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					The Medium of Interactive Whiteboards



Can the Medium of Interactive Whiteboards Create a Radical Change to Education and Learning in Classrooms or Are They Just Expensive Whiteboards? Sandra Trench Trinity College Dublin In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Technology & Learning Date: 06/12/07

The Medium of Interactive Whiteboards


Abstract: This paper discusses the medium of interactive whiteboards (IWB) and their effective use in teaching and learning. Interactive whiteboards are appearing in an increasing number of classrooms. These boards are state of the art, hi-tech interactive whiteboards, which when used, literally replace the traditional classroom whiteboard/blackboard, and has significant potential changes to education and learning. Although the technology is relatively new, there is an emerging body of literature on their effective use in teaching and learning. It is the teacher's implicit understanding of the principles of teaching and learning which is necessary for maximising their potential in schools.

The Medium of Interactive Whiteboards


Can the Medium of Interactive Whiteboards Create a Radical Change to Education and Learning in Classrooms or Are They Just Expensive Whiteboards? In 2005, the British Government invested 50 million pounds for the introduction of interactive whiteboards (IWB) into British schools. This British government initiative, led by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), is to raise standards, widen access, improve skills and encourage effective management in schools, in the use and development of information and communications technology (ICT) in education (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 2004). Previous to this, between 2001 and 2003 the Irish Government invested 107.92 million euros for the purposes of integrating ICTs into every school in the country. In February 2007, the Government announced that a further 252 million euros will be invested over a five year period (National Development Plan, 2007). Such an investment may be seen as a financial risk, given that the economic boom which began in the 1990s, familiarly known as the „Celtic Tiger‟, has significantly slowed down. Additionally, research about the importance and benefits of IWBs is in its nascent stage. One of the central reasons for this is because the Government‟s action plan does not specify what kinds of technology within schools to invest in, therefore, individual schools allocate their own investment however they see fit. Principals and teachers will be given the opportunity to shape the way in which this extensive investment impacts on their schools by developing individual ICT plans designed to meet the infrastructure and training needs of their particular schools (National Centre for Technology in Education, 2001). As a result, it is difficult to know exactly which schools have embraced IWBs, but the emerging body of literature on IWBs effective use in teaching and learning is growing (Becta, 2004).

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IWBs and Their Benefits The interactive white board is sensitive to touch and is connected to a computer and a projector. The projector displays the image from the computer onto the large screen so it can be used as a presentational tool. The computer can then be controlled by using a special pen or by directly using your finger, substituting the use of the computer mouse, in order to highlight, drag, drop or click on selected lesson materials. The use of IWBs in schools enables cross curricular learning. Primary school students are presented with, for example, a drama lesson about bullying. Some of the exercises involved in the lesson demands group thought from the pupils about the issue of social care, increase writing skills, problem solving ways of reducing bullying and a spiritual element which asks pupils to think about their behaviour and actions in the past and ways of improving and including others in the future. Statistics, diagrams and images are imported from the web throughout the journey of the lesson. Cross curricular subjects engaged with over the course of the lesson includes Reading, History, Maths, Art, Social, Personal and Health Education, Computer skills, and Writing. The students are engaged to a greater extent than conventional whole class teaching, thereby increasing enjoyment and motivation (Becta, 2004). Additionally, different learning styles are encouraged not simply by the nature of the issue of the lesson, but more specifically by IWBs. The use of IWBs focuses learners‟ attention, encourages direct engagement with students, promotes collaborative learning and allows ideas and documents to be saved in a systemised manner. Pupils get to edit and read text and they can also come to the board in order to seek the information they want from the web in a focussed manner.

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Realising IWBs Potential The old adage believes that tools are only as good as their users. IWBs are “... merely a medium through which interactivity may be afforded. It is the user who chooses whether or not to take full advantage of digital white boards‟ interactive potential” (Haldane, 2007, p259). Haldane‟s comment implies that if teachers and facilitators don‟t know how to use IWBs, then their presence in the classroom is redundant. The Education Department must take responsibly for users to be competently educated in IWB use, because it is possible to employ these boards simply in support of traditional classroom teaching and learning. Glover and Miller note that IWBs are least effective and have limited impact on teaching and learning when teachers “ to appreciate that interactivity requires a new approach to pedagogy and there may be a tendency for IWBs to be used more as an interest enhancer than as a new approach to learning” (2005, p.257). The implementation of educational and learning strategies such as critical thinking, cooperative learning and authentic assessment are necessary tools for maximising IWBs potential in schools. D. Butler (2000) states that “…technology itself does not directly change teaching or learning”, (p.30) indicating that the integration of ICT into the school curriculum needs to be based on sound educational practices and theories. Constructivism and IWBs Constructivist theory, applied to education, helps to inform and shape the kinds of thought which can be best realised in the classroom. Constructivist theory, which is based primarily on the work of Vygotsky, Wertsch, Cole and Engstrom (as cited in Armstrong et al, 2005) hold that we build, or construct, knowledge at different stages. In other words, what we learn at certain moments in life will be used again and again, building from each stage to the

The Medium of Interactive Whiteboards


next. How we interpret any new knowledge will be coloured by how we already see the world. Constructivist theorists also believe that there is a social aspect to learning. In understanding the world around us, we do not act alone. In social situations, which include the classroom, the learning environment presents a network of people, which will be considered as part of the individual‟s understanding (Fosnot, 1996). The constructivist philosophy to teaching refocuses the teacher as facilitator in the classroom environment where more pupil-led learning is central rather than the traditional position of the teacher at the top of the class imparting knowledge. This approach to teaching, applied in the classroom promotes active learning. Such a model sees facilitators allow learners to raise their own questions, to generate their own hypotheses and to test them for viability. Facilitators are asked to be open enough to rise to the challenges this may bring. This means trusting in the relationship between facilitator and learner where the learner is the focus of his/her own knowledge, playing a more responsible role in his/her learning environment. Facilitators and learners need to work collaboratively, moving together toward shared understanding (Fosnot, 1996). Linking the Theory to Practice In the nature of what constructivism advocates, the facilitator will build on his/her own knowledge in the context of new technology, making sense of it in terms of previous experiences of older technology. Equally, the pupils will bring their knowledge of ICT to the classroom, which also impacts on the overall learning environment. It would be vital that the trainers of an IWB demonstrate in the kind of environment, which the facilitator can replicate or create in the classroom. Terry Goodison (2003) observes the Branford‟s framework : “The pedagogical

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principles which determine successful ICT integration into lesson design should themselves apply to staff training, i.e., training should be learner centred, knowledge centred, assessment centred and community centred” (p. 566). Conclusion:

While research in the field of IWBs is still relatively new, the idea of a learner, knowledge, assessment and community centred learning (Goodison, 2003), in the context of state of the art high tech IWBs, is inevitable given the increasing virtual reality which we live in (Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, iPhones, Second Life). Pupils will continue to be confronted with newer technology and if schools remain outside of these changes, then the gap between life and learning will increase. Questions about relevancies will only serve to alienate schools from communities rather than bridge them. To turn our backs on embracing IWBs goes against the philosophy of what schools stand for. The mission of the Department of Education is: “To provide high-quality education which will (a) enable individuals to achieve their full potential and to participate fully as members of society; and (b) contribute to Ireland's social, cultural and economic development” (Department of Education and Science, n.d.).

The medium of IWBs are an effective tool, which can create radical changes to education and learning in classrooms, but it does depend on how they are incorporated and used. While more research is required in order to instil confidence about why IWBs are necessary, the author suspects that the outcome will prove how invaluable they will be in the long term. But there will always be sceptics or people fearful of change and for them IWBs will be just expensive whiteboards.

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References Armstrong, V., Barnes, S., Sutherland, R., Curran, S., Mills, S., & Thompson, I. (2005). Collaborative Research for Investigating Teaching and Learning: The Use of Interactive Whiteboard Technology. Educational Review, 57:4, 457-469 British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta). (2004).What the researchers says about interactive whiteboards. Retrieved Nov 18, 2007 from

Butler, D. (2000). Empowering Minds and Taking Control. Paper presented at the School's Integration Project Symposium, Portmarnock, Dublin, Ireland.

Department of Education. Functions of the Department: Mission Statement. Retrieved Nov 25, 2007 from 1233 Fosnot, C. T. (1996). Constructivism: A Psychological Theory of Learning. In C. T. Fosnot (Ed.), Constructivism: theory, perspectives and practice (pp. 8). New York: Teachers College Press. Goodison, T. (2003). Integrating ICT in the Classroom: A Case Study of Two Contrasting Lessons. British Journal of Educational Technology, 34:5, 549-566 Haldane, M. (2007). Interactivity and the Digital Whiteboard: Weaving the Fabric of Learning. Learning, Media and Technology, 32:3, 257-270

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Glover, D. & Miller, D. (2001). Running with technology: the pedagogic impact of the large scale introduction of interactive whiteboards in one secondary school. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 10(3), 257-278. National Centre for Technology in Education. (2001) Blueprint for the future of ICT in Irish Education Three Year Strategic Plan 2001-2003. Retrieved Nov 24, 2007 from

National Development Plan 2007-2013. (2007). Transforming Ireland: A better quality of life for all. Dublin: Irish Government Publishing Service. Retrieved Nov 24, 2007 from