I have had a lot of fun using an interactive whiteboard (IWB) in schools over the past few years. I have been fortunate to see it used in a primary as well as secondary setting and from my experience, I have found that younger children respond very well to it and are very engaged by the technology alone.
Younger children seem to respond with wonderment, perhaps because some of them may have little or no experience with a computer outside the school setting and the whiteboard represents something new and exciting in the learning setting. I have seen it utilised in prep for teaching the alphabet and to draw each letter. Smith (2001) found that using the IWB to support younger pupils’ handwriting skills improved their handwriting on paper. Another benefit for small children is that the whiteboard employs their gross motor skills, where a traditional computer mouse may be difficult to operate.
I believe it is probably underutilised in secondary schools, simply because teachers are not motivated to become more digitally native and learn some new skills which will in the long run improve their teaching. Often teachers don’t receive adequate and ongoing training in new technologies and whilst they may initially be full of enthusiasm, it quickly wanes when they find it just takes more time and causes disruption to the class. Perhaps some ongoing teacher training in new ICTs would be beneficial for teachers.
As Interactive whiteboards are a relatively new technology to teaching, it will be some time before adequate research into their effectiveness emerges. Certainly they encourage participation in the lower grades.
One very obvious advantage of IWBs in the classroom is the opportunity they provide for the teacher to use a wide range of multimedia to present learning material. An IWB really lends itself to subjects such as history and geography where the use of visual material enhances the learning. In foreign language subjects, Thomas (2003) reports that the ability to combine visual and aural information facilitated the learning process as learners were able to make connections between seeing and hearing.
Interaction is a major advantage of using IWBs and Becta (2003) states that this very interaction is motivating to students, they ‘enjoy interacting physically with the board, manipulating text and images.’ It is also noted that older secondary students may be reluctant to move from their seat in the classroom, which could be a drawback.
In this social constructivist model, Wiggins & Ruthmann (2002) see the teacher in the classroom as a mediator between the students learning experience and the computer. The IWB allows for much more discussion and ‘presence’ by the teacher, rather than the old days, when the teacher would have their backs to the class writing on a board.
Another advantage and probably the most supported by research at this stage is that IWBs motivate students because lessons are more interesting and enjoyable which results in improvements in attention and behaviour. Students have reported that their lessons are more fun and faster paced; they don’t feel bored and are therefore engaged.
BECTA (2003) What the research says about interactive whiteboards. Viewed August 18, 2009.
Smith, H. (2001) SmartBoard evaluation 2001: summary. Viewed August 18, 2009.
Smith, H. Higgins, S. Wall, K. & Miller, J. (2005) Interactive whiteboards: boon or bandwagon? A critical review of the literature. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 21, pp91–101.
Viewed August 18, 2009. http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/yousif/590/interactive%20whiteboards%202005.pdf
Thomas A. (2003) Little touches that spell success. Times Educational Supplement, 23 May 2003. Viewed August 18, 2009. http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/yousif/590/interactive%20whiteboards%202005.pdf
Wiggins J. & Ruthmann A. (2002) Music teachers’ experiences: learning through SMART board technology. Viewed August 18, 2009. http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/yousif/590/interactive%20whiteboards%202005.pdf