Promethean World Interactive Whiteboards

Promethean | Promethean Ambassadors | IWB Project | Press Release | Interim Report | Findings

Promethean WorldAmbassadors for ACTIVlearning: research into learning tools

John Cuthell & Christina Preston
MirandaNet International Research Centre
Southampton University, Hants

Introduction | Findings from the first phase | Research methodology | Research themes | Further information


This three year research programme, 2005 - 2008, aims to provide detailed evidence and advice both for educators and policy makers who are charged with making a difference in the long term, and for teachers and teacher advisers who need access to ideas and advice immediately. The research study focuses on schools in China, Mexico, South Africa and the UK where ACTIVboards are being widely used.

Findings from the first phase

The projects already demonstrate a wide range of reasons for adopting the boards in the first place. Underlying project themes include better achievement in literacy, numeracy and ICT skills. A common thread is to improve the quality of learning by motivating reluctant learners and creating more active learning opportunities. One method which has already been adopted is to make the layout of classrooms more conducive to active learning.

Lack of resources is a concern in most classrooms. Projects have been designed to improve the design of resources and even to use learners for resource development. Some projects aim to enrich the ICT skills of the staff as well as the learners. Practice based research which includes the publication and presentation of case studies is also intended to facilitate the sharing of knowledge process amongst the school staff. As an international group overall project intentions include increasing the involvement of parents and the local community, improving citizenship responsibility and racial harmony. The schools who belong to this research community across four countries are also committed to the idea that giving young learners’ a voice will also increase the opportunities for democratic participation and a sense of social worth and belonging.

Specific findings are also emerging in each country. In South Africa where projects have been running for nearly a year, the learners have conducted a survey which reveals that 99% agreed or strongly agreed that they found lessons in which the ACTIVboard is used more enjoyable. In addition more than three quarters of the learners said that when ACTIVboards were used in lessons their concentration was better or much better and so was their understanding and retention of material presented. Compared with other lessons, they talked less to their friends about matters unrelated to work when ACTIVboards were being used. They also wanted more access to the board to do their assignment presentations. More than half the students said that their participation in IWB lessons was better or much better. The schools have purchased more boards on the evidence of effective use.

The Mexican projects have been running for 9 months already and emergent results are promising. There is evidence that the role of teachers acting as researchers of their own practice has produced:

In China installation of the ACTIVboards has taken longer to organise, but this has been used as an opportunity to redesign classrooms from scratch. In computer labs 60 students were sitting behind computers in 6 rows of 10. This was not felt to be conducive to active learning. One of the teachers has designed circular consoles for 4-6 pupils who can then collaborate and talk as well as working on the computer. The ownership of ACTIVboards has promoted this kind of thinking about the learning environment because all the pupils in large classes can see the main screen. They do not, therefore, need to be behind the small screen for the whole lesson.

The first phase has mainly been about installation, advanced skills training, negotiating projects and building familiarity with this new learning tool. However, the teachers have already come to some conclusions about the impact of the boards so far. In the judgement of the teachers, all the pupils have been more engaged and focused. The wealth of resources and storage of classroom jottings has made it possible to cover topics in more depth: teachers and pupils have been able to move from one section of the materials to another with ease. Teachers have found that they can cover the syllabus and curriculum materials at greater speed. As a result more time is available for pre-examination revision. It has also been easier to ensure that revision materials are always available to pupils. Most importantly lessons have been more enjoyable and fun for the teachers and the learners who have found a new tool to explore their creativity together. On the issues of measurable attainment emergent findings also suggest that there have been higher attainment in the lower/middle pupil band, but these observations will have to be confirmed by test results in January.

The research will report each year on the interim findings so that the education community is well informed about progress. However, teachers are who are busy using the boards want immediate advice and information now. That is why the teachers and researchers have set up a Promethean World website ( where users can find advice and case studies from other teachers who are engaged in a variety of practical uses of the ACTIVboard in a range of setting. 16,056 teachers have been regularly downloading case studies and resources from this website in the first year.

The research methodology

The study is being conducted in two parallel strands. In the first strand quantitative and qualitative evidence from 100 teachers and 1,000 students is being gathered over a three year period to be published in a web knowledge base. Interim and summative evidence, resources and advice on Promethean World for all users will cover a variety of topics like: the detailed ways which the boards are used in different situations, effective classroom layouts, curriculum specialisations, self-evaluation templates, impact on attainment evidence, training issues, resources, methods of integrating knowledge of home computers into formal education, barriers to the use of new tools and suggestions for further software. Students will be reporting, in detail, on the ways in which ACTIVboards support their learning in detail. The analysis will concentrate on evidence of broadening and deepening learning over this period. Cultural differences between the countries will also help to increase understanding of teachers’ and learners’ needs in context.

The second part of the research concentrates on the findings from a group of 10 schools and colleges which represent a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and educational phases in China, Mexico, South Africa and the UK. These schools won an international competition for a place on this Continuing Professional Development programme because of their innovative approach to learning and their commitment to change. Each of the schools represents a wider community of users who they are also training in the use of the ACTIVboards. This aspect of the research aims at providing evidence for policy makers, teacher educators and senior managers in schools who want to ensure that the full potential of the board is used by teachers. These outstanding institutions and the communities they serve are pooling their resources and working together to share their thinking and practice with researchers and managers. The aim is to move beyond advanced skills training. This ‘community of enquiry’ is being supported to take a holistic view of learning technologies in their local environment in attainment and change. They also have the opportunity to judge their achievements against international evidence of attainment. Through this kind of cross-cultural exchange questions will, undoubtedly, be raised about the nature of attainment and achievement as well as the quality of learning and its application and the meaning of the transformation of learning.

These 10 educational institutions have been set up as a ‘community of enquiry’ in order to discover how well learners can achieve when they and their teachers have the right kind of support available both for ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’. Each school has a research mentor and learning and training advisers attached. Residential workshops and on-line support are an important element of the research which is being conducted within a customised learning environment which includes a gallery for published work.

Core teachers in this community of enquiry are being trained to be teacher researchers in their own right in the tradition of practice-based research. This kind of approach to CPD means that the school can identify ways in which the board might be effective, set up an investigation in the classroom and report on the results. These reports are published for other teachers and can also be used as evidence of progress for school inspectors, governors and government policy makers. The aim is to develop understanding and change practice through a long-term shift in conceptions of how ICT can be embedded in classroom practices. The ‘community of enquiry’ will be encouraged to use this new knowledge to shape learning outcomes that are a better match with the learners’ needs. The activities focus on the learners who are also encouraged to reflect on what works and what does not work in their own learning journey. This is in line with research which indicates that learners are more motivated when they are engaged with the process of learning as well as the products.

The research themes

In these optimum conditions the ‘community of enquiry’ is expected to supply evidence on the themes of learning and teaching theory and practice; the role of communities of enquiry in education systems; learning dialogues and creative thinking ; the provision and management of effective virtual and real learning environments; the impact of ‘out of school’ learning; the contribution of new tools to social communication and advice on regional and national infrastructure for policy makers. In the nature of rapid change themes will emerge which are not yet in common currency and cannot yet be foreseen. By allowing evidence to emerge throughout the three years of the project the team expect to provide knowledge about the future of learning with technological tools for potential purchasers.

eLapa Students at BETT05The team are also increase their understanding of the community in which learning is situated by interviewing those who are attached to the project : the learning and teaching advisers, the researchers, the senior management teams, the policy makers, the resellers, the specialist journalists, the community leaders and the school governors. This will provide wider insights into the issues of policy and distribution as well as underlying motives for purchase.

The universities which are supporting the research are all leaders in innovation in Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for teachers in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) : The Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences, China, Pretoria University, South Africa and researchers at the UNESCO North Committee in Monterrey who are working with the Nuevo León State Government in Mexico as well as the Autonomous University of Nuevo León. The project is being directed by the MirandaNet International Research Centre (MIRC), Education Department at Southampton University, UK. All the researchers, mentors and schools are drawn from the MirandaNet Fellowship which has an international reputation for practice-based research which bases the development of new theories about tools for learning on sound classroom practice. The Fellowship is also a leader in supporting the development of web-based learning communities amongst educators world-wide. Recent research for government and industry include reports on the UK national training programme in ICT for teachers and on teacher motivation in ICT for the Teacher Training Agency, an evaluation of the British Computer Society Computer Driving Licence and of Curriculum on Line training for BECTA. MirandaNet has also developed ICT CPD programmes for governments in South Africa and Chile and evaluated national projects in Brazil and Eastern Europe. Educators and schools who work in these projects gain an international perspective on citizenship from the opportunity to share their thinking with learners from other nations and communities.


Some links to further information on the site:

Thanks are due to Promethean and their educational teams for their support throughout the project. Detailed case studies are available to download.

[Back to the top]