Stop Taking Pictures of the Whiteboard

First week of school in iPad class and I’ve just drawn a fantastic diagram of how an iPad works on the whiteboard. It’s beautiful – I even used three different color markers. “Now students,” I intoned, “please copy this diagram into your note taking app.” How clever I was – asking them to use an app instead of an old fashioned notebook and pen, how 21st century, how 2.0!


While most of the class was dutifully copying the diagram from the board two students suddenly got up from their desks. Nonchalantly they strolled over to the board, launched the camera app on their iPads, took a picture of the diagram, and returned to their seats. While the rest of the class was slogging away they had just won a few minutes to play Angry Birds.


Were these students cyber-savvy cheaters or labor saving innovators? That depends on what the purpose of my lesson was, or if you like asking big questions – what the purpose of school is. Should I have been using valuable class time to download information to students? What is the point of class time anyway?


Those are the questions that Seth Godin raises in his new ‘manifesto’ Stop Stealing Dreams. It’s a thoughtful, well researched, kick in the @$%*& that should be mandatory reading for anyone who cares about school. Some of it I disagree with, for example I’m not convinced that the launch of compulsory education was as solely focused on producing factory workers as is often argued. But I really liked a lot of it including a little gem hidden in section 131 called ‘How to fix school in twenty-four hours’ (which I’ll let you check out for yourself). Separate from Godin’s answers is the question he is asking: what is school for?


That’s a question that I was forced to address that morning in class when my students took pictures of the notes instead of copying them down. It’s also a question we all should be asking.


Have you read Godin’s manifesto? Have your students led you to ask this same question? Should I have stopped my students from taking pictures of the whiteboard?? Let us know in the comments


Photo credit: Image source

Hans Mundahl

Hans Mundahl

Director of Technology Integration at New Hampton School

I've been an educator since 1995 when I first stepped into the classroom as a Fulbright exchange teacher in the former East Germany. Since then I've been an Outward Bound instructor, a teacher, tutor, admission officer, house head, evening administrator on duty and I ran the experiential learning program at New Hampton School for almost ten years. Today I focus on technology integration centered on values-driven technology integration and 1:1 iPad initiatives. Recently I had the chance to help New Hampton School become an Apple Distinguished School and I co-authored the iBook Teaching with the iPad (available on the iBookstore). Now I'm the founder of a scrappy little company (one employee!) called Hans Mundahl and Associates, inc a digital strategy consultancy for schools and non-profits. My free time is usually spent with my family but I'm also passionate about the outdoors and protecting the environment. I'm on the Board of Trustees at the Newfound Lake Region Association and when I have the chance I'm an active hiker, climber, and paddler. My writing appears on and I speak frequently at technology and education conferences.