Northern Virginia School Leadership Center Research Brief Prepared for: Written by: Date: Brett Sparrgrove, Instructional Technology

Resource Teacher, Falls Church City Public Schools August 11, 2009

Introduction The introduction of the modern computer and computer related devices into classrooms has brought with it the hope of improving student achievement and enhancing the way teachers teach. School divisions have spent hundreds of millions of dollars updating classrooms with the latest technology, much of it designed to allow dynamic interactivity among teachers and students as well as the world beyond the classroom walls. The most recent item to spark the collective imagination of school decision makers and teachers is the interactive whiteboard (IWB). In both research journals and popular online websites and blogs there is an increasing interest in the potential of this technology (Bell, 2002; Kent 2004, Hodge & Anderson, 2007). While there is little doubt that IWBs can be used as a tool to support and possibly even enhance learning, they also represent a significant investment that risks being underused or even unused if there is not a clear strategy for effective implementation of these devices. The purpose of this brief is to present a review of the (limited) literature that exists regarding IWBs in order to infer the beneficial components that should be taken into account when creating an IWB implementation plan and which pitfalls to avoid. Depending on how an IWB is incorporated it can be a positive force in the classroom that provides flexibility, versatility, interactivity and more. However, if the IWB is improperly implemented, it can be an expensive tool that, for some, may constitute a backward step in classroom pedagogy. Interactive Whiteboards (more commonly referred to as electronic/digital whiteboards or by their well known brand name, SmartBoards) are typically a combination of three components: a large, touch-sensitive board; a computer; and a digital projector. They were originally developed for office use (Greiffenhagen, 2002) and are a relatively new technology in the educational environment. Due to their newness, there is a limited amount of academic literature that documents the use of IWBs in a K – 12 educational setting. Much of the “evidence” that does exist (both positive and negative) is informal and subject to skepticism because of minimal information about the research methods used in research (Smith, Higgins, Wall, & Miller, 2005). In spite of this limited publication record, IWBs have captured the imagination (and certainly the pocketbooks) of education decision makers. School systems are investing rapidly and substantially in the technology, in some cases installing IWBs in all classrooms (Ayala, 2009). What does the research say about this tool? If a thoughtful integration of this device might impact learning, what factors can teachers and administrators take into account to maximize the potential of this tool? Essentially, what are the best chances for achieving teaching success with an IWB?


One of the biggest challenges school leaders will need to overcome is the fact that teachers have not traditionally embraced technology initiatives. A number of studies have concluded that many computer-based technologies are infrequently used or unused in most schools (Becker, 2001; NCES 2000; Zhao, Pugh, Sheldon, & Byers, 2002). Consequently, putting additional technology, such as IWBs, into classrooms might seem counter-productive or a poor allocation of resources. Some literature suggests that if computer-related technology is used at all during normal instruction, it supports learning activities that could just as easily be accomplished without the use of technology; primarily traditional drill and practice exercises, basic word processing applications, and research or information activities (Technology Counts, 2004; Vannatta & Fordham, 2004). For schools to be successful integrating IWBs into teaching and learning, school personnel need to first establish why their teachers are likely not using existing technology and attempt to create a plan that will help them overcome those barriers. Otherwise, the IWB runs the risk of becoming another vaunted education technology initiative that exudes potential but is infrequently used. This brief proposes two complementary approaches to encourage an increase in technology use among teachers. The concept is to improve a teacher’s perception regarding technology ease of use while simultaneously enhancing the teacher’s perception of usefulness regarding computers and computer-related devices. Perceived Ease of Use Perceived ease of use is tied to a teacher’s assessment of the overall effort required to use a given piece of technology. When making decisions regarding tool use (in this case an IWB), users gauge the perceived effort required to accomplish a given task (Russo & Dosher, 1983). Since effort is a finite resource that may be allocated among various activities, it is conceivable that a person will select tools that are perceived as easy to use to complete a given task. When the choice is between two alternate applications, the application perceived to be easier to use is more likely to be accepted and used (Davis, 1989). With all of the technology related to an IWB, there is a risk that the tool will be perceived as difficult to use and require additional effort for the teacher to learn to operate and troubleshoot. These issues will potentially impact the teacher’s perception regarding the ease of use of an IWB. To mitigate such issues, schools need to ensure that teachers have access to adequate training as well as timely support and troubleshooting assistance. Obviously, schools with a full-time technology specialist are well positioned to limit the impact of ease of use issues and should use that position to provide training sessions, classroom modeling and friendly support. Otherwise, for many teachers, an IWB may become (or be perceived as) a labor inducing tool rather than an effective timesaving device; a sure “kiss of death” for the successful implementation of the device. Perceived Usefulness The concept of perceived usefulness is based on an assumption that people will use—or not use—a tool or application to the extent they believe it will enhance their job performance (Davis, 1989). Using this definition with respect to IWBs, it is reasonable to speculate that unless a teacher believes that the IWB is a useful teaching aid, classroom


management device or similarly beneficial tool, it will not be effectively used— regardless of other factors such as access, support or training. This assumption is supported by the findings of Robey (1979) who concluded that an application that does not help people perform their jobs is not likely to be used despite thoughtful implementation. The key here is that the teacher needs to believe in the usefulness of the tool, not the decision maker. While school districts have spent a considerable amount of money, time and personnel resources solving the problems related to ease of use issues (access, training, support and leadership), they have neglected aspects that impact a teacher’s perception regarding the usefulness of technology. This is unfortunate because a variety of research investigations from the business world support the concept that user acceptance of technology is largely driven by perceived usefulness (Davis, Bagozzi, Warshaw, 1989; Straub, Limayem, & Karahanna-Evaristo, 1995). Therefore, any IWB implementation plan should attempt to maximize the teacher’s perception of the IWBs usefulness. One way to do this is to promote and model the possible benefits teachers can expect when using an IWB as part of teaching practice. Research Support for Usefulness A number of themes were identified in the literature about the potential benefits of IWBs for teaching. These themes, in no particular order, were: flexibility and versatility; multimedia/multimodal presentation; efficiency; supporting teacher planning; modeling ICT skills, and; interactivity and participation in lessons (Smith, Higgins, Wall, & Miller, 2005). Each of these benefits will most likely convey usefulness differently for different teachers depending on teacher needs, technology ability level, subject taught, pedagogy beliefs, etc. Therefore, in an effort to increase perceptions of usefulness, it is probably a good idea to present different benefits to different teachers at different times depending on individual needs and problems. For example, a teacher who uses a variety of overheads, visual charts and posters will likely be impressed by the IWB’s flexibility and versatility in quickly displaying digital versions of posters, maps, and graphs. Regardless of which benefit is presented and to whom, these benefits should be explored and promoted in any school IWB implementation plan. Flexibility and Versatility One of the greatest strengths of an IWB is that it is not limited to a specific age or grade level and can be used with a wide range of students in a variety of settings (Austin, 2003; Jamerson, 2002). Since the teacher determines how it is used and what is displayed, this versatility extends to the content of lessons and activities and ensures that an IWB can be used in virtually any classroom situation (Smith, 2001). While there are proprietary software applications that can be purchased for use on an IWB, teachers are able to use a variety of familiar and existing software applications. This will potentially breathe life into some old applications and spawn entirely new ways to use others. IWBs also allow teachers to “flip” easily between these applications allowing them to be utilized in extended ways. For example, a teacher can be manipulating both Inspiration and Google Earth to brainstorm the geographical features of North Africa. Since this happens digitally there is no shuffling around of chart papers, posters and other such


teaching material. Essentially, an IWB does not have to be used in any prescribed way and this flexibility, coupled with the versatility of being able to showcase any application that can be used on a computer, might be one of the reasons for the rapid proliferation of this tool into classrooms. A school implementation plan should accentuate this flexibility and versatility and introduce IWBs in a non-prescribed way in an effort to showcase this flexibility and to prevent teachers from limiting their thinking about how the tool can be used. Additionally, any professional development with this tool should promote the fact that the IWB can, and should be, blended into an individual teacher’s pedagogy, not the other way around. Multimedia The use of multimedia can add a rich depth to a variety of lessons. Since the IWB is hooked up to a computer, teachers can draw on a greater number and wider assortment of resources than is possible with other approaches (Levy, 2002). Teachers can now blend a lesson with sound, music, video, images and color depending on the topic. Although teachers have been able to do this for years through a classroom computer, the addition of the large visual surface (a huge benefit in itself) makes it possible to be viewed from any location in the classroom. Any teacher who has ever had students crowd around a computer to view what is on the screen will appreciate this benefit. Again, leveraging the flexibility and versatility of the tool, existing resources can be used. For example, the venerable PowerPoint can be used to present key facts alongside historical images video, written information and diagrams. Teachers can use the IWB’s capabilities to highlight critical factors, draw additional diagrams, and label items. These revised slides (complete with notes and annotations) can then be saved and shared as class notes or even placed onto a classroom web page or “blog” for sharing with the outside world. In addition to teachers being able to share resources more easily with the IWB, there is a motivational impact upon pupils due to the large screen, the multimedia capability and the element of fun enhancing the presentational aspects of a lesson (Glover & Miller, 2001; Levy, 2002). Efficiency The most obvious distinction between IWBs and other technology that makes use of a digital projector is the ability to control the computer functions simply by touching the screen. Some researchers have argued that this touch capability facilitates a more efficient presentation and more professional delivery of multimedia resources (Boyle, 2002; Thomas, 2002). The ability for a teacher or student to stand in front of the class (a traditional location) and manipulate what is on the screen simply by touching it may enable a smooth transition between digital activities and resources within a lesson (Latham, 2002). This can be valuable as, theoretically, less time would be spent on managing resources and more time on pedagogical practices. Modeling Technology Using an IWB potentially allows for total transparency between the operator (teacher or student) and the computer, at least from the audience point of view. Since audience members are able to observe the manipulation of the operating system, applications, and network structure on a regular basis and on a large visual screen, they


are able to pick up on how to manipulate and use the application; especially if the operator describes what he or she is doing while interacting with the IWB. This will likely reduce the learning curve and makes the direct teaching of basic technology skills less necessary (Lee & Boyle, 2003). This shifts the emphasis away from the learning how to use the technology toward the application of technology tools. Essentially, minimizing the time required to teach students the nuts and bolts of learning an application should allow them more time to use the tool to create projects, solve problems and enhance the learning process. Interactivity and Participation The term interactive conveys one of the most frequently identified benefits cited by teachers interviewed concerning the impact of technology on learning (Kennewell, 2004). Naturally, one of the main advantages touted of the interactive whiteboard as a teaching tool is that they are interactive. Teachers and students have the ability to step up to the board and share, change, and present information with the rest of the class. This allows an individual to interact with software at the front of the class rather than from the computer. Since this is a highly visible aspect of the IWB, this potential for interactivity might be the catalyst for all of the excitement surrounding IWBs. Given the “wow factor” associated with the IWB’s touch sensitive interactivity, it is probable that this is the benefit that will initially capture the imagination of many teachers. However, teaching is to be considered interactive when students’ contributions are encouraged, expected and extended (DfEE, 1998). So, if teachers are not encouraging and extending student discourse than the teaching is not interactive, even with the assistance of an IWB - a point to be considered more thoroughly in the next section. Criticisms Although the literature identified many potential benefits for using an IWB, there are also many criticisms that can be found. Interestingly, some of these criticisms directly contradict some of the benefits listed above. Interactivity and Participation Since interactive teaching is theorized as one of the factors which might contribute to academic success it would follow that school leaders would be interested in purchasing resources that promote this style of teaching. There appears to be a widespread expectation that an interactive whiteboard, by the very nature of the medium, will provide a meaningful, interactive experience for learners. This is not a foregone conclusion and should not be assumed. It is possible, even with a competent implementation plan, that classrooms equipped with IWBs only become more technically interactive but not more pedagogically interactive. Technical interactivity is an interface between the user and the computer (in this case via the board). Students will experience this type of interactivity anytime they are using the IWB or participating in a lesson where the IWB is being used. They do not need direct contact with the IWB in order for it to be considered technical interactivity. So, a lesson where a teacher is lecturing using an IWB and a PowerPoint to engage and support student learning is interactive teaching, it is just technical interaction. Interaction


covers a whole range of classroom discourse, including teacher dominated procedures like Q&A, lecture, etc. (Myhill, 2006). Pedagogical interactivity, on the other hand, happens between teachers and students and may or may not utilize technology applications. It is more of a teaching strategy and a way to engage the mind of the learner (Smith, et al. 2005). On its own, technology cannot provide the sustained, contingent, reciprocal and reflective qualities of classroom interaction that we associate with improvements in learning. These qualities are largely dependent on the teacher and it is not yet clear how IWBs might facilitate the development of the deeper forms of interactivity in teaching. It is the characteristics of pedagogical interactivity that are more important in stimulating the reflection and intentionality of higher-order learning (Kennewell, et al., 2008). If this is true, school leaders need to ensure that pedagogical interactivity is ultimately what is occurring in classrooms (a challenge potentially much larger than getting teachers to use technology). This is not to imply that technical interactivity has no value or that it precludes pedagogical interactivity. A teacher might be able to support learning quite well with technological interactivity. However, enhancing teaching and spawning a fundamental change in the way teachers teach will require pedagogical interactivity. What role IWBs will play in fostering pedagogical interactivity is unknown. In theory it would appear an IWB can be used to support and facilitate this type of interaction. Unfortunately, in practice, early research shows that quite the opposite might be happening. Promotes Direct Teaching Teachers have a wide variety of technology applications at their disposal. Some of these will promote a student-centered classroom while others seem to promote a more teacher-centered pedagogy. At least for now, interactive whiteboards (IWBs) seem to be more closely aligned with a teacher-centered pedagogy, thus the advent of the IWB is a backward step in some eyes (Kennewell, Tanner, Jones, & Beauchamp, 2008). A study conducted in England indicated that IWB lessons contain more whole-class teaching and less student group work. Additionally, these IWB-based lessons moved at a faster pace and contained a reduction in the length of student responses (Smith, Hardman, & Higgins, 2006). However, it is plausible that an IWB is so efficient in the way teachers can control content that it allows them to focus on the pace of instruction rather than student interactivity. Unfortunately, the emphasis on pace means that the more questions teachers ask, the less children say (Burns & Myhill, 2004). This is not to imply, however, that teachers change their pedagogy and become teacher-centered due to the addition of an IWB and there is no known research that would support that claim. It is more likely that many teachers already subscribe to a more teacher-centered point of view and than they are drawn to the IWB due to how useful the tool is in maintaining that dichotomy. Although the use of IWBs engages pupils and sessions are generally faster in pace of delivery, the underlying pedagogy of whole-class teaching appears to remain unaffected, with teacher-led recitation and emphasis upon recall dominating proceedings (Wood & Ashfield, 2008). Perhaps the primary criticism here is that an IWB does direct, whole-class teaching very well. Aspects of direct teaching such as explaining, modeling, directing and instructing are all effectively facilitated by the IWB, or more specifically, by the software, which is accessed via a large screen presentation device (Wood &


Ashfield, 2008). With the IWB featuring widely in whole-class, direct teaching, there is concern that its full interactive potential may not be explored through this structured, teacher-directed approach as the teaching and modeling of rules, procedures and basic skills is likely to take precedence over more complex and cognitively demanding activities (Wood & Ashfield, 2008). If school leaders are interested in using IWBs to promote pedagogical interactivity, they should consider this information very critically when developing an implementation plan. Leaders should strive to put the necessary professional development in place that will emphasize the concepts that enhance pedagogical interactivity while minimizing any growth in direct teaching. Classroom Management Having students come up from their seats in order to interact with an IWB presents a potential for classroom management issues. Since, realistically, only one student at a time can directly use the IWB (although there are hand-held devices that allow large group digital participation activities, like voting), the other students are only passively engaged in the activity. In fact some would claim that pupils’ involvement with the board during whole class instruction reduces the pace of the lesson and can cause boredom (Smith, 2001). Additionally, older, more self-conscious students may not want to leave their seats as eagerly as younger ones (Thomas, 2003). From this standpoint, the IWB has become a modern, albeit technical, version of the traditional blackboard. Expensive The per classroom cost of an IWB is substantial. In addition to the IWB (which can cost several thousand dollars), each classroom requires a computer, a digital projector, speakers, cables, electricity, mounting systems or carts, specialized software, support and training personnel. Since the majority of the benefits listed above do not require direct interaction with the IWB (and are equally valid benefits for any large projected image of the computer screen) schools could save a considerable amount of money by forgoing the IWB altogether and just investing in the digital projector. In fact, a strong argument could be made that teachers might be better off in terms of visual size (since they are not physically limited by the borders of the board itself) and placement (since they don’t have to worry about students being able to reach the projected image) without an IWB. Essentially, a digital projector, internet-enabled computer and a good quality set of speakers can accomplish many of the potential benefits listed above when projecting onto a bare classroom wall. Add in a long-range wireless keyboard and mouse and the teacher has gained the freedom to move anywhere in the classroom (instead of being restricted to the board) and still manipulate what is on the screen. With this type of setup, students can also interact with the computer from their seats (using the same wireless keyboard), mitigating possible classroom management issues while still fostering interactivity. The specialized software, created specifically for use on an IWB is also expensive. However, there are other concerns about the software designed for use on an IWB. With the growing number of “ready made” electronic teaching resources created for the large screen, it is possible that a teacher’s learning goals may be controlled by the design of the software rather than the reverse. This means the teacher appears to take on


the undesired role of “software operator”; acting only as a human conduit between class and software (Wood & Ashfield, 2008). Whenever possible, teachers should create and customize their own multimedia teaching resources. While this is time-consuming and will potentially require additional professional development, it will provide them with the greatest control over the design and use of the electronic materials and ensure that the use of these materials is consistent with the teaching objectives. Miscellaneous Criticisms The literature also identified other minor criticisms that were mostly related to overall ease of use issues. These issues appear to be more nuisance that anything else but they are theorized to impact overall use. First, an IWB must be calibrated to work correctly. Otherwise the computer will be unable to interpret the location of any “clicks”, pen strokes, button pushes, or other such gestures. Any movement of the IWB or the projector, due to a bump, for instance, will require the IWB to be recalibrated. While this is a simple procedure, it can be inconvenient if it happens with any frequency. This is especially true if it happens during a lesson which inevitably will cause a small loss of class time and potential a classroom management issue; a potentially frustrating situation. Second, the majority of IWBs are front projection systems (i.e. the projector, located on a cart or mounted on the ceiling, beams the image onto the board). This means that the user must be positioned in front of the image to manipulate it. This will always create shadows and block portions of the screen from the audience. It is impossible to interact with the IWB without creating a partial obstruction. Additionally, these projected images are contingent on a certain amount of darkness to be effective. Teachers and students must be able to control the amount of light hitting the screen in order to create an image that is bright enough to be seen from any location in the classroom. Finally, the location of the screen must be well considered. The screen should be capable of being seen from any location in the classroom and should be mounted low enough for all students to be able to reach it in order to interact with it. In many classrooms, especially older classrooms, finding such an ideal location might prove to be a challenge. Of course, IWBs do not need to be mounted on the wall. They can be positioned on rolling carts, and this might alleviate having to find available and appropriate wall space. However, this will potentially increase set up time and difficulty with the calibration process as the cart can be bumped if it is in the open. One additional issue with this setup is that it will likely result in cables and wires running along the classroom floor. These cables might become potential hazards that could harm people and equipment. While these are not likely “deal breakers”, teachers need to be aware of these potential issues with the IWB. It would be ideal when implementing IWBs to find teachers who are proficient at troubleshooting technical problems and who are resilient enough not to be discouraged by them. Conclusions It is critical that school leaders and classroom teachers understand that an IWB is simply a tool. It is not a “plug-it-in panacea” that will solve all teaching problems with a single unifying piece of technology. After all, adding technology has had relatively little


effect on the ways that teachers teach (Watson, 2001). Creating a logical and sustainable implementation plan is a necessary first step when attempting to integrate potentially powerful technology solutions, such as an IWB, into the classroom. At the outset of this brief it was theorized that enhancing a teacher’s perception regarding the ease of use of technology and fostering that same teacher’s perception about the usefulness of technology are important aspects of the implementation plan. As this brief establishes, there are many potential benefits to using an IWB and these benefits should be the cornerstone of the usefulness pyramid. While promoting, modeling, and supporting these benefits it is important not to lose sight of the criticisms of the IWB, many of which are potential ease of use issues. Any implementation plan must recognize the pitfalls of integrating an IWB into a classroom. A successful implementation plan will mitigate those issues. It is equally important to remember that the potential of the IWB lies in its use by talented teachers; the potential is not inherent in the device itself. In the hands of an open-minded and creative teacher this tool could be a transformative piece of equipment that becomes an invaluable learning resource. Even if the teacher is more directed and traditional, an IWB can still be used effectively to support teaching and positively impact student achievement. Depending on how it is used, the IWB could support a teacher’s preferred style of direct teaching. Studies show that teachers who teach this way (directed approach) believed that the IWB had enhanced direct teaching and learning (Wood & Ashfield, 2008). Ultimately, it is the quality and depth of teacher-student interaction that is important, not the use of the technology. If teachers do not believe that the use of the IWB enhances or supports a lesson they should not use it. To some teachers, there is no doubt that the IWB will be the hub that ties together the digital classroom and they will use it every day to improve their teaching craft. By itself, an IWB is just an interactive screen, but add to it the power of software applications, Internet websites, streaming video, and video conferencing and it becomes a window to the world outside of the classroom. However, since the power and potential is not inherent in the tool, schools need to work closely with classroom teachers in an effort to get them to grab hold of the transformational pedagogy required to take maximum advantage of these 21st century tools. It is not the tool, but how it gets used that really matters.


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