My Background as a Teacher.
I am currently teaching at the National Learning Network in Offaly. I teach Information Technology, and Information and Communications Systems, along with other subjects such as Health and Safety and Work Experience. I am also an ESOL teacher with CELTA and TEFL qualifications. I have been using interactive whiteboards in my IT and ICS lessons with my learners and have found that they have added a multiplicity of ideas to my teaching methods. They have complemented my lessons by bringing diversity to the courses I deliver, simultaneously aiding my learners’ education. It is imperative that those in the education system do not take it for granted that ‘technology for the sake of technology’ is the way forward. Rather, they should question why technology is important in teaching and learning, and why technology should be integrated into their own classrooms.
Technology in Irish Society.
Ireland has grown and developed rapidly over the past two decades. This has brought many changes; none more so than in the field of technology. The Ireland of today is a knowledge driven society, and in order to continue to advance and progress with the modern world it is essential that the current, and subsequent, generations are given the necessary preparation to succeed. Creativity and skills of invention in education are areas that should be fostered in modern society; innovation and creativity is being rewarded more and more in the online world and in business. Integrating technology into the teaching and learning methods of a classroom can aid the development of these areas, and offer learners an opportunity to use these skills in the future outside of the education system. It is instrumental to the development of society that learners are given the chance to work with technology and become competent with it as the world becomes more technology based. Finfacts (2013) reported that in Ireland, 14.7% of the adult population (16-65 year-olds) report no prior experience with computers or lack very basic computer skills. When this is viewed beside the findings that a mere 25% of the adult population score at the highest levels in problem solving in technology-rich environments, a proportion significantly below the average of the OECD countries participating in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), it becomes evident that the figures show a need for more integration of technology in the classroom in order to improve these statistics. Finfacts state that problem solving in technology-rich environments can be defined as “the ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks.” It has been stated that the gap that currently exists between technology, effective teaching and learning strategies continues to widen (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). This suggests that it is essential that teachers, and those in the education system – managers, principals, etc., move immediately to bridge this technology gap before Ireland falls further behind other countries as a technological society.
Robin Lindbeck and Brian Fodrey (2010) from the National Social Science Association claim that the integration of technology and proven pedagogy often suffers at the expense of each other. However, there are various studies which determine that members of the faculty frequently discover new means of using technology that benefits their area of study, as well as cultivating student learning. Lindbeck and Fodrey also suggest that “recent ideas such as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK), which adds “Technology” as a third form of knowledge to Shulman’s “Pedagogical Content Knowledge” framework urges educators to no longer focus on each area of emphasis independently, but instead where all three intersect or overlap” (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). They argue that this change exhibits an innovative way of thinking about how educators associate technology for the sake of teaching and its role in learning. As educators, it is important that we continue to push the boundaries of teaching and learning, aiming to improve and perfect our pedagogy. It was noted that technology can have a “reciprocal relationship with teaching.” (Eric Klopfer et al, 2009). The emergence of new and varied technologies challenges educators to understand and implement these technologies in the classroom. Simultaneously, the in-class implementation of the technology can have a direct impact on how these technologies can be improved and reinvented in the future.
Working in the National Learning Network, as in many other schools or colleges, means that teachers will come in contact with many learners who have diverse disabilities or special needs. Needless to say, it is vitally important that the technology that is used in the classroom is appropriate for all of the learners, whilst ensuring that it will not isolate any of the learners, or hinder them from having a safe and enjoyable learning experience. This is central to their wellbeing and mental health; it is expressly necessary as many of the learners also have a history of depression and it is the responsibility of the teacher to provide them with a learning environment that is safe and cultivates learning. In the National Learning Network there is a range of ages from 16 to 76. This means that any technology that is implemented must be deliberated carefully prior to its use, taking into consideration the different generations. The younger generations have been completely normalized by digital technologies—it is a fully integrated aspect of their lives (Green & Hannon, 2007). However, those of the mature generations have not had the same opportunities as succeeding generations to use technology. It is important for these learners to gain the experience of technology in the classroom. It is vital to note that due to the lack of use, older generations might find it more difficult to get up to speed with some technology, while younger generations often find it less intimidating due to the familiarity they have with different technologies.
Interactive whiteboards have been found to be a particularly valuable pedagogical tool. Any teacher considering using a new technology should determine what they hope to achieve by its use. In many occasions, teachers merely want to introduce new technology for the sake of it; believing that technology holds the answer to problems they are having in the classroom. Technology for the sake of technology is not advisable. Many less technologically advanced tools can be used as alternatives. In many cases, technology will not solve issues in the classroom; however, they can be used to improve and perfect methods of teaching and learning. An interactive whiteboard can be useful for complementing a teacher’s methods of teaching, but it will not make learners sit up and pay attention by its introduction to the classroom or suddenly become more engaged just by its mere use in a lesson. It must be used wisely to support a teacher, rather than a stopgap for poor teaching skills.
Initially, a discussion with a teacher’s colleagues, manager or principal can help the teacher to determine whether interactive whiteboards have a viable role in their classroom, and identify what benefits they provide. Secondly, it is important to consider the limitations of interactive whiteboards, taking into consideration cost and learner impairment. Again, current technologies should be considered as feasible alternatives before making an investment.
There are two different options when considering using interactive whiteboards. The first option is a virtual e-version of the classic whiteboard on a computer. This version allows the learners to enter a virtual classroom where they can see what the teacher writes. This is an option more suitable for conferences and data-sharing than a further education classroom. The second option comprises of a fixed panel that functions as a classic whiteboard, a projector screen, or an e-copy board. When a computer or laptop image is projected onto the board, there are functions to control the screen by touching it with a finger, or with a specifically designed ‘pen’ which allows the user to change the colour of writing and click on areas of the board. This touch function enables the teacher to stand in front of their class, rather than talking from behind a computer or constantly returning to a laptop in order to change slides if they are using Power Point or other software. This is particularly helpful as a tool to keep the class engaged, as it allows for more eye contact and saves the teacher from turning their back on their learners. It will be the second type of interactive whiteboard that will be discussed here, as it is the most useful for teaching in a further education environment.
It is important to look at the benefits of interactive whiteboards and question why teachers should embrace them, with particular attention on those teachers who deliver IT and Information and Communications Systems as these modules overlap in certain areas. However, interactive whiteboards also have their use for the majority of teachers inside and outside the further education sector. Initially, it can be daunting for a teacher to embrace and integrate new technology into their methods of teaching and learning. Many teachers feel uncomfortable with change and perhaps have not been taught using these technologies in their own learning experiences. There may be a feeling that they would not be able to use it for themselves. Due to this, it is evident that many teachers need time to practice using the technology before becoming confident with it and introducing it into their lessons. Another advantage of an interactive whiteboard is that it almost identical to the original whiteboards that are used widely in education for many years. This means that teachers, and indeed learners, may not be as intimidated by the sight of an interactive whiteboard in the classroom as it is physically very familiar to them – making them more inclined to use them during a lesson.
Once teachers become used to the idea of an interactive whiteboard, they can begin experimenting to see what uses they have in terms of methods of teaching. This relates to the research which suggests that the emergence of new and varied technologies challenges educators to understand and implement these technologies in the classroom. Simultaneously, the in-class implementation of the technology can have a direct impact on how these technologies can be improved and reinvented. There are many uses and advantages of interactive whiteboards, but it is only through more teachers using and experimenting with new and different methods that interactive whiteboards will change and improve further; opening new possibilities.
When considering using interactive whiteboards for IT or ICS, there is one major advantage over the conventional whiteboard that must be noted. Interactive whiteboards allow teachers to enrich their presentations by introducing diverse material – pictures, videos, graphs, text, and sound files to name a few. Interactive whiteboards enable teachers to tap into the possibilities of different methods of delivery, such as YouTube and TED. These sites allow the teacher to bring experts on different topics into the classroom via the internet. Another use would be to use videos to explain certain parts of lessons as demonstrated in FETAC Level 5 ICS where one of the learning outcomes is to explain why copyright is important. In addition to explaining this learning outcome oneself, the teacher has the option of showing multiple videos from YouTube that have condensed and simplified this concept. It is important to note that, “contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing. If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated.” (Pashler et al, 2008) Therefore, as educators, it is essential that our learners are given mixed and varied methods of delivery, rather than trying to suit individual needs.
In Information and Communications Systems it is important to use demonstrations too. One specific example of when this can be used is in the FETAC Level 5 IT module – one of the learning outcomes is that learners will be able to use the different functions on an e-mail, such as Gmail or Yahoo. An interactive whiteboard allows the teacher to demonstrate the different functions to the whole class simultaneously, without spending valuable class time going to each individual’s computer. Learners can follow the teacher’s demonstrations step-by-step. “Great advantages can accrue when an ‘expert’ teaches a specific skill to students” (Bransford, 2000). Anderson states that in one study, while teaching economics the lecturer compared teaching using lecture only versus lecture and demonstration. In the terminal exam, the results of questions on the subject of production were compared to previous results. The average number of correct responses rose from 3.5 with the lecture only format to 4.3 with the lecture enhanced by the demonstration. Simon et al and others also provide research that suggests demonstrations are invaluable to teachers’ methods of teaching and learning. In addition, there is the ability interactive whiteboards to bring an expert on a particular topic into the classroom. This can be achieved through videos from a computer that are projected onto the board.
Interactive whiteboards are also a perfect medium for interactively testing a whole class, allowing a teacher to gain immediate feedback from learners. Websites such as Socrative give the teacher an opportunity to deploy methods of formative or summative assessment. When projected on an interactive whiteboard the teacher in any class that contains computers can ask learners to submit answers and post the results on the board anonymously via an online classroom. This anonymity helps to ensure that feedback or answers to questions are more honest and will reflect the opinions of a class more accurately than if a teacher asks questions directly to a class. Learners can often be reluctant to speak out in a class or answer truthfully so the interactive whiteboard helps to circumvent such issues. This method has been used in the National College of Ireland where Laurence Cuffe used Socrative and projected it onto a screen to gather data on his learners’ personal opinions on technology. This method can be adopted for interactive whiteboards with ease. Another major advantage of the whiteboard is the ease at which presentations and inputs can be recorded. This means that at the end of a lesson, the final product can be e-mailed, stockpiled for subsequent use, or reviewed and critiqued in order to analyse a procedure.
Knowles (1980) states that a key characteristic of how adults learn is that they are often self-directed and autonomous in their pursuit of education. However, adults do appreciate learning from and collaborating with others. Interactive whiteboards allow learners to learn in a shared environment and collaborate with each other during lessons. Students, either individually or as part of a group, can actively engage with the interactive whiteboard by placing suggestions or ideas on the whiteboard, increasing the likelihood of peer teaching. Learners can also work on word processing documents with their groups on the whiteboard. This interaction will help increase communication and interpersonal skills of the learners, while increasing their confidence and engaging them more in class. Interaction can be useful during discussions where students can contribute on the interactive whiteboard and give more opportunities for peer learning. Naturally, there will be some students who find this intimidating, so it is best to make this an option rather than a requirement, or accept volunteers, or have group-based contributions to alleviate the learners’ fears. Overcoming this issue is worthwhile as it helps to halt passive learning.
As with all technology, there are some other issues, apart from the learners’ fear of participation. The cost is the main concern that can pose a problem for teachers requesting investment for an interactive whiteboard. The costs vary depending on the make, model or size of the whiteboard. NCTE (2007) claim that boards from 35 – 78 inches diagonally can cost between €1500 and €3000. NCTE also states that it is important to check that the following functions are included in the software before purchase: “Draw or write on the board using different coloured pens or even the students’ fingers. Print out or save the results to the computer. Use “layering”, “grouping” and other features which allow the user to create their own classroom resources, often with the help of an associated gallery”. Additional costs include installation costing an average of €500, and a projector (if one is not already installed) costing around €800. NCTE states that there are suppliers that “provide integrated, wall-mounted projectors, bringing the total guide price to €6,000 (including installation)”. Although this information was presented in 2007, prices have not dropped significantly since this publication as a search on the following website will show: http://www.iwbireland.com/index.php/smartboard/. Also, the repair of an interactive whiteboard is considerably expensive, so care must be taken when using the device. Insurance is an advisable option to be taken into consideration.
To conclude, teachers considering investing in or using interactive whiteboards in their lessons for the first time can see that there are many pedagogical advantages of using technology, and specifically, of using interactive whiteboards. In an Information Technology or an Information and Communications Systems lesson, interactive whiteboard are particularly useful. However, all teachers can reap the rewards of using such technology in their classrooms. Not only can they aid teachers’ methods of teaching and assessment, but they have benefits for the learners too. There is also the advantage of increased engagement, collaboration and participation of learners. This will increase the likelihood of peer teaching in a classroom. The negative aspects of integrating an interactive whiteboard into a classroom include the excessive cost of purchase, installation and repair. Costs increase further if a projector if it is needed. However, if a teacher has the backing of their school or institute to go ahead, then they will find that there are very few undesirable aspects to using interactive whiteboards in a lesson. Overall, interactive whiteboards are worth are investing in.
An Introduction to IAW:
Teachers and Interactive Whiteboards:
Make Engaging Lessons:
IAW Screen Capture:
The Future for All IAW? View the Potential:
Drumcondra Education Centre’s Interactive Whiteboard project
References and Links
Green, H and Hannon, C, 2007, Their Space: Education for a digital generation, online version, accessed September 4 2007, http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Their%20space%20-%20web.pdf
Klopfer, E., Scheintaub, H., Huang, W., & Wendel, D. (2009). StarLogo TNG: Making agent based modeling accessible and appealing to novices. In Komosinski, M. (ed.) Artificial Life Models in Software, 2nd edition. Springer.
Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge. P44
Lawless, K. A., and Pellegrino, J. W. (2007). Professional Development in Integrating Technology Into Teaching and Learning: Knowns, Unknowns, and Ways to Pursue Better Questions and Answers. Review of Educational Research, P 574
Lindbeck, R. and Fodrey, B. (2007). Integrating Technology into the College Classroom:Current Practices and Future Opportunities. University of North Carolina.
Mishra, P., and Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge. Teachers College Record. P 1017-1054.
Pashler H, McDaniel M, Rohrer D and Bjork R (2008) “Learning Styles; concepts and evidence” Psychological Science in the Public Interest vol. 9 no.3
Prices of IAW: http://www.iwbireland.com/index.php/smartboard/