The Increasing Popularity Of The IWB Education Essay

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2.0 Introduction

This chapter endeavours to give account of existing literature addressing the major issues that will be discussed in this study. Factors outlining the impact of Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) on the teaching and learning process together with the challenges teachers have to go through in order to upgrade their pedagogy will be discussed. Teachers' perception of the IWB and the impact of this technology on attainment will be discussed.

2.1 The increasing popularity of the IWB

The innovations brought in by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has permeated the educational sector during the past 30 to 40 years (Hsu, 2010) creating myriad opportunities for learning. In order to ensure learners have access to the latest technology governments have heavily invested in ICT (Sutherland et al., 2004) but especially in the last decade the IWB seems to have generated more interest than other technologies (Wood & Ashfield, 2008). The exponential growth of whiteboard implementation in schools is outlined by Türel & Johnson (2012) claiming that as 2010 the IWB penetration in England was of 73%. A lot of research has been carried out outlining the positive impact the IWB has on education (Beauchamp & Prakinson, 2005; Slay et al., 2008, Maher, 2011) and this could have motivated other educational institutions to invest in this technology (Moss & Jewitt, 2010).

IWBs "are regarded as one of the most revolutionary instructional technologies for various educational levels" (Türel & Johnson, 2012, p.381) since as a tool they bridge "teaching and learning in a digital world" (Betcher & Lee, 2009, p.4). This could be attributed to the fact that teachers could prepare more interesting and interactive lessons (Gillen et al., 2007) thus enhancing social interaction in the classroom (Smith et al., 2005).

2.2 IWB and pedagogical practices

Numerous studies have been conducted about the role of the IWB in classrooms and it transpires that the benefits of this technology are highly advocated by teachers (Levy, 2002; Hall & Higgins, 2005; Warwick & Kreshner, 2008; Slay et. al, 2008). Levy (2002) argues that the positive impact the IWB has on teaching features in three main areas mainly the way information and teaching resources are presented, how concepts and ideas are explained and how interactions and activities are facilitated by technology. Teachers can use the native IWB software to create differentiated learning content such as drag and drop activities and hide and reveal activities. The native IWB software can also give feedback to students about their progression in completing a task [1] . The tasks can be saved and adapted to meet the needs of individual learners (Glover et al., 2005).

Although IWBs are advocated as opening new opportunities for learning, Mohon (2008) expresses her concern that whole class technologies can support didactic teaching where the teacher has total control of what happens in the classroom. In a study conducted by Smith et al. (2006, p.454) it clearly transpired that "IWB lessons contained more whole class teaching and less group work than non-IWB lessons" in numeracy and literacy consequently supporting the traditional patterns of whole class interaction. This is not fully supported by the findings of Somekh et al. (2007, p.7) when they argue that although the IWB is the ideal tool to support whole class teaching if "whole class teaching is more interactive as a result of the IWB any negative effects from reduced group work may be negligible".

Having access to an IWB in the classroom does not necessarily imply that this will act as a catalyst to bring a change in pedagogic practices. Bennett & Lockyer (2008) conducted a number of observations and engaged in discussions with teachers who had access to an IWB. There was no evidence that there was a change in the overall pedagogical approaches. Consequently Levy (2002) argues that the use of IWB for whole class teaching should be seen in a broader picture which will eventually lead to flexible and independent learning.

Technology has the potential to enhance pedagogy in the classroom. This could be clearly achieved when teachers and learners are engaged in the learning process to achieve teaching and learning goals (Higgins et al. 2007) determining the level of interactivity conveyed by the IWB as an educational tool (Haldane, 2007) especially when different modes are reverted to during lessons to cater for different learning styles of learners.

2.2.1 The role of the IWB to facilitate different modes of learning

The IWBs are considered as an important milestone in the technological revolution occurring in classrooms at a time where literacy needs to be redefined (Shenton & Pagett, 2007). Technology has permeated the communication sector and brought new praxis including different modes for learning. Modes are defined by Hennessy (2011, p. 468) as "organized sets of semiotic resources for representation and communication, including image, gesture, gaze, interaction with objects, writing and speech".

Kress (2010) highlights the fact that text is becoming increasingly multimodal given that different modes are combined together to convey meaning. The role of the IWB as outlined by Maher (2011, p.236) is fundamental since it "changes the social structures and relations of the classroom through the collective viewing of texts". The underlying literacy skills in multimodal text pose new challenges since this is combined with technology to generate new knowledge (Gomez et al., 2010) hence emphasising the importance to focus on multimodal text in literacy (Vincent, McDougall & Azinian, 2010).

2.2.2 Role of IWB to enhance dialogue

The unique affordances of the IWB have opened new pastures for enhancing and stimulating dialogue within the classroom context. Within this pedagogical framework it is a prerequisite for teachers and learners to engage in productive discussions to bridge common ideas and constructing new ones where the latter are engaged in adequate questioning techniques to create new knowledge (Warwick et al., 2011). When learners are given the opportunity to take an active role in their learning, they have right opportunity to enquire about the topic of the discussion. In this scenario different views are sought and negotiated meaning is created through the dialogic interaction between learners and teachers and the physical interaction with the IWB (Smith et al., 2005).

Through the IWB a number of resources such as websites, images, animations and simulations, can be made accessible to learners which all convey the right opportunities to engage in a dialogic methodology on a whole-class basis. Teachers in a study conducted by Kennewell & Beauchamp (2007) mentioned the correlation between their ICT competence and updating of resources which further promotes dialogue since learners are given the opportunity to discuss contemporary issues. Hennessy (2011, p.471) argues that the unique affordances of the IWB facilitate "cumulative and recursive interactions" which are interrelated features of dialogue. When teachers use the IWB effective, they can scaffold knowledge by creating a "dialogic space (physical and cognitive)" where different ideas are elaborated and learners can jointly construct and interact with digital artefacts on the board" (Hennessy, 2011, p.483). This also reflects the work of Hardman & Higgins (2006) where dialogic experiences are defined as "collective, reciprocal and cumulative" (p.444) emphasising the different level of interactions that take place in the classroom.

Interactivity in the classroom

Interactions in the classroom cannot be attributed to the transmission of knowledge either by the teacher or technology (Wood & Ashfield, 2008). ICT should be seamlessly integrated in the curriculum to create the right opportunity conducive to learning (ibid) by actively participate in the process of learning. As a teaching tool the interactive affordance of the IWB has proven to be very effective in enhancing collaboration and participation in the classroom (Glover & Miller, 2003). Teachers can revert to different strategies to avail of the interactive element of the IWB and one of these is conveyed through the creation of digital artefacts.

Digital artefacts can easily be created by using the native IWB software to engage learners (Beeland, 2002). These resources can be enhanced by using some of the tools offered by the software. Through active teacher-learner and learner-learner collaboration, these resources can be improved to scaffold learning over time while keeping record of the learners' learning curve enhanced through the interactivity of the IWB (Twiner et al., 2010; Hennessy, 2011). Among the IWB features that can be used in this scenario Gillen et al. (2007) includes annotations, animations, images and audio-visual resources which contributed to the ensued dialogue. Teachers have the possibility to save the annotations discussed in the classroom for future reference (Littleton, et al., 2010).

Research about IWBs has portrayed how the interactivity of IWB is perceived by teachers who adopt different teaching strategies. Teachers adopting a teacher-centred pedagogy tend to take over control of the IWB. With this frame of mind interactivity of the IWB is synonymous with asking learners to physically interact with the IWB to interact text, pictures or objects (Haldane, 2007; Shenton & Pagett, 2007). This view supports the idea that interactivity is something directly related to the IWB thus supporting Smith's et al., (2005) view of technical interactivity. Technical interactivity is defined (ibid.) when learners physically interact with the digital content on the board by either using the stylus or their hand. Teachers "teaching for creativity" are more concerned with the process of learning rather than final result (Wood & Ashfield, 2008, p.88) hence focusing on the interactions taking place among learners and teachers (Shenton & Pagett, 2007) engaging learners in the actual development of the lesson (Haldane, 2007; Mohon, 2008). Smith et al. (2005) define this model of interactivity as pedagogical interaction where learners will have ample time "for exploration and active participation that go beyond the physical manipulation" (Jewitt et al., 2007, p.314).

2.3 IWB and classroom management

The IWB has had an impact on classroom management and has paved the way for new interactions to emerge during the learning process. The IWB has a dominant role in the classroom and teachers are no longer the focus of attention during lessons. Somekh et al. (2007) argue that in schools where a number of case studies were conducted the most successful teachers adopted the role of co-learners in the classroom shifting the attention on the IWB. Teachers have the opportunity to be more mobile in whole class teaching and answers to questions are directed towards the IWB rather than the teachers (ibid.). This shift in power has also enabled teachers to face the learners for longer periods of time thus retaining eye contact. Teachers can control what happens on the board without turning their back to their learners (Beauchamp, 2004). To encourage good behaviour in the classroom, teachers might use the IWB as the medium to promote good behaviour. Learners in the study conducted by Moss et al., (2007) report that once they got used to the IWB the impact on behaviour faded away so teachers have to carefully gauge this strategy in the classroom prior to implementing it.

The multimodal affordances of the IWB enable teachers to include a number of resources in their lesson without the need of using secondary equipment hence increasing the pace of the lesson (Kennewell, 2006). Using the IWB native software to create digital content teachers can easily link to online digital sources found on the Internet (Bennett & Lockyer, 2008) and can easily link to files or applications saved on their computer (Slay et al., 2008) that are needed for the development of the lesson.

Although the pace of lessons increased, it is interesting that the number of students who can simultaneously work on IWB is highly limited. Mohon (2008) reports that those learners who have already used the IWB or those who are not interested in participating may lose interest in what is happening during the lesson. Wall et al., (2005) also highlight the disappointment when learners do not have the opportunity to use the IWB. On the contrary Haldane (2007) reports that learners who are not using the IWB still manage to stay motivated and concentrated to the extent that when the learner who is working at the IWB found him/herself in difficulty they gave alternative suggestions.

Teachers' attitude towards the IWB

In all initiatives taking place in schools having teachers on board at the early stages is crucial to ensure "teachers' acceptance and positive attitudes towards the technology" (Türel & Johnson, 2012, p. 383). Teachers' attitudes towards the IWB were classified by Glover & Miller (2003, pp.20-21) under three categories. The "missioners" are those teachers who after undergoing initial training are motivated to use the IWB in their lessons. It can be argued that the missioners are constructivist teachers (Hermans et al., 2008) who are keen to upgrade their skills, share their knowledge and discuss difficulties with their colleagues (White, 2007).

The "tentatives" are those who lacked confidence in using the IWB either due to lack of competence or classroom management issues in using the IWB. The "luddites" are those teachers who are probably entrenched in teacher-centred philosophy and adopt a negative attitude towards the IWB mainly due to the changes implied in classroom management and lesson preparation. Generating a positive attitude towards the IWB is very challenging where there are no teachers who can act as missioners (Miller & Glover, 2007). However Somekh et al. (2007) argue that where IWBs were introduced in all classrooms at once, teachers mastered the IWB skills relatively quickly and they collaborated to overcome arising difficulties by sharing their experience and being supportive. To develop the skills need to use the IWB effectively important milestones must be reached by teachers to use the IWB effectively.

Stages of IWB use

As with all the technological innovations that take place in schools, there is a learning curve that teachers need to go through to integrate technology in their teaching and as outlined by Gulbahar (2007) and Tearle (2004) it is a complex process. In his study Beuchamp (2004) developed a generic framework for schools outlining the stages teachers go through when they start using the IWB. In the "blackboard/whiteboard" substitute teachers use the IWB nearly as a traditional whiteboard substitute. During the "apprentice user" teachers start to create learning content to be projected on the IWB and saved for future reference. When teachers reach the "initiate users" teachers start to realise the potential of the IWB and simultaneously start to handle different applications. At the "advanced users" stage teachers make use of ready-made resources and are motivated to create their own multimedia artefacts to be projected on the IWB. The final stage the "synergistic user" teachers and learners are highly IWB competent users. At this stage there is a major change in pedagogy where the process of learning is the primary goal.

The work of Beauchamp (2004) has partly influenced the work carried out by Sweeney (2008). Sweeney (ibid.) has developed a framework of IWB use adopting stages 1 and 5 of Beauchamp's (2004) framework. In Sweeney's (2008) framework teachers who are at stage 2 (supported didactic) are mostly concerned with technology and experiment with its affordances such as accessing the Internet. Stage 3 (interactive stage) is the most important since it is where new pedagogical praxis will emerge to reach the learning outcomes. A high level of technical skills is required at stage 4 (enhanced interactive) to ensure differentiated student-centred activities. Other peripherals such as data loggers or voting systems together with high quality digital resources are used through a multimodal and dialogic approach.

Glover et al. (2007) have also developed a framework of IWB use which is inline of Beauchamp's (2004) and Sweeney's (2008) work. The stages of IWB use outlined by Glover et al. (2007, pp.9-10) are "supported didactics" where the IWB supports teacher centred pedagogy with minimal input from learners; "interactive" where learners are cognitively engaged by adopting different strategies and technology is used to develop discrete concepts and "enhanced interactivity" where teachers use the interactive aspect of the IWB to integrate concept and cognitive development.

To go through these stages teachers need a lot of training and support in order to perceive the usefulness of the IWB to their teaching practices and realise that experience will help them overcome the difficulties they might encounter while using the technology (Lee, 2010).

Teacher training

Betcher & Lee (2009) argue that although installation of IWB in schools is the first milestone, adequate training must follow to ensure teachers get the support they need to develop new technical and pedagogic strategies. Beauchamp (2004) and Sweeney (2008) argue that without the underlying necessary technical skills teachers will struggle to change their pedagogy. Teachers need time to acquaint themselves with the IWB in order to fully avail themselves of its pedagogical potential (Waite, 2004). This calls for a strategic continuing professional development programme to cater for the specific needs of teachers to help them embrace the new technology.

Jones & Vincent (2006) report that teacher training session organised by the IWB supplier usually focused on basic technical skills in using the technology rather than the underlying pedagogical practices. Although in this setup teachers who become adept at the technical skills might act as "missioners" (Glover & Miller, 2003) and will support their colleagues, Levy (2002) reports that even during initial training focus should move beyond technical training. This will help teachers make the necessary connection between the affordances of the IWB and lesson planning.

Teachers have different technical skills and will move on to develop their ICT competence at different paces. When organising training sessions it could be more useful if teachers go through a self-review exercise outlining the skills they have and have not mastered and are grouped accordingly. Grouping teachers together at the initial training phases is useful (Beauchamp, 2004). This will ensure a collaborative and a supportive training environment where teachers can help each other by sharing technical knowledge and pedagogical praxis and ensure that the training sessions meet teachers' expectations (Galanouli et al., 2004) by engaging in discussions about teaching and learning rather than only focusing on the technical aspect (Warwick & Kreshner, 2008). When teachers gain confidence and experience in using the IWB, the technology becomes embedded in their pedagogy affecting methodology to fully avail of the IWB affordances (Somekh et al., 2007) to meet students' perceptions of this innovative technology.

Motivation and Attainment

The affordances of the IWB have also affected motivation and engagement of learners during lessons (Hodge & Anderson, 2007; Schmid, 2008) and accommodate different learning styles (Schrum & Levin, 2009). The IWB has also brought a change in the quality of teaching resources and learning processes creating new opportunities for interaction, enhancing thinking skills and information processing (Hodge & Anderson, 2007) affecting the learners' motivation. In a study conducted by Torff & Tirotta (2010) it is argued that the motivation brought by IWB is overstated. They argue that there is a correlation between teachers' use of IWB and learners' motivation but their study in mathematics classroom reveals a marginal gain. It could be argued that this could be due to the wearing off of the novelty of the IWB as discussed by Levy (2002) and Glover et al. (2007). It emphasis Slay's (2008) point that rather than technology, pedagogical strategies will keep students motivated

Lopez (2007) outlines the positive effect of the IWB in increasing motivation and task engagement in classrooms and this could have a positive impact on learners' attainment levels. Positive gains in learners' attainment in English, Mathematics and Science are outlined in the studies carried out by Balanskat et al, (2006) and Somekh et al., (2007). However the latter contradicts the findings reported by Higgins et al. (2007) and Schuck and Kearney (2007) where they found that the IWB did not have any effect on attainment.

Conclusion

This chapter outlined the role attributed to the IWB in the educational sector. The affordances of this technology and their implication to the teaching and learning process were also discussed. The IWB alone will not change to traditional teaching practices unless constructivist learning situations are enacted where learners are involved in the actual process of learning.

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