school is soon to be granted funding to spend – as wisely as we can – on interactive whiteboard (IWB) technology: the latest whiz bang piece of seemingly essential school hardware, which is an important tool to have in the school library, especially for maximum usage in collaborating teaching situations.

Of course, the decision making process, about where such expensive hardware can go, and who will have ready access to it, is not going to be easy. Our library is made up of portable building modules, and has a very low ceiling and a shaky floor to boot. The other obvious location for an IWB is outside the senior classrooms – and upstairs, thus making transport upstairs and downstairs highly unlikely. But up there, we are also cursed: by incredibly high ceilings.

About a week ago, I heard that a gathering of local area teacher representatives of schools would be soon meeting to discuss some strategies for incorporating an interactive whiteboard in each school. At first, I quietly panicked that I wouldn’t be invited; two staff members were already going. I began devising a set of points for why I might be able to attend as well – but I needn’t have worried. During a staff meeting yesterday, the forthcoming gathering was mentioned and someone asked, “Is Ian going to that?”

I’m feeling rather chuffed. I didn’t have to even consider a cap-in-hand routine. The staff wanted me to be there and, so it turns out, did the others going to the meeting. It would have been easier to be all negative, dash off to a listserv and complain loudly, but I sat on my hands just long enough to realise that all my subtle lobbying was vindicated. My old adage of “If one keeps proving one’s worth in a school, then one will be included in important decision making” holds firm.

Further to all that, I was also asked (earlier in the week), if I wanted the library mentioned specifically in the Annual School Report. Although I’d contributed several important bits last year, the idea of putting all of the library’s contributions to improved student outcomes under one heading is very exciting. So now I can mention our exciting new wiki, our outstanding achievements in the Premier’s Reading Challenge, the two 2007 book raps, the local newspaper’s book review program, and many other things, all in one place! Of course, now I have to write it.

The IWB meeting was on this afternoon. I’m very pleased I was able to put in a good word for the benefits of book raps, blogs, wikis, and collaborative teaching with teacher-librarians in relation to maximising the use of IWBs. I also backed the suggestion that, if the schools in our group were to work on a communal project of some kind, with a shared purpose, it should help teachers learning about IWBs to put their new knowledge into a context. From experience, I know that purpose is one of the best ways to get people to embrace new technology.

At this point, I still have no idea where our IWB will go. Who knows, maybe there’ll be more than one? But, where ever it ends up, I consider it part of my job to ensure it gets used as (a lot) more than a regular whiteboard.