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INTO's InTouch magazine (Issue No 82 January/February 2007, pp 47-51, available online at http://www.into.ie/ROI/Publications): Scoil Chriost Rí in Ennis shares their story of ICT integration. One of the items covered is that of interactive whiteboards: one of the teachers in the school has undertaken a Masters in Education, looking at the impact of whiteboards. Some of his findings are:

...out of 59 Irish teachers who were using an interactive whiteboard

Overall, in excess of 150 general comments were gathered during interviews and questionnaires related to interactive whiteboards, and excluding questions which directly asked for faults and suggestions for improvement, only nine of the comments gathered portrayed a negative opinion of interactive whiteboards.

Another interesting finding shows that the enthusiasm for the interactive whiteboard seems to have little association with the age or experience of the teacher, the position or role of the teacher, the level of teacher’s ICT competence or training or the nature or degree of previous ICT use by the teacher.

Lack of supplementary resources with relevance to the Irish Primary Curriculum was identified as a common cause
for concern among users.

/Ends

Additional extracts from his draft thesis are reproduced with the kind permission of the Author:

The results also indicate that the location of the board is not crucial to the success of its use but that fixed installations in mainstream classes may represent the optimal choice, particularly when schools are making an initial investment.

Teachers expressed some concern in regards to technical aspects such as problems caused by shadows, excessive sunlight and lack of durability of pens.

Greiffenhagen (2000) suggests ... that the emergence of [black]boards in classrooms was inextricably linked to a shift towards ‘front-of-class’ teaching.

Greiffenhagen (2000: 11), also supports this view by suggesting, “written comments on the board have a more compulsory or enforcing character than spoken comments.”

However, BECTA (2004: 3) highlights the fact that improved modelling and demonstration without the adequate levels of discussion is worthless.

According to research, another key element that is essential in developing teacher enthusiasm towards any new technology is that of peer support (Dawes, 2001: 70; BECTA, 2003a).

Hooper and Reiber (1995) identifies five key stages in the process of embedding any new technology into a classroom – familiarisation, utilisation, integration, reorientation and evolution

This is a viewpoint which is also shared in an OECD Report (2001) which implies that in order for ICT to be successful in classrooms, there needs to be a change in classroom organisation and the pedagogy of teachers. It also suggests that those teachers who can display a greater sense of autonomy are those likely to have the greatest innovation in terms of technological use (OECD 2001: EC 2003).

Those using the boards now expect presentations to be neater, layout of material to be more attractive and interactive, and general structure of lessons to be more impressive, all of which takes time. Some researchers however, have advocated that while preparation time will increase initially, there are a number of ways to alleviate those initial time constraints such as the provision of laptops (Dawes, 2001), regular sharing of resources and the ability to save and reuse resources over time (Glover & Miller, 2001).

Smart (2004) suggest that pupils who are intrinsically motivated will be motivated to demonstrate knowledge in front of their peers as a means of showcasing individual achievement, while extrinsically motivated pupils are enticed by the ‘wow’ factor and are motivated as a result of enjoyment from using the product.

More significantly, researchers are also beginning to highlight the usefulness of interactive whiteboards in particular in promoting high levels of pupil engagement, even among previously disaffected learners (Hall & Higgins, 2005; Beeland, 2002; Smart, 2004; Solvie, 2004; Levy, 2002).

... Cuthell (2005) suggests that the focus of ‘interactivity’ should switch to the intellectual and emotional engagement of the child, through the increased stimulation of the pupil.

... Miller and Glover (2004), suggest that in order for pupils to derive the maximum educational benefits from interactive whiteboards, teachers must be moved quickly through three stages – supported didactic, interactive and enhanced interactive, or as Heppell (1993, cited in Burden, 2002) refers to them – narrative, interactive and participative.

... 67% agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement “the use of the interactive whiteboard redresses the balance between making resources and planning for lessons.” One particular respondent even suggested that he has “become more purposeful and organised and also more focussed on what [he] wants the children to know at the end of a lesson.”

Interestingly, over 90% of respondents believed that the introduction of the interactive whiteboard has made it easier to incorporate ICT into everyday lessons with some respondents stating that they “have never incorporated ICT into their teaching as much as [they] do now.”

The results show that 56% of respondents believed that there had been an increase in participation among pupils, a further 37% strongly agreed while 5% stated that there had been no change

76% of respondents believing that the interactive whiteboard has improved learning in their class, while 94% felt that the introduction of an interactive whiteboard had helped them, in some way, to better accommodate all learning styles

Researchers such as such as Levy (2002), Kennewell (2004) and Gage (2005) all note the possibility of interactive whiteboard use leading to increased teacher-centred methodologies, and strongly caution teachers to be wary of such a development.

Overall, the majority of respondents believed that pupil progress had been improved. 77% either agreed or strongly agreed that interactive whiteboards helped students to better understand more difficult concepts while only 2% disagreed. 96% also agreed that interactive whiteboards aid revision and consolidation of lessons while 76% believed that interactive whiteboards give increased capacity to present and discuss students’ work.

... that technical issues concerning the interactive whiteboard failed to be of any real significance in its overall evaluation. This would appear to suggest that, contrary to assertions made by Cuthell (2005), teachers and schools are quite receptive to changes in practice. It also suggests that assertions by Wheeler (2005) and Brosnan (1998) in relation to technophobia fail to apply to interactive whiteboards, with only 14% of respondents agreeing that the use of the interactive whiteboard is frequently marred by technical problems.

... another interviewee who suggested that if the current trends continue “the Department of Education will be turning around in twenty years time wondering why they didn’t go with the boards on a wider scale.”

Given the positive nature of overall responses, this lack of ICT qualifications among respondents would appear to suggest that teachers require little or no ICT skills in order to effectively integrate the interactive whiteboard into everyday classroom teaching and learning.

One can also conclude from these results that the introduction of interactive whiteboards into Irish primary classrooms could result in the acceptance of various other aspects of ICT by a large number of previously sceptical teachers, effectively resulting in teachers embracing ICT as a welcome addition to their teaching methods.