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One could make this sort of comment about any item of equipment - Fletcher (2006) states that "with technology, the problem is never with the device, but how it is applied." Another of the difficulties that have been expressed with the IWB is the cost that is involved with not only the initial set up costs but also that of training teachers to use it effectively. However there is a body of evidence, mostly anecdotal (as quantitative research on the effectiveness of IWBs is scarce) which indicates that using IWBs increases the students' ability and willingness to become engaged with the subject that is being studied and each other (O'Hanlon, 2007); apparent increases in levels of engagement and participation alongside improvements in overall performance in the classroom would seem to justify the costs entirely. Wegerif and Dawes (2004) contend that computers [which are inclusive of IWBs] "... can stimulate and direct learning dialogues in such a way as to achieve curriculum learning goals" if there is a balance between teacher input and the technology itself. Abstract concepts like, for example, the triangle in maths are given concrete form for children through the use of this media due to the way that onscreen pictures can be manipulated and drawn on to illustrate the shape on which the class are concentrating with merely the use of their finger (Starkman, 2006).
The IWB enables a positive learning environment to be created where all can be involved (Wegerif and Dawes, 2004) and allows for the teachers and the learners to construct new teaching and learning strategies that work for them and the group as a whole (Beachamp and Parkinson, 2005). The beauty of IWBs is that they are able to "... support different learning styles" and the students respond them as "it increases their enjoyment by being physically involved touching and moving objects and by the size of the screen which makes images large enough for all to see" (Preston and Mowbray, 2008). IWBs encourage motivation through involvement as "a teacher and student can interact with the interactive whiteboard at the front of the class and the rest of the students can remain involved" (SMART, 2006). Latham (2002) discovered that the majority of teachers felt that the boards offered them greater opportunity to develop interactive strategies and that others believed that all students were better able to engage in lessons due to the use of IWBs; Cox et al (2003) went one stage further in suggesting that the boards allow the teachers to gain a greater appreciation of student needs through their use. It is through that appreciation and thoughtful planning that students are enabled to derive the most benefit from the technology.
Cunningham et al (2003) observed that students are more inclined to concentrate more due to the size and visual nature of the whiteboard. Most children are able to be visually stimulated although each individual is able to learn in a variety of different ways. Gardiner (1983) suggested that there are a number of different intelligences which influenced our preferred learning style; linguistic, musical, mathematical-logical, spatial, bodily kinaesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Clearly a number of these learning styles can be catered for through the use of IWBs. Linguistic learners are good with words - these are used all the time on the whiteboards; they can be motivated through the use of word games and word searches on the IWB. Musical intelligence can be catered for through the use of music alongside visual stimuli such as news reel footage or colours to convey feeling. The IWB can be used extensively to motivate the mathematical-logical learner who likes nothing more than being able to locate patterns in things - shapes, for example, can be identified in buildings and architecture and drawn over the picture that is on the whiteboard. Spatial learners are stimulated through the use of pictures and photographs to aid their memory or as a starting point for a discussion or the writing of a story; they like diagrams, flow charts and mind maps. The bodily kinaesthetic learner is sometimes very difficult to cater for in the classroom environment as they prefer to be 'hands on' - the IWB is ideal for this sort of learner as it enables them to touch and manipulate the material with which they are dealing through exercises involving movement and touch. Those who display a naturalist intelligence can be encouraged through regular visits to websites that concentrate on wildlife conservation that can be shown in the classroom on the big screen - clearly this will not replace being outside but it does go some way to addressing their particular needs.
The greatest boon of the IWB is the way that it draws children together to work with and for each other. Those who are either inter or intra personal learners will work well with all those around them. The IWB encourages a cooperative environment where these learners can flourish but it is also an environment that is able to motivate all children. The beauty of IWBs are that they enable people to work together, developing communication skills (Crook, 1994) and learning from each other; often something that is explained to you be one of your peers is far more easily understood and accepted because it has come from one of your peers. Students who have special needs particularly benefit from learning with others and the large scale nature of the IWB.
Children are comfortable with the technology as their use of it is an everyday occurrence in their own homes. Interactive learning enables children to take ideas deeply into themselves to understand them as opposed to merely learning facts and figures in order to pass examinations (Marton and Saljo, 1976). One note of caution here is that the teacher needs to be alert to the possibility that one student could become more dominant over the others and therefore monopolise the IWB - good planning in the structure of groups and agreed group conduct strategies are essential to combat this.
It would appear that IWBs can be a big motivation for learning; Coghill (2002) found that pupils gained from having sound, vision and touch to draw on in the learning environment. She found that the use of the board varied depending on the teaching style of individual teachers but was struck by one comment in particular which was that the IWB gave teachers more time to teach. As with any tool in the classroom it will only be successful in motivating children's learning if it is used in the right way. Teachers need to invest time in looking at how it can be best used to cater for the learning needs that exist within their classroom and design work or use software that will fulfil those needs. Any media that will allow students to access learning more easily has got to be a positive motivating factor and teachers need to embrace and use the technology to its maximum effect.