Monday, August 13, 2007

A cat-nap for Daughter 2 and the start of a new term

Ah well, back to the chalk face this morning. Or to be more accurate, the interactive whiteboard-face. I don’t want to say anything critical about the college - not that I think the senior management read my blog every morning but still, I need the salary – but we will be using some new rooms this session and these have been equipped with interactive whiteboards. These aren’t new devices, but our college hasn’t had many up till now and I’ve never had to use one. Yet.

In case anyone doesn’t know what an interactive whiteboard is – and I apologise for my possibly inaccurate description here – it’s a big white computer screen up on the wall. You can’t write on it with chalk or with a whiteboard marker but you can “write” on it with special doofers that look like pens (just to lull technophobes like me into a false sense of security) but which are actually… well, what are they, I wonder? Sort of sensors or something.

Anyway, you can “write” something on this screen and it comes up as wobbly writing. (If you rest your hand on the board to help guide the pen, the screen picks up the movement of your hand and you get smudges.) Then you can do some magic on your laptop and the wobbles turn into print. Theoretically. You can also bring along notes or a Powerpoint presentation or whatever, saved on a memory stick, and then make this appear on the screen (just like with any computer) but then you can move things around the screen with your hands, or draw circles round certain items, or add handwritten notes or arrows or wiggly lines to what’s on the screen. Or at least, I've seen this done.

You find me somewhat vague here because though I did go to a workshop last term on how to use these things, I’ve now forgotten the details, such as how actually to do it. Ok, it’s not so much the details as the fundamentals that I’ve forgotten. I’m really not good with technology.

Should the boards not work – either because they develop a fault or because the operative (eg me) is too dim to remember which buttons to press, the following procedure must be followed. The operative must return to her workroom - a walk of two or three minutes - must sign on to a computer and then must enter a request for assistance on the intranet by filling in a form with full details of the problem. A computer service person will then attend within two or three hours. Meanwhile, back in the classroom… .

Can you see any tiny flaws in this system? I suppose it’s maybe a way to make sure that even the dimmest lecturer (eg me) learns pretty quickly to concentrate on getting the button-pressing right.

Meanwhile, I think I’d better carry a flip-chart with me at all times.

Must stay calm, must stay calm… Think of (whiskers on) kittens.

Think of the Botanic Gardens.

Think of (raindrops on) roses.

Think of retirement.


  1. My daughter, Michelle, who is studying Primary Teaching at Uni (as well as raising 3 children almost single-handedly as her husband works overseas a lot), went to one of those courses last week. She hasn't mentioned much about it yet (perhaps I know why now!), although I'm sure she'll manage (if she hasn't forgotten how by the time she finishes her course in two year's time!). What a lot of rigmarole to go through if there is a problem. Presumably your students are old enough to not create chaos in the room if you ever do have to report a fault, but just think what will happen with younger students, Eeeeek!!!!

    Thanks for your comment on my blog, Isabelle. I'm hoping that I can at least get some colour back into the garden, too.

  2. Mmmm. Good luck with that situation.

    Although I generally enjoy technology, I think there are times when we humans try to overcomplicate things. This is one of those times.

    Right. Think of the kitties and the roses.

  3. Anonymous11:59 pm

    Definitely a moment for thinking of puppies and kittens! Who decided THAT was an improvement on a whiteboard?? I'll tell you who - A MAN. I'm sorry to be showing my Sexist Slip, but there isn't a woman on earth who would call that an improvement.

  4. That sounds really cool, if it works, and horrible frustrating if it's a buggy system. I like the sound of being able to put up a powerpoint presentation and then circle and drag stuff on it, very 21st century.

    Every week at journal club we start 15min late because of problems getting a laptop to talk to the projector. Every week, same equipment, we are supposedly tech-savvy scientists.

    Imagine the bouquets I saw at a wedding yesterday: pink and white roses, stock, peonies and sweet pea. Loverly. Also, the bride released butterflies at the end of the ceremony.

  5. I'd be packing a stick of chalk, just in case.

    Those kitties sure spread their love around, don't they?

    They are just so darned cute!

  6. ah, the Smart Board.

    I don't have one where I work now, but I did have one.
    Imagine an image of a painting. Let's say a nice Renaissance one, such as Mantegna, up on the smart boart. With that pen, you annotate everybody's responses to it, which you can then save, plus hidden in various places on the picture, are hidden hyperlinks, just like portkeys in harry potter. So you poke one of the figures in the painting and the hyperlink takes you to a site featuring that person's portrait by say, another artist, or their history. Oh, the things you can do with those things....stop me now.

    (the students usually know what to do when something goes wrong anyway!!! :-)

    Now, if you are teaching a visual course, imagine how this compares to crappy little black and white photocopies....

    aaaah. Now if only I still had one...Now I actually have a blackboard. With CHALK.

    Isabelle, I am sure that you will have this thing TAMED and doing as you bid within a week. Guaranteed.

    But still, the raindrops on roses are a nice thing to think about....

  7. I used to teach and I was thinking how much I would have loved to be using new technology, not to mention how good it would have been for my dry skin. Now that I've read your post I'm rethinking the whole thing.

    Good luck with the smart board. Enjoy the term.

    Your daughter looks like a sleeping angel.

  8. I always love your posts, beautiful photos, lovely family-including kittens, of course-and a smile, as well! Thanks for being you! :)

  9. Those boards sound CRAZY!!! Can you write on them by writing with your finger, you know since it picks up your palm on it and all? Weird, very weird.

  10. Giggling again Isabelle! "thinking of whiskers on kittens, retirement, etc."

  11. Kitten SLOWLY turning into TIGER.

    Have you noticed?

    Methinks, a suit of armour for the sleeping maiden would not gang aglay ....

  12. I saw one of those boards being demonstrated on TV. I must confess, I rather like technology...if I only knew how to use it!
    I nominated you for a Rockin' Girl blog Award, Isabelle. You are forgiven if you choose to ignore it! You have a lot to think about. Kittens & Roses are the best perhaps.

  13. I'm in your corner [the one for dimwits] on technology, and so glad to have a little company there! I often daydream about just walking in to the newspaper office to see if they'd hire me. And then I talk myself out of it again as I don't want to expose my utter lack of a clue about computers and such....sigh.

  14. what happened to blackboards?

    I love the photo of the Botanics - one of my most favourite places in the world

  15. That wretched, wretched board.
    Get those technos on the case!!!

    I am proud to say that i am demoted to the use of a real blackboard and chalk at the minute.
    I drew ALL over it yesterday.

  16. Ah Isabelle, you did make me laugh! I worked in secondary school libraries for many years, and used to see frustrated teachers trying to keep up with the new technology as it arrived. I must admit that I have never used one of the new whiteboards, but I have seen them in action in my last school. Loved 'the favourite things' photos. I have terrible trouble, still, with photos. They keep disappearing into the black hole of cyberspace. Ah well, Isuppose it doesn't only happen to me. I am the Uri Geller of the computer world I suspect.

  17. I lost my list of 'favourite blogs' after a nasty powwer cut that also blew up our computer and phone lines. Found you again and will be back to read more about those gorgeous kittens - they will settle down - eventually...