Whiteboards could damage kids and teachers' eyesight
Razzle dazzle 'em
Interactive whiteboards that are used in schools and colleges across the UK could potentially cause eyesight damage due to a lack of basic government guidelines.
According to an investigation carried out by the BBC, many of the devices used by teachers and school children do not carry adequate warnings about the "dazzle effect" of the light projected.
Whiteboards, which allow teachers to interact with computer desktops, have become increasingly popular in classrooms with the government investing millions of pounds into the technology.
Although the dazzle effect projected from the equipment's beam will be too strong for most people to stare into for very long, the Health and Safety Eexcutive (HSE), which offers guidelines here, warns that a user's peripheral retina could still be overexposed even when not looking directly into the beam.
It advises that, where ever possible, a user should keep their backs to the projector beam to avoid overexposing their eyes.
It says that users "should make sure that direct beam viewing of the optical output from this equipment is both controlled and restricted to no more than a few tens of seconds at a time".
It also suggests that the light projected from whiteboards should be set at no more than 1500 lumens.
A lumen is the unit of "luminous flux" which is based on the perceived power of light.
National Union of Teachers representative Mike Harrison told the BBC that he carried out a straw poll in Wiltshire and found that only a small number of people have been told how to safely use the kit.
He added: "It's very difficult to avoid the beam because if you are standing in front and demonstrating a point to the class you immediately want to turn round to know that they are aware of what you are saying, rather than ducking out of the beam. You want to stay there and face the class."
Sam Livermore, owner of Selectasize which has supplied teaching aids to schools for more than 30 years, told the BBC that he has attempted to convince the government to issue whiteboard warnings for several years without success.
He said: "My concern is there are 250,000 whiteboards in the UK used on a daily basis in our schools and five million students."
Speaking to The Register, Livermore said that successive education ministers had failed to respond positively to his recommendations.
He added that the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) welcomed his suggestion to push for the adoption of warnings on all whiteboard kit, but that it was struggling to bring that awareness to the education ministry.
Although guidelines can be found online, Livermore pointed out that warnings should be clearly displayed with all kit issued to schools and colleges.
Last week, under Gordon Brown's newly formed Labour government, the Department for Education and Skills was renamed the Department for Children, Schools, and Families with Ed Balls MP at the helm.
In a statement about the department's makeover, the DCSF said it will "allow us to respond to new challenges that will affect children and families: demographic and socio-economic change; developing technology; and increasing global competition".
According to the Beeb, which also spoke to Dr Christopher Hull - a leading eye expert from City University - little research has been carried out on the potential harmful effects whiteboards may pose to a users' eyesight.
"What little evidence we have indicates misuse of whiteboards is likely to cause only non-permanent changes. But, in the meantime, there is no reason not to put safety notices up." ®
I have recently started working in a school doing techy supporty stuff, and frankly, I'm astounded they even bother with these things - surely there was nowt wrong with what we had in my school - an OHP with an LCD overlay hooked up to a VGA splitter?
That way, teacher sits at computer - not in front of OHP screen, getting in the way, sets the pointer size to 'monsterous' and talks the class through the demo.
Worked a treat, even back when LCD overlays had a refresh rate that would make the Slug Olympics 100m hurdles look spritely.
I'll put £5 on it costing a shitload less in initial setup costs [touch sensitive whiteboards, structured cabling, mounting for the projector, control software, support contracts] than the IWBs anyway, and because you can lock it away afterwards, you don't have the problem of the kids sticking pens in the RS232/CAT5/VGA ports, twisting the volume controls trying to find '11' and breaking the switch in the process, etc etc.
Not a fan of 'em meself - it really seems like an answer to a question no bugger asked.
Except the bugger who saw lucractive support contracts in a closed market, of course...
re: re: Common sense?
>Even 'arc eye' caused by welders can take hours before you realise damage is done, and by jimminy
>does that hurt at that point.
Arc eye might not hurt for hours, but you know instantly that you just looked at a chunk of plasma brighter than the sun. Anyone smart enough to not look at the sun will know that eye damage is imminent;
Also, according to college level textbooks (Weld 107, Welding Technical Orientation, 2006, C. Hobson) arc eye rarely causes permanent damage- If the light from these projectors is not causing sunburn, it is less intense and, logically, should not be doing as much damage.
What a helpful comment! I am a teacher and the only time I've had to contact our IT department was when they set up my IT account incorrectly, allowing me no access to the drives I needed.
I have worked out how to source the information I needed and how to use the interactive whiteboard without help from IT. Plenty of common sense then.... I also feel that the vast majority of my colleagues would find your comments pretty insulting too.
As my Mum used to say, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
P.S. Shouldn't you have been answering all the dumb queries from all the dumb teachers instead of browsing this website....