Interactive Whiteboard Technology In Education
By Edward Theophilus Wanigasekera
The use of education technology in developing countries has been boosted during the past decades despite the cost of technology that will probably be a hindrance to accessing the technology in third world countries. Many developing countries included information technology in their curriculum structure from primary school context to university education context. The structural changes in education systems in developing countries have created a huge demand for computers and computer related equipment. As a result of these dramatic changes in the use of education technology, it is observable that the benefits of education are gradually transferring from developed countries to developing countries thereby creating massive benefits to disadvantaged people in the third world.
What is an interactive whiteboard? It may be a strange question to many parents, who have no idea about modern education technology used in schools. Wikipedia online encyclopedia defines that an interactive whiteboard is a dry erase whiteboard, which is similar to a whiteboard writing surface, which can capture writing electronically. This means that it is a whiteboard, which is similar to a whiteboard that we are currently using in classrooms but it has unique features. The board could be used to capture notes written on the surface using dry erase ink and to control or markup a computer generated image projected on the white board surface from a digital projector. The description of an interactive white board creates a bewitching picture in our mind that will take us into a movie hall in Sri Lanka.
An interactive whiteboard has a strong capacity to provide effective teaching service in schools as technological equipment used in this technology attracts students’ attention than expository teaching in the classroom. The new technology demonstrates that a computer screen could be put on the whiteboard for the utilization of many students in the classroom. Usually teaching in the classroom involves using a whiteboard or blackboard to explain points in lessons to students and provide notes to students. Some teacher educators advise student teachers to prepare charts and notes prior to entering the classroom and use the board to stick such aid with a view to saving the time for writing on the board.
When a teacher uses a normal whiteboard or a blackboard she or he has to face several limits. The major constraint is the limit of space to write notes or information. While writing on the board, teacher has to wipeout the board to get additional space and sometimes she or he has to wait until students noted down information or notes. In addition teacher has pressure from time limit for lessons, which is an hour or less in primary and high schools. The technology of interactive whiteboard overcomes this limit through its memory capacity and the teacher is given relief and less stress.
The controllability of normal white or blackboards is beyond the capacity of teacher because the teacher cannot retrieve past information related to this lesson, as they were already erased and teacher may need to repeat past information again. Modern lesson planning system strongly advises teachers to indicate the link of this lesson to past and the future and teachers need to evaluate lesson from point of views of both teaching and learning. The interactive whiteboards assist teachers to successfully implement the plan in the classroom. The most remarkable feature of interactive whiteboard is its memory capacity linking through the computer. The technology in interactive whiteboard goes along with the lesson plan.
Teachers also need to draw pictures, charts, graphs and many other examples on the white or blackboard while they are teaching in the classroom. Many teachers are not perfect artists and due to limits of the boards or difficulty in perfect drawings, the explanation points may not be effectively clear or understood by students. However, computer technology could extend support to teachers perfectly performing such drawing tasks and transfer such images to a large interactive white board in the classroom for the benefits of students.
The technology related to interactive whiteboard is quite similar to other electronic technology used in computer systems and various kinds of operation systems in railway stations, airports, stock markets, supermarkets and other places. In these places information from the control centre could be transmitted to terminals for public views. The teacher can transmit information from the computer to interactive whiteboard using similar technology. To successful operate an interactive whiteboard in a classroom, three equipments are needed.
• A computer either Laptop or Desktop, which provides major, supports to operate the interactive whiteboard. The computer stores programs or information using software or hardware to use in the classroom. For example if a teacher conducts a lesson on Fuel System in Motor Vehicles, the teacher can do advance preparation in the computer with charts, pictures, notes and other things. Store all preparations in the computer and later they could be retrieved on the interactive whiteboard at the teaching time.
• A digital projector, which supports to transfer information or data from the computer to the whiteboard. A digital projector is necessary because like in the computer compatible technology is necessary transfer information in the computer.
• An interactive whiteboard or a large touch sensitive screen that display information in the computer and the teacher can describe information touching the screen. While teaching in the class, teacher can change or further elaborate information on the screen.
The specific nature of this technology is that the teacher could get information to the whiteboard from the computer while teaching in the classroom and also could send information from the whiteboard to the computer. This is one of the basic differences that we can observe when comparing with normal whiteboard and interactive whiteboard. Interactive whiteboard could use plasma screen without using a projector but such a technology is expensive and it is beyond the affordability of education systems in many countries. Interactive whiteboard currently used in the world has three kind of technology.
• Resistive membrane. This technology is described by TechLearn as “this whiteboard s has a soft flexible surface similar to vinyl consisting of two piece of resistive material separated by a small gap which creates a touch sensitive membrane.”(www.techlearn.ac.uk). they can be drawn on using fingers of a special stylus that can represent pens of different colors via software selection. Movement is tracked by detecting the pressure of the stylus object on the surface.
• Electro Magnetic – the technology in electro magnate is similar to normal whiteboards which we are using in the classrooms. Unlike stylus object in resistive membrane this white board operation is performed by battery operated special pens.
• Laser Scanner - This is attached to the top corners of the interactive whiteboard to detect the pen movement and writing on the board. To use this whiteboard require special felt pens.
Interactive whiteboards in developed countries such as USA and UK are used by students self learning and in improving skills in subjects such as music. Students use interactive whiteboard to learn the process involved in using composition programs to work through their project and to present it to their peers. This means that interactive white boards promote interaction method in the classroom that will be effective in students’ learning than expository style of teaching.
The use of interactive whiteboard does not reject conventional style of teaching or expository method of teaching. Through interactive whiteboard, expository strategies will be more effective in the classroom. Miranda net (www.mirandanet.ac.uk) expresses that the use of mathematics programs has improved the ability of many students to conceptualize mathematical process and modeling. It further elaborates that the use of interactive whiteboards in group learning animation has meant that students can not only visualize the process of animation but identify where the errors may have occurred.
The interactive whiteboard could be used in all type of conventional teaching methods in classrooms and also it would automatically generate a strong effectiveness in classroom teaching.
Mirandanet in UK (www.mirandanet.ac.uk) describes more specifically and clearly that interactive whiteboard are effective in European schools. Although the technology is modern it does not mean that such technology cannot be used for conventional teaching methods. According to our experience in the classrooms, teachers have a problem with motivation of students and getting students to actively participate in classroom learning. The technology in interactive whiteboards automatically reinforces students and promotes participation in the classrooms.
The benefits of interactive white boards have been identified by many researchers. A media release of SMART Technologies Corporation in Canada has explained that interactive whiteboard technology is successfully used in UK USA, Puerto Rico, Spain and Germany. Since January 2006, Smart has shipped more than 375000 interactive whiteboard for classroom teaching purposes. With Sterling 50 million funding initiatives in UK Department of Education and Skills installed more than 208 interactive whiteboards in schools while USA schools installed 2300 interactive whiteboards. In Puerto Rico, Department of Education installed interactive whiteboards in 100 sites. Spain has selected all primary and secondary schools to have interactive whiteboards installed and as a modernization step of teaching in Germany 20 schools in Hamburg installed interactive whiteboards.
There is a range of benefits from interactive whiteboards to education. Research websites have identified many benefits (www.techlearn.ac.uk , www.ncte.ie , www.smarttech.com , www.mirandanet.ac.uk ) and the following points were highlighted in the websites.
• Interactive whiteboards are similar to conventional whiteboard in appearance but teachers can use them to successfully present their lessons in front of the classroom
• Lesson delivery of teachers appears to be boring to students in many instances and interactive whiteboard technology could be used to make alternative mode of lesson delivery and attract students’ concentration to the lesson.
• Interactive whiteboard technology allows teachers to integrate a wide range of materials and aid to lesson from various websites through internet. Teacher can bring the global experience to the classroom although the classroom is situated in the most remote area of the globe.
• Interactive whiteboard technology assists learners to absorb more information at a time. Knowledge and skills gained through interactive whiteboard technology is broader than normal boards in the classrooms.
• Interactive whiteboard technology goes along with the modern concept of learning such as shared knowledge, collaborative learning etc. This means that the use of interactive whiteboards could easily eliminate social differences among students and can create a value laden society through inclusion.
Although there are many benefits of using interactive whiteboards in schools, the new technology is not a promise land that will bring everything to education environment without problems. The use of new technology has created many problems in developed countries. When it considered from the point of views of developing countries interactive whiteboard could create many issues.
The funding for the technology is a serious issue around the world.The cost of interactive whiteboard technology to generally use in schools is very high not only in developing countries but also in developed countries. School timetables in developed and developing countries allow a limited time period for a lesson. Many primary and secondary schools allow 40 – 60 minutes for a lesson while technical vocational and university context allow a maximum of 2 hours for a lesson. To successfully use interactive whiteboards in the classroom within the given time period, classroom need higher resolution and faster tracking speed board. The cost of such high speed interactive whiteboards in 2002 was around Sterling 750 to Sterling 1600. Depending on the technology and the size of the board. The current cost of a board may be higher than in 2002. In Australia 21 inches flat computer screen is $ 800 and a huge screen will attract a high cost.
To use an interactive whiteboard board, additional equipment is essential. Specially a computer, a digital projector codeless infrared pen. Sometimes, it needs specific software. Laser scanner whiteboards operated by markers with special reflective callow, is more expensive. In this sense, to successfully install and operate interactive white board in a classroom, initial capital requirement may be a $ 7500 to $ 10000. This is not an affordable cost to schools in developed countries. In this situation, a wider use of interactive whiteboard technology in primary and secondary schools in developing countries is beyond the affordability.
Although the cost factor is a reasonable concern in using interactive whiteboards, developing countries could it use if for in-house training in public and private sector business and technical vocational education institutes for skills training purpose. The interactive whiteboard used this way limits the cost is and affordable.
To use of interactive whiteboard technology for education purpose in developing countries, it basically requires infrastructure facilities. The modern electronic technology is based on electrical power. Unless there is electrical power and high speed telecommunication facilities, interactive whiteboard cannot be used in many area of developing countries. The cost for infrastructure establishment requires a massive quantum of funds that would not be allowed by the budgetary process in developing countries. The prime issue of technology in developing countries to use modern education technology is the infrastructure problem. Before beginning to use interactive white boards in schools, there is clear evidence that computers and any other electrical or electronic equipment cannot be used in rural areas without electricity or electricity generators. In connection with telecommunication facilities, similar problems will be encountered as there are no telephone cables or wireless phone facilities in rural areas. The cost of the supply of electricity and installation of telecommunication system are extremely high that is unaffordable to the governments.
TechLearn website (www.techlearn.ac.uk) advises on a vital technical issue in relation to software offers in whiteboard technology, which should be capable of
• Drawing or writing on the board using different colored pens or even figures
• Printout or save results to the computer
• Use advanced letter recognition systems that convert handwriting to texts that can be edited
• Support remote voting or feedback
• Store sequence of screens for payback
• Control computer applications via the screen
• Customize the screen reference.
The technological capacity of interactive whiteboards imperative to purchase as the cost of the whiteboard should be matched with its capabilities and usefulness. There is no argument that interactive whiteboard technology is a positive impetus for education in third world countries but the cost of technology and the capacity of various level of technology in the system raise a question can this technology deliver essential results for education in such countries, when people are seeking equity in education distribution without sufficient funding for basic education requirements such as literacy and numeric. There is a range of choices in whiteboard technology but the real issue in developing countries is affordability for even lowest level of technology.
In such a background, interactive white board could not be widely used in primary and secondary education but the technology could be used for teacher education and training purposes in developing countries. Such a limited purpose use will generate a greater result for education in developing countries.
Staff training for interactive whiteboard technology would be an indispensable cost and the reorganization of current education setting to release teachers will be a further difficult task. Interactive whiteboard technology is a new method of teaching that requires certain skills to operate interactive whiteboard as well as to use the information in the network system for teaching purpose. Current classroom teachers have not been trained for this new technology. If schools want to use the technology, current teachers in schools should be trained for the purpose. In such a situation school leadership face a serious problem. How can they release current teachers for training without replacement to support on going teaching? Some teachers are quick learners and some are not. The ability or skills of teachers to generate positive results by widely using the system will be key to maintain high quality education using the technology. If teachers are unable to use of the technology, it would not be matched with the investment cost and expectation from interactive whiteboards.
However, there are some strategies that could avoid many staff training problems. The most effective strategy or way of training teachers for interactive whiteboard technology is that such education or training should be integrated into the teacher education system. Like practicum subject in teacher education, the learning of technology will automatically occur through teacher education. For this purpose, current teacher education curriculum in universities should be reviewed and integrate the new training to use interactive whiteboards in the classrooms.
The staff training issue remains in developing countries as well as in developed countries. Current schools cannot transfer overnight to use interactive whiteboards, although it is possible to supply interactive whiteboards to schools the staff training is a gradual process that will take time to train all teachers.
Becta ICT research website (www.becta.org.uk) summarizes key research evidence in relation to the use of interactive whiteboards. Research findings (Smith 1999, Walker 2003, Gerald et al 1999, Kennewell 2001, Levy 2002) indicate various benefits for teachers and students as analyzed before it could generate many benefits for learning and curriculum. The following issues could not be disregarded despite the benefits of new technology. Website elaborates that teachers are hesitant about changing their pedagogy to incorporate interactive whiteboards, if practical consideration hinder their use. It may be a vital issue from the point of view of technology manufacturers; however, many practical issues are possibly related to teachers incorporating interactive whiteboards to pedagogy.
One of the major hindrance contributing to the use of interactive whiteboards to pedagogy is information online are magnitude and while teaching in the classroom, teachers will have great difficulties as to how to select essential information from internet and integrate them into the lesson within the time limit for the lesson. Teachers cannot spend times allocated for lesson delivery for the purpose of browsing the internet for information. Teaching is a straight forward work in the classroom but not researching for information in the classroom.
According to conventional norms of teaching, teachers should plan, research, and organize information for the lesson before entering the classroom for lesson delivery. For example a teacher is delivering a lesson on environment pollution. The lesson plan and advance preparation include essential information for the topic. While teaching in the classroom this topic, teacher can retrieve much information related to the subject area from the internet using an interactive whiteboard, but how to organize such huge information to present within the time limit for the lesson in the way students understand them. The lesson evaluation process clearly advises that the teacher must be satisfied with his or her lesson delivery and make sure that students learnt or got what was taught in the classroom. Therefore, browsing information for teaching in the classroom using interactive whiteboards while delivering lesson might not be an appropriate thing to do because it may confuse many students rather than learning in the classroom.
On the other hand, teachers have to perform many task rather than teaching when he or she is using interactive whiteboard. There is no argument that teachers need planning and organization skills. The duties in the classroom are not related to planning and organization but to presentation of the lesson and the use of wide range of skills such as interaction, problem solving and many other than doing research in the classroom. If teachers attempt to retrieve more and more information browsing the internet during teaching period it might go out of hand and students will learn nothing. The organization of information that is needed to classroom teaching from the huge ocean of information in internet within the given time period using an interactive whiteboard is a serious pedagogical issue. Lee and Boyle (2003) assert that “An important feature of the teaching style that is evolving at Richardson is its similarity to the multi-media, multi-sensory, multi-faceted style the children experience with their computer games and TV. The technology allows teachers to capture material digitally from a plethora of sources and then cut and paste it together to create new and exciting, multi-media teaching materials that are contextually relevant to the students and their learning needs’ (p 23)
The finding of Lee and Boyle is based on primary school environment and it may be attractive to primary students to exciting purposes but when it comes to more complex teaching purposes the results might be different.
Becta ICT research highlights the following points as key factors to major pedagogical issues.
• Ease access – the whiteboards need to be a regular part of classroom practice if they are to be fully exploited.
• Reliability – The role of whiteboards in lesson delivery means it is essential that teachers have confidence in the board, its network connection and the provision of technical supports
• Visibility – problem can occur whether sunlight shines directly in to the board.
• Positioning the board
Except teaching in primary or early childhood context, reliability of information in relation to subject matters is important. Internet provides lots of unreliable and misleading information in relation to much subject area. Teachers cannot straight use such information for teaching purpose without verification of the reliability and the validity of such information. For example, when we look at information about green house gas effect from overseas, we have observed that Australian prime minister educated Australian kid’s completely different information despite the scientific truth but kids in European countries were educated scientifically true ideas on this subject area. If Australian prime ministers views on green house gas effect, which were fabricated for political advantage, were in the internet and used for teaching purpose without verification of the scientific truth of such information, although the technology is modern, the ideas are false. If teachers are teaching such information to students without verification of the validity and reliability of the information, it would be against the moral and ethical values of teachers.
The other serious issue in relation to teaching and learning using interactive whiteboards is many valuable internet information do not provide free of charge. The current development in internet appears that many websites charge customer fee to use and download information. Even some newspapers website charge to read newspapers. This means that teachers will be incurred additional cost to use information in the internet. Can school authorities allow teachers to freely use interactive whiteboards in the classroom when there is fee involved in obtaining information from reliable websites? Many schools cannot allow obtaining paid information from the internet for teaching.
In regard to learners’ points of view, what is the cost for students to learn using interactive whiteboard in the classroom? As a result of market deregulation, education is becoming a serious cost to parents. Considering the cost of technology, school authorities cannot allow the use of interactive whiteboard in the classroom free of charge with the current level of school fee. As the technology is involved in a higher capital cost and on going maintenance cost, the school authorities have no option to increase school fee to cover the cost. This way interactive whiteboards may create social difference or good education for rich only. At the begging this article we saw that interactive whiteboards lead to diminish social difference in the classroom. However, as long as school policies are based on the user pay system, from the learners point of views interactive whiteboard may cause disadvantage to lower income earners.
- Asian Tribune -