TEACHERS TELL THEIR STORY Interactive Whiteboards at Richardson

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					SNC June 2004

                   TEACHERS TELL THEIR STORY

          Interactive Whiteboards at Richardson Primary School

                        Beth Lee and Dr Maureen Boyle

                                 June 2004

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The context

Richardson Primary School is a small, 213 student, 15 teacher, disadvantaged
government primary school located in the Australian Capital Territory, Australia.
Interactive whiteboards (IWBs) were introduced at Richardson Primary School in 2002
with a special education class. Within a short time the educational effect on these
children was so positive that other IWBs were acquired. The program was enhanced at
the end of 2002. By mid 2003 the school had made strenuous efforts to acquire a
“critical mass” of IWBs and at the present time there is an interactive whiteboard in
every classroom and the library.

In 2003 the school commissioned an evaluation of the use of interactive whiteboards in
the school.      The evaluation report was published in October 2003.

In 2004, a follow up research project was initiated to look in particular at how teachers
reacted to and accessed the new technology, how the IWBs have impacted on
curriculum and how a whole-school approach impacted upon implementation of the
IWBs at Richardson. In March 2004 every staff member was interviewed. The
interviews sought to examine the challenges facing classroom teachers in accessing the
new technologies as an integral part of their teaching. It also sought to explore
teachers’ reactions to questions such as:

• How do teachers draw upon the new technologies to teach more effectively and
  assist students learn more efficiently?
• Can classrooms mirror students’ experiences of the new technologies and multi -
  media outside the classroom?
• Does a whole school approach in using IWBs achieve measurable gains in teaching
  and learning?
• Is the active encouragement and support of the school executive a factor when
  integrating new technologies into the curriculum?

Teachers are the focus of this article, which is the first in a series based on continuing
research. In particular this article considers how interactive whiteboards impact on
teachers and teaching at Richardson Primary School.

Individual teacher interviews (tape recorded) lasting on average some 35-40 minutes
were used to explore the personal and professional impact of IWBs on classroom
practice. Using a semi structured questionnaire format to guide the discussions
teachers spoke frankly about their personal experiences in adapting to the use of IWBs.
They clearly acknowledged that initially they were very much ‘on their own’ in many
respects in learning how to use the boards as an integral part of day-to-day teaching.

Teachers at Richardson have wide and varied experiences as classroom teachers. One
teacher had thirty-three years of experience, another sixteen years. However the
majority of teachers interviewed had less than five years teaching experience. Their
time at the school varied from six months to seven years.

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Richardson Primary School is still one of the few schools in Australia to adopt IWBs
across the total school. The teachers therefore felt they had no model to show the way
forward. They needed to rely on their own professional judgment and conscious
sharing of their developing expertise. The implementation of the IWBs became largely
self-sustaining, with all training and staff development occurring in school during the
period from 2003-2004. The teachers were very conscious that the incorporation of
IWBs into their teaching and classroom management is ever evolving. They all stated
that a key factor in this professional development is their support for one another in
their learning.

Before using the IWBs in their classroom, most teachers considered their level of IT
skill was adequate for their current needs. During the interviews two teachers stated
they began using the boards with very limited experience with IT and accessing the
‘Net. However another two teachers brought IT experience from the business world.

In the school classes are generally mixed year groups, for example, Year 1-2, Year 3-4,
and Year 5-6. The Senior Learning Support Centre caters for children from Year 3 to 6.
In the afternoons these children are integrated with their peer group for PE, Art,
Studies of Society and the Social Skills Program. A Special Education class catering for
Kinder to Year 3 children is taught by a learning assistance teacher.

Five of the staff members have used the IWBs in their classes for more than a year,
while the remainder had used IWBs for shorter periods from three months to a year.
The longest period of use by one staff member was two and a half years.

The teachers now speak for themselves

The following ten themes provide a useful format to analyse data obtained during the
teacher interviews and help to draw together the collective opinions of these teachers.
There was considerable agreement on many of the issues raised by the questionnaire
prompts, and the following quotes reflect the current views and thoughts of teachers at
Richardson Primary on their unique learning journey.

1       The teacher remains as the key to good teaching and learning

As defined by Kent (2004, 8) ‘e-teaching’ is a new pedagogical framework that has as
its major focus the ‘enhancement’ of the ‘teaching’ component of teachers’ everyday
teaching practice. Interactive whiteboards used within an ‘e-teaching’ pedagogical
framework have the ability to make a significant impact on classroom practice. The
digital convergence provided by the technology allows teachers to manage the
teaching and learning process such that the class can interact much more effectively
with the content and context of the lesson. Teachers’ comments on this aspect show
clearly the enhancement that they believe has occurred in their classrooms

    “The technology allows teachers to manage the digital convergence spontaneously in real
    time enabling teachers to add dimensions of interactivity into their existing pedagogy. The
    mix of IWBs and the concept of e-teaching have allowed teachers at Richardson Primary

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    School to use ICTs to enrich and enhance their existing and proven teaching methods”.
    (Kent, 2004)

Teachers at Richardson Primary School perceive the IWB as a powerful tool to improve
their day-to-day teaching practice. They know they retain the key role in determining
pedagogical approaches, in making the curriculum decisions, and in managing
classroom strategies. The following comments by the teachers during interview show
how teachers have adopted and adapted the IWB to suit their own pedagogical styles.

    “The key to the success of the interactive whiteboards – and the development of e-teaching
    was the professionalism of the teaching staff …” (School Executive)

    “I think I am now a much better teacher. Using the IWB has made me personally more
    confident. I am more creative, think outside the circle and teach more to the children’s own
    experiences”. (Classroom teacher)

    “Teaching with interactive whiteboards requires changes in pedagogy and presents many
    opportunities”. (School Executive)

    “My teaching has been enhanced. I can do better what I usually do. When presenting
    concepts, children interact at an earlier stage than before”. (Classroom teacher)

     “Interactive whiteboards have allowed teachers at Richardson to make significant changes
    to their classroom teaching practice. They have used the ICTs to enhance the art of
    teaching”. (School Executive)

2       Teachers have renewed enthusiasm for teaching

Increased satisfaction with their work was a common theme in most of the interviews.
Teachers expressed satisfaction and delight with their new pedagogical approaches to
teaching although at first some found it a steep learning curve.

    I am a much better teacher now and using the IWB has made me personally more confident
    and creative in meeting the varied needs of the students. (Classroom teacher)

    “I am excited to be on the cutting edge of where the students are and to make the learning
    relevant to their world”. (Classroom teacher)

    “I would not like to teach in a classroom without an IWB because it is so useful and the
    possibilities are endless”. (Classroom teacher)

    “I love coming to work”. (Classroom teacher)

    “My teaching is now much more visual and I give much clearer lessons. I can cater for
    more learning styles and I can go back to simple concepts and then easily provide more
    detail. I really enjoy teaching so much more”. (Classroom teacher)

    “ I have always been an explicit teacher, but have become more explicit, so this is exciting for

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    me. It is more efficient and effective teaching”. (Classroom teacher)

3      Teachers use the IWB’s as an effective tool to enhance and to enrich learning

All Richardson Primary School teachers are now using IWB technology as an integral
component of daily teaching and learning. The focus is not on the technology but
rather on how to enhance their teaching to facilitate greater student learning. For
instance, teachers commonly stated that they applied the IWB potential to their current
lesson plans to change learning contexts and to facilitate scaffolding.

Teachers commented that they are more creative in the ways they use the technology.
They draw upon the IWB to introduce an activity, to recall and review previous
learning, in whole class and small group contexts, and to respond to children’s
questions and interests. They also spoke of using the IWBs to consolidate learning in a
non-repetitive way, to obtain a wide range of resources, to make spelling, word
building and writing activities interesting and fun, and to develop information literacy

    [By] “harnessing the potential of digital technology in presenting a concept, exploring the
    implications, placing the concept in various contexts, creating links with existing
    knowledge, and leading discussions that probe student understanding [we] allow students
    to take their learning in personally relevant directions”. (School Executive)

4      Teachers feel they are more responsive to children’s interests

The interviews revealed that when using IWBs there is more responsive and immediate
interaction with the children’s learning.

    “ If I have difficulties then I don’t hesitate to ask my students, who are more than happy to
    show me their knowledge and to help me out”. (Classroom teacher)

    “I find it is a very effective way of finding updated answers to questions asked by students.
    There is no need to wait until our next session in the media lab; we can do it there and then
    by accessing the Internet. It is an excellent resource for researching information”.
    (Classroom teacher)

    “My students now have access to a much larger variety of resources. My teaching is now
    less static and more engaging.” (Classroom teacher)

5      Teaching is more spontaneous.

Teachers see the students as active participants in the learning and respond to them in
a spontaneous way that indicates to the children that they ‘own’ and in many ways are
responsible for their learning.

    “Genuinely unplanned, responsive lessons can actually work better than a tightly planned

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    lesson. By my responding to children and their needs, they respond at a higher level”.
    (Classroom teacher)

    “I did a unit on spiders. A child said there was something on Discovery Channel. We
    navigated, then spent the whole day on spiders. There was great interaction,
    communication and engagement” (Classroom teacher)

    “I use the Web a lot more. I can show rather than just talk about it”. (Classroom teacher)

    “Using ICT to enhance the art of teaching is less didactic, creating a truly interactive
    teaching and learning environment”. (School Executive)

6      Teachers are challenged in their day-to-day practice.

Several teachers commented they are now looking for new kinds of lessons to make
more effective educational use of the IWB, so that its use becomes second nature to
them. They often shared lessons and ideas adapting them to suit the needs of their
particular classrooms. Teachers spoke of keeping lessons on file and the ease of
returning to them for revision, sharing and reinforcement of concepts. Clearly the
ability to scaffold students’ learning is greatly enhanced by being able to call up
previous lessons at the touch of the board.

    “I am doing the same things in a different way because there are more opportunities and a
    greater variety in the things you can do”. (Classroom teacher)

    “ Teaching with interactive whiteboards requires changes in pedagogy and presents many
    opportunities”. (Classroom teacher)

7      Teachers are more creative, their thinking and planning is more lateral.

    Over time the staff supported each other and encouraged their growing expertise.
    Teachers took any direction to explore the uses of the whiteboards using a very
    fluid approach. There was support by all that they were professional people acting
    professionally and this is reflected in the following comments.

     “I look for interesting and creative ways to use the IWB, I am more innovative”.
    (Classroom teacher)

     “How I deliver has changed, I have learnt a new style of teaching and am doing some
    things differently because there is more variety in what I can do”. (Classroom teacher)

    “I now access virtual tours, works of art in galleries, weather maps and real time
    connections around the world.” (Classroom teacher)

8      Teachers find the IWB gives immediate feedback on student achievement

Teachers suggest they use the IWBs in formative assessment as a natural extension of
class activities. Children at the white board are keen to show the teacher and others

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what they know and can do. Student work is displayed on the board for shared
analysis, constructive comment and editing. There is keen competition for the students
in having their work displayed and a very supportive classroom climate as they
provide feedback to their peers. Several teachers spoke about the possibility of student
digital portfolios being available during parent/teacher interviews and this work being
placed on CD roms and later available to families.

     “Assessment has changed because children at the whiteboard show what they can do”.
     (Classroom teacher)

     “Student work is proudly displayed for everyone to see”. (Classroom teacher)

The school executive are reassured that teachers' integration of IWBs into their
everyday practice has had a substantial impact on formal assessment outcomes at
Richardson Primary School as demonstrated by the Performance Indicators in Primary
School (PIPS) testing. This is a value added test that measures the literacy and
numeracy level of kindergarten students at the commencement and end of the
kindergarten year. In 2002, the Richardson kindergarten PIPS results in literacy and
numeracy were significantly below the ACT mean, both at the beginning and end of
the year. In 2003 after IWBs had been in classrooms the entire year, the beginning of
the year results were similar to 2002, yet the end of year test showed that there was a
significant increase for the cohort in literacy with results now significantly above the
ACT mean. Numeracy results had increased to be just below the mean.

9       Teachers model exploration and research skills.

All the teachers interviewed used the IWB to access a variety of online materials, CD-
Rom and other media during their lessons. Students spoke of the whiteboard as ‘like
having an up to date library in our rooms’. The students now access the school library
with increased research skills.

     “I am doing the same things in a different way because there are more opportunities and a
     greater variety in the things you can do”. (Classroom teacher)

     “I can take up issues relevant to the children. We can explore easily”. (Classroom teacher)

     “Now I am consciously working to do better what I think I already do well” (Classroom

10      Teachers are supported by a whole school approach to technological change

     Teachers suggested that critical factors in their enthusiasm for, and take-up of the
     IWB as an integral part of teaching and learning are whole school implementation,
     the provision of in-school professional development, support from colleagues and
     on-site technical support.

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    They gained support from the executive and from each other when discussing
    changes to their pedagogical style as they became more familiar with the IWB.
    Early in the adoption phase, the School Executive decided that a regular dedicated
    time be set aside for teachers to share their growing knowledge and discussion of
    their needs for support. In 2003 regular fortnightly staff meetings were dedicated
    to a structured in-service and sharing on accessing the IWB and its potential. At
    this stage the majority of teachers had not seen IWBs before, or had had them in
    their classroom only a few weeks. At these sessions, one unit in the school might
    present good teaching ideas and successes based on what they were doing in class,
    or the session might have a special focus such as literacy, or a new piece of
    software or technique. Thus there was initially an emphasis on basic skill
    development in the context of teachers’ pedagogy.

     “When I first turned on the Board I remember thinking that this was not something I
    would be doing so late in my teaching career, and how on earth was I going to cope in front
    of my students? My IT skills and knowledge were so much lower compared to my teaching
    colleagues. But I didn’t need to worry because my teaching colleagues were so extremely
    supportive and patient with me. Without their support it would have been a much harder
    uphill learning experience”. (Classroom teacher)

During these staff meetings the School Executive ensured that teachers’ questions
could be as basic as they needed to be. There were no assumptions about teachers’
knowledge or level of confidence. The in-service sessions were structured to provide
overall support, but the direction of the sessions came from the teachers. The School
Executive did not, at any time, mandate particular uses of the technology. The teachers
were assumed to be professionals well versed in the practice of teaching and who were
now exploring creative ways to enhance their established pedagogical skills.

    “The firm belief was that this is technology to teach with, rather than something to
    construe a learning experience”. (School Executive)

    “At the time there were no clear examples that Richardson could follow; the pedagogy that
    was developed –‘ e-teaching’ – was done so almost entirely in-house”. (School Executive)

Benefits and concerns expressed by teachers at this point in time

The following comments drawn from the interview data show that engaging in an
educational change of this magnitude has both positive and negative connotations

Teacher transfers may mean that Richardson teachers move to a school without IWBs.
For teachers with renewed enthusiasm for teaching because of this technology, this
could be a backward step. They did however, acknowledge that they could still teach
effectively without the interactive whiteboard, but all of them stated that it would
never be a preferred choice.

    “I would not like to teach in a classroom without an IWB because it is so useful and the
    possibilities are endless”. (Classroom teacher)

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    “It would be hard not to have an IWBs once you have seen the potential and
    opportunities”. (Classroom teacher)

    “Well - that is a dilemma I’ll just have to face and I hope I never have to”. (Classroom

Incorporation of the new technology and drawing on its full potential in teaching and
learning can be time consuming, even for staff very committed to IWBs. However, as
experience develops in using the IWB it can also save teacher time.

    “ The IWB is more efficient to communicate steps, to bring up past lessons and build on
    them, to review work from the previous year and then add new concepts”. (Classroom

    “Good organisation is needed in filing activities to enable later searches and ease of access
    within files”. (Classroom teacher)

    “ It is a gradual process to change input, scanning and planning at home. I am currently
    spending more time at school doing it. (Classroom teacher)

 The new technology can initially be confronting and overwhelming for even an
experienced classroom teacher.

     “I am slowly integrating (the IWB) more deliberately than before, but still feel my
     knowledge and skills are limited”. (Classroom teacher)

     “I get frustrated because I know what I want to do, but the equipment can’t do it or keep
     up”. (Classroom teacher)

     “My initial response was of horror and despair! What am I going to do? How am I
     going to deal with yet another innovation? I have been teaching for over 30 years, how
     can I possibly take this on board? Me, whose IT skills were so bad that I used to crumble
     at the idea of typing minutes during staff meetings!” (Classroom teacher)

To encourage other teachers who may feel the same way, the following is a quote from
the same teacher eighteen months later during the interviews.

     “My Smartboard is here to stay. At first I was only confident enough to use it as a
     whiteboard and I could have decided to continue using it this way. But as my confidence
     grew, I realised I could use it to really enhance my teaching. I do know, however, that my
     Smartboard will only be as smart as its user. So what is my goal for the future? To make
     my Smartboard even smarter.

Ongoing use of the IWBs demands ongoing learning on the teacher’s part.

     “No expectation was placed on teachers other than that they would ply their skills to the

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      best of their ability. The results exceeded all expectation. Two years ago the majority of
      the teaching staff had only rudimentary ICT skills. In the past two years the group has
      markedly enhanced those skills and now seeks the higher order skills to progress the
      program even further”. (Executive teacher)

IWB hardware and software are technology that supports teaching rather than
dominating it.

      “The technology at Richardson has proven to be remarkably robust and the operating
      software has a Microsoft look and feel to it. This enables teachers to start using the basic
      features of the technology after only a brief introduction”. (School Executive)

The training on the capabilities of the technology needs to be really hands on. One
teacher commented that more opportunities to follow up specific demonstrations with
‘hands-on’ practice immediately after the sharing sessions would be very helpful.

The IWBs gives the teacher flexibility to save and recall work at a later time. It is also
helpful when students have been absent and work has been missed. However,
teachers see their preparation as ongoing, and open to refinement with time.

      “I save and review students’ work, but I will refine the resources over time, not just
      repeat them”. (Classroom teacher)

The degree to which teachers use the diverse applications of the technology varied,
dependent on their previous experience and confidence.

      “I am slowly integrating the IWB more deliberately than before but feel my own
      knowledge and skills are limited”. (Classroom teacher)

Time needs to be allowed for teachers to feel confident with the technology and to then
incorporate it as an integral part of their practice. There can initially be a sense of
reinventing the wheel.

      “There is so much to do, so much opportunity, but I need time”. (Classroom teacher)

      “It is time saving because you can set up similar lessons for groups at different
      standards”. (Classroom teacher)

      “It was not time saving at first when my IT skills needed polishing”. (Classroom


The experience of introducing IWBs into Richardson Primary School is an example of
educational change in action. The process has been a steep learning curve for staff,
students and the parent community. The current outcomes discussed here are
testament to a group of professionals working collaboratively to achieve expertise and
skills that are clearly beneficial for both teachers and students. Something unique has

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occurred in this school that continues to be validated by ongoing research.

Future articles will explore other aspects of the ‘Richardson Revolution’ such as the
ongoing impact of IWBs on student learning and curriculum development, and the
effect of a whole-school approach to the implementation of educational change.

For a school that considered itself ‘average’, the comment by staff that ‘something
magical and extraordinary has happened here’ tells it all!!


Kent, P. “e-Teaching and interactive whiteboards. The Richardson Experience.” The

Practising Administrator, 1 – 2004, ACEL

Kent, P. (2004) e-Teaching: the Elusive Promise. Paper presented at the 15th

International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher
Education, Atlanta USA, March 2004

Lee, M., and Boyle, M., “Richardson Primary School. The Richardson Revolution.”
Educare News March 2004.


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