I am more of a bells and whistle kind of guy. I enjoy the latest technology and consider myself an early adopter (if cost isn’t a major factor of course). So when my department opted to purchase 3 sets of whiteboards (portable dry-erase boards for student use) I was a little taken a back. I would much rather see iPads or Smart Boards put into classrooms, not plastic boards with markers and erasers. Far be it from me to discourage those in my department so we went ahead and now have 4 class sets of whiteboards spread out amongst the department (12 boards = 1 set). I still wasn’t sold on the idea and resisted using it until giving a lesson on Genetics and Punnett Squares and made a quick decision to have the students work out problems using the whiteboards… well I am now sold. The students did not hesitate in the least to complete the questions and worked cooperatively in groups of 3 or 4. I was able to quickly move around the room and instantly see where students were having difficulty and address the problems right away. By the end of the block all students had completed the questions without complaining or struggling individually at their desks.
I used the whiteboards 2 more times that day, once with my Biology 11 students on DNA and with my AP Biology class on Dehydration Synthesis / Hydrolysis reactions. It was so easy to do and took no effort at all. Instead of insisting students take notes or work individually at their desks they were able to talk, discuss, try, erase, try again with ease. Such a simple tool that took the potentially difficult and made it palatable for most. Of course I won’t be using it every class so the cache doesn’t ware off but I will definitely be using them more than I would have had I not made that spur of a moment decision to try something new.
Here is a link to Jacob Martens blog where you can find information on how to obtain your own set of whiteboards. Thanks go to Jacob for bringing this idea to the department last year.