What if all this money had been spent on evaluating and training teachers? You don't need whiteboards to teach. Simply walking around the classroom to look at what kids are doing, or skillfully asking for oral responses, will let teachers know if students are learning the lesson. One of my favorite tricks is NOT to let the smartest kids answer right away. Instead, the teacher waits until quite a few hands are raising before calling on someone. Another technique: ask another student if the first student has answered correctly. Do this even when the first student HAS answered correctly.
Legal Questions on How Schools Chose Their Whiteboard Brand
Voice of San Diego
February 25, 2010
...In a recent interview, Grier said he might have said that Promethean boards should be installed in classrooms, but that was a meaningless verbal slip, like the Southern habit of calling every soda a Coke...
Schools' Technology Choice Draws FBI Interest
April 28, 2010
By EMILY ALPERT
The way in which the San Diego Unified School District chose a specific brand of technological tools has drawn the interest of the FBI, according to a local businessman who sued the school district over it.
Pete Spencer, president of a La Mesa company that installs computerized whiteboards, filed a lawsuit against the school district last year alleging it had inappropriately picked a specific brand of boards for its classrooms. Spencer says he was visited this month by the FBI, which is already investigating whiteboard purchases in Florida and Iowa...
San Diego Unified is undertaking a sweeping technological makeover for schools that include classroom sound systems, laptops for each child and computerized whiteboards that can pull up web pages and interactive lessons. Two Promethean resellers, Vector Resources and Logical Choice Technologies, won a $50 million contract to install Promethean whiteboards in San Diego Unified schools last summer under a $2.1 billion bond to renovate and build schools...
After Promethean was chosen, Spencer argued he was unfairly shut out of competing to install the new technology because he didn't have an existing contract to obtain and install Promethean boards. He settled with the school district and the two winning installation companies for $42,000 earlier this year.
Spencer said he was contacted earlier this month by an FBI agent who then visited his office and asked for copies of his legal documents, including the settlement agreement, letters between his attorney and San Diego Unified and the notification the school district published seeking whiteboard installers.
"She said, 'I can't tell you whether we're doing an investigation or not. But I'll take everything you've got,'" Spencer said. FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth verified that the agent that Spencer named exists, but he could not confirm whether an investigation is taking place.
Former Superintendent Terry Grier, now leading the Houston school system, said he had not received any subpoenas or requests for information about the Promethean boards, which were selected during his tenure in San Diego. Neither has San Diego Unified, said its attorney, Mark Bresee.
Government agencies can only specify a particular brand of products in limited cases that are specified under state law, such as matching other products or coping with an emergency. Doing so can be a quicker alternative to seeking bids for pencils, flooring or other products. But the rules are specific, meant to avoid at least the appearance of favoritism for a chosen company.
The school district argued that it needed to match Promethean to other whiteboards that had already been installed in new schools. Technology chief Darryl LaGace said his staff had earlier evaluated the boards for a smaller installation and found advantages to Promethean over another brand.
But critics say that if all government agencies followed the same reasoning as San Diego Unified, they could simply block companies from competing for business. For instance, the city could equip a few libraries with a chosen product, then insist on matching all other libraries to it...
A reader sent a link to this page:
Montgomery County Councilmember Michael (Mike) Knapp on the Promethean Board purchase made by MCPS COO Larry Bowers: "At a time when we have limited resources, the school system had locked us into certain expenditures we couldn't afford..."
Gazette; Wednesday, September 9, 2009: "3,300 Promethean Boards in Montgomery County Public School buildings. Where did they come from?..."