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Interactive White boards: Perspectives on their implementation and classroom use

Dai Thomas

Year of posting: 2005




This study aims to give perspectives about the introduction of Interactive White Boards (IWB) to the secondary classroom. The study aims to outline some of the current educational background within which IWB’s present themselves, the changing nature of schools and schooling and the concept of ‘anytime anywhere learning’.


The study looks at the Interactive Board from various view points, both student and teacher based, it opens up debate in class room pedagogy in using IWB’s as a rich media portal and an effective method of ICT delivery of visual engagement and plenary /review tools.


Teacher reflection is an important part of Continuous Professional Development (CPD), this study submits that the very nature of using this type of technology actually encourages this important self reflection and develops a lesson disassembly that otherwise may not exist. Recommendations are made for whole school implementation of Interactive White Board use through practical discovery and video observation.



Interactive White boards: Perspectives on their implementation and classroom use


This study aims to give perspectives about the introduction of Interactive White Boards (IWB) to the secondary classroom. The study aims to outline some of the current educational background within which IWB’s present themselves, the changing nature of schools and schooling and the concept of ‘anytime anywhere learning’.

The study looks at the Interactive Board from various view points, both student and teacher based, it opens up debate in class room pedagogy in using IWB’s as a rich media portal and an effective method of ICT delivery of visual engagement and plenary /review tools.

Teacher reflection is an important part of Continuous Professional Development (CPD), this study submits that the very nature of using this type of technology actually encourages this important self reflection and develops a lesson disassembly that otherwise may not exist. Recommendations are made for whole school implementation of Interactive White Board use through practical discovery and video observation.



I currently work as the Director of Information and Communication Technology for Ringmer Community College, a small specialist school in East Sussex. I have been teaching for the past seventeen years mostly in the fields of Design & Technology and ICT. I also work as a co-ordinator across a local consortium of schools within a Leaning Skills Council funded increased flexibility programme for the 14-19 Curriculum and as a seconded lecturer in education at Brighton University. I have a strong interest in the collaborative nature of online learning and am currently studying at MA level in Education with research projects completed so far on collaborative workspace environments and their use with students. I gained a best Practice Research Scholarship (BPRS) in 2001 which helped instigate a journey which I am happy to say is still continuing through fellowship of Mirandanet and support from Sussex University, Ultralab at the APU and IOE, London University.


Ringmer Community College is a successful specialist technology college cosseted by the Sussex Downs. It has 900 NOR and around 60 staff. The school is highly successful with over 65% A* - C GCSE passes in 2002. The school has an excellent reputation for staff development and Initial Teacher Training (ITT). There is currently a core program of professional development opportunities for all staff that occurs on a weekly basis. This session is coordinated by a professional tutor and is mainly a series of hour-long seminars on various professional development issues such as teaching and learning to ICT. The PGCE cohort that is attached to the college attends these sessions. The college has recently applied for ‘teaching school’ status. This emphasis on training and development is an important part of the college ethos. GTP and newly qualified staff are also invited to attend and the sessions are open to any staff member. The sessions are usually well delivered and attended by some of the above groups. Most teachers have a laptop.


My first exposure to interactive white boards (IWB) was at the British Training and Technology show (BETT). I witnessed a demonstration of diagrams and clipart being used as part of a lesson and my jaw dropped. I felt like I immediately needed one but I could not persuade my department to fund the extremely expensive equipment.

Seeing the board in use set my imagination racing. How could this be used to enhance the teaching and learning in my classroom? Could the computer eventually be used in every classroom as a flexible tool? It was the heady late 90’s and technology, as ever seemed to be developing at a pace of change that was hard to keep abreast of.


I walk in to my classroom and turn on my laptop. I connect the IWB and turn on the video projector. I log in to the network by radio connection and call up my prepared lesson on ‘ICT in Society’.

Short video clips and report writing tasks engage the students. It looks like the days of wishing I had an IWB are over. Now I can start my journey.


Aims of This Study


The main aims of the project were to help a first year applied GCSE ICT group understand holistically the subject area and make them aware of interconnection in their learning.

Better progression and continuity from lesson to lesson was a major feature as there were timetable constraints placed upon this course.

The project also aimed to introduce strong visual elements into these lessons, to experiment with the visual starter as part of the national strategy multi part lesson. I have been interested in some time in working with preferred learning styles and multiple intelligences. I have also carried out previous research into critical thinking and the use of concept maps. The Interactive White board (IWB) could bring all these factors together.

I had used intranets with custom designed course sites for a number of years and I was interested to see how the IWB could act as the catalyst for their use within whole class teaching. Could materials be stored as part of the intranet that could be used within the class situation and then further is available for student review and sharing with other staff members?

Thoughts seemed to jump around the train as I left the station after initial project meetings. My voyage had started in to the visual richness available to me now as a teacher.





The basic methodology I will use within my project is based on action research principles.



Within my teaching of a year 9 GCSE Applied ICT group I have noticed by observation that the students find it hard to keep a holistic view of the course. The timetable restrictions imposed by a tight timetable structure contribute toward this. Students have difficulty in linking the various units of the course together and continuity and progression are an issue.

As you can see from this concern I hope to develop actions that enable better continuity and progression. I am also trying to develop ‘big picture’ learning within my students, this is based on a whole part whole approach used within some accelerated learning approaches.



I will try to develop a range of tasks and approaches that use Interactive White board (IWB) technology and try to develop a blended learning approach using existing Internet based infrastructures. The tasks that I develop will use the theories of preferred learning style and try to promote critical thinking skills. I have completed research work on both of these areas and feel confident that they have a dramatic impact on teaching and learning.


Review of current theories


After my actions have been instigated I plan to review them by analysis of data collected. I will attempt some simple triangulated research by using myself as an observer, Student focus groups and video analysis of lessons. I intend this study to be qualitative in nature and do not plan to produce quantitative results.

I see this study as just the start of my voyage into the rich visual learning enabled by the computer and IWB. I will therefore make suggestions within my summary of further developments and areas of study that may occur.

This will complete the reflective cycle and therefore enable further concerns to be met by a continuing cycle of actions.




The Changing View Of Education

Within any literature review within the learning technology field one must set a context of changes within the education system and a changing pedagogy. The computer and associated systems such as the Internet have started to change education, as we know it. These changes have occurred naturally as teachers have tried to make the most of teaching opportunities in the use of technology and also occur from external pressures to the educational world such as government and economic climate.

The increasing pressure from all parties to use ICT effectively in the classroom and to ‘skill’ the flexible workforce of tomorrow is felt by all teachers. The recent government initiatives such as the National Grid For Learning (Ngfl) and publications such as ‘Connecting the learning society’ and ‘Transforming the way we learn’ all point to case studies where ICT is used to great effect to enhance learning and bring a wealth of resources into the classroom. The present and past governments high hope for a new education system with ICT at its heart is expressed in these documents.

‘We intend to lift educational standards in Britain to the level of the best in the world. This will mean making the most of technological change. Technology has revolutionized the way we work and now is set to transform education…. Standards, literacy, numeracy, subject knowledge – all will be enhanced by the Grid and the support it will give to our programme for school improvement’ (Blair 1997)


Anytime anywhere learning


Learning for a post-modern society where more than one career is expected in one's lifetime and leisure activities are seen as perhaps not just important but vital to one's personal growth and both mental and physical health. The term 'life long learning' was used by the UK government in a seminal paper in 1997 ‘Connecting The Learning Society’ (DFEE 1997), as part of a New Labour government in the early nineties and this is still a mantra that is chanted by both government and non-government organisations (NGO) regularly. The essence of this phrase is perhaps founded in organisational management writings such as Peter Senge's 'The Fifth Discipline (1993) and Boydell & Pedlar 'The learning company' (1997). It is, in my opinion, a realistic view of how our post-modern education system is developing in the UK. Life long learning, independent learning or pupil centered learning are all phrases that any education establishment has heard for the last two to three years, but what is actually meant by these phrases and how do we develop our students skills to fit into these new concepts of educated individuals?

There is a challenge to accepted modern concepts of knowledge management through primary and secondary education. The modern concept of this is that government hierarchies produce a treatise on a common curriculum which outlines the knowledge needed by a child leaving the education system (National Curriculum).

There is a groundswell of thought about such a concept and a recent set of papers on knowledge management by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development suggests these concerns.


The saturation level of home computer use and Internet connections may have more to do with ‘adoption’ of this technology than anything else. The level of home computer use has grown over the last year to 10.7 million households with access to the internet in 2002, this is 42% of UK households which is over three times the number in 1999 (National Statistics Office 2002) These statistics themselves show that as saturation of computer technology increases rapidly,

The affect of this growth will be felt in educational systems and educational culture change.


New emphasis on developing materials, which cater for, preferred learning styles and an awareness of successes in accelerated learning practice has caused many schools to look at their delivery methods of course materials and the phrase ‘life long learning’ is being used by every stakeholder in education from government to teacher associations. Motivation as a catalyst for a learning environment is even more relevant in a society where statistics seem to imply that disaffected truants are increasing.


‘The audit commission says some 12,000 children a year are permanently excluded from school and a further 150,000 are excluded temporarily…. The commission also says that each year a million of the 8m children in our schools will be absent without authorisation’. (Educational Guardian 2000)


We are moving into a ‘learning economy’ where the success of individuals, firms, regions and countries will reflect, more than anything else, their ability to learn’ (OECD, 2000:29). These trends, OECD point out elsewhere, raise ‘profound questions for the kinds of knowledge pupils are being equipped with and ought to be equipped with, by schools’ (OECD, 2001:29).


The concept of the knowledge community needs to be adopted by our education system. Does this mean that the world that we live in has far less set rules and 'knowledge needed by a child leaving the education system' is a far less obvious collective than once was thought.

'The post modern says that knowledge is relational, is contingent upon the people within the discourse, and is vital and changing'

(Bowring-Carr & West-Burnham 1997)

Ways of Learning

Many new theories of learning enhancement have been posited over the last decade. Theories of multiple intelligences (Gardner 1993) and preferred learning style (Honey and Mumford 1992) are now commonly put in to practice in UK education establishments and teacher training institutions. Research work in research in Mirror Neuron Systems (MNS) (Rizzolatti et al 2004) has enabled us to develop an understanding that perhaps using an Interactive White Board can bring about powerful learning gains as well as motivational successes.

Many believe that learning by pointing is a basic and necessary form of communication that is followed when we are children. This form of communication embeds meaning and reinforces concept frameworks.


"Ostensive learning is absolutely basic to communication." Ostensive learning is learning by having things physically pointed out to us with accompanying verbal explanations. "Without it we couldn’t even get started," claims Davidson. "We discriminate things naturally, responding to stimuli in very sophisticated ways. Ostensive learning makes use of this." (Davidson 2000)


World renowned philosopher David Davidson’s comment is typical of the claims of the importance in ostensive learning.


Teacher Reflection

At the heart of becoming a teacher is, above all else, being a learner, a life long learner. To learn, one has to ask questions, of oneself and of others, and to know that this process is valued and shared across the school. Reflecting on teaching provides a focus for analysing and developing learning and teaching.

(DENI 1999)


Teachers are or at least should be reflective in their practice. The above statement from Department Of Education Northern Ireland explores this role further and develops the idea of teacher as life long learner.

There are many texts which talk of this reflective practice or reflective action (Dewey 1933). Perhaps it is this method of teacher learning which could be used as a tool to develop excellent practice in using technology enhancements to teaching and learning.

Teachers reflection both in and on action is important in developing their professional knowledge (Schon 1983). This reflective process is developed as we move through time and can be seen to develop as an accumulative reflective model, this is exemplified by the constructive spiral of professional competence (Pollard 2002)


Barriers to participation in teacher use of ICT’s have been well documented (Dwyer et al 1988). Perhaps these stages of development of technologies can be facilitated by interventions at each stage.



Expected Outcomes

From previous work with preferred learning styles I would expect most of my students to enjoy the use of visual concept maps to help connect their learning.

The use of limited text based notes will also help in making an inclusive classroom. I would also expect that the use of the IWB would be of interest to most students as they are generally interested in technology and especially new equipment. This may just be a novelty factor and this interest could be short-lived.


I have decided to observe the process of IWB use in a number of ways. These will mainly be through observational logs that I keep and the use of video to record ways within which I have used the board and the materials that I have developed.

The observations are on a day-to-day basis and will be kept in note form. I sometimes require a time out session when I try to sit down and reflect on my notes and the tasks that I have carried out. I will summarise these notes and try to analyse them more critically in analysis section of work.

I have also had professional dialogue with several members of teaching staff about the use of IWB within their teaching and this has helped form my views on the IWB system that I have designed to meet the needs of both teacher learners and student learners from my school.


1. To develop visual starters for my lessons using the ACTIVstudio software and concept maps.

2. To establish barriers to IWB effective use.

3. To develop a lesson review (Plenary) system that can be used after the lesson has finished

4. To develop a system of shared use of IWB resources.

5. To design a user framework to act as a template for content management as part of an Managed learning Environment (MLE)


Data Collection

These video clips show the ways in which I started to use the IWB over a number of weeks.

Video Clip 1 (appendix ) shows the IWB used as a lesson starter to reinforce learning points from the previous weeks lesson.

Video clip 2 (appendix ) shows the IWB used within a plenary session and emphasises the ability to use visual cues such as colour easily

Video clip 3 (appendix ) shows the IWB used in conjunction with concept maps both through the use of flip chart drawing and external software use imported into the flip chart as a graphic

The sound clips are professional dialogue with other board users and some student focus group work data

Sound 1 (appendix ) is a sample of conversations about stages of board use

Sound 2 (appendix )is a sample of conversation about barriers to progression in the phased cycle of effective board use

Sound 3(appendix )is sample of conversations about sharing board resources and good practice in the school and beyond

Sound 4 (appendix )is a sample of student focus group feedback about board use

Sound 5 (appendix )is a sample of student focus group feedback about ‘Boardwalk’ resource base




Within this project I have tried to start my voyage of discovery into the visual world of IWB use. It has been an interesting leg of my journey but I feel very much a new traveller. My initial aims were to try to promote better progression in a year 9 GCSE applied ICT class as well as enable them to have a better holistic understanding of their course by means of a visually orientated structure. I feel that I did achieve these aims with the feedback from the class showing that they found the use of the concept maps “easier to remember” and “useful”.

Within the short period of time I have been using the system I have personally felt that there is a better understanding and that the lessons that are sometimes two weeks apart are better connected. This I think is partly because strong structure from the three part lesson helps to support learning and partly because I have been able to use the strong review and plenary capabilities of the ACTIVboard.


"High-quality direct teaching is oral, interactive and lively.. It is a two-way process in which pupils are expected to play an active part by answering questions, contributing points to discussions, and explaining and demonstrating their methods to the class. Advances in technology means that ICT [information and communications technology] can now play an important role in the classroom, supporting the teacher and enabling whole class interactive teaching"
(, accessed 15/12/01).



As the Becta reading says “High-quality direct teaching is oral, interactive and lively..” I feel that the IWB and associated materials that I have produced has helped me to develop this.

My original aims changed somewhat within the research period and I decided, as one does with an organic action research led project, that I would add to the initial task list. I found through professional dialogues with other colleagues that were using IWB for the first time that there were some common threads:

The Phased cycle of effective board use

As use of the IWB rolled out it was obvious that teachers were using the board in three ways: Board as marker board; Board as screen; Board as interactive tool. These three phases seemed to depend on the level of ICT skill of the member of staff and also their willingness to spend time with the equipment. (appendix)

Teacher Reflection Levels

Whilst using the ACTIVboard teachers seemed to have high levels of reflection on their practice. Was this caused by the IWB, or by the very process of deconstructing their teaching and changing teaching modes whilst converting lessons to IWB lessons?

Creativity versus skills

Most ACTIVboard users tend to use or even need readily available resources to inspire the creation of their own. Custom designed board resources sometimes needed a high level of ICT skill than the teachers possessed.



I have decided to make some general recommendation for IWB implementation. This will help me to achieve my aim of implementing an IWB in every class room.

I have plans to develop a CPD group for Interactive White Board use and will use this study as a conversational report to gain colleagues interest and senior Leadership involvement.



1. Whole school implementation of IWB use needs careful planning and consideration.

2. Staff development issues are critical: models of good practice exist – use them and tailor to your needs.

3. If possible split the purchase of board and projector to follow the phased development of us, and allow funding over 2 financial years.

4. Rich opportunities exist if one can share board-based resources easily across the organisation: use of the school intranet by all members of staff is important.

5. Review. An anytime anywhere system allows for a more flexible way to use IWB materials. The project so far has started a cycle of reflection that I hope to continue with further ACTIVboard use.
























































Bowring-Carr, C. & West-Burnham, J. (1997) Effective learning in schools: How to integrate learning and leadership for a successful school, Financial Times Pitman Publishing, UK.

DFEE, (1997) Connecting The Learning Society, The government’s consultation paper.

Drucker, P. (1993). Post-capitalist Society. New York: Harper Collins.

Gardner, H. E. (1993). Frames of mind: the theory of multiple intelligences (10th Anniversary Edition ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Handy,C. (1994) The Empty Raincoat, London: Hutchinson

Head,S. (1996) ‘The New Ruthless Economy’, New York Review of Books, 29th February

National Statistics Office. (2002) [accessed 28th April 2005]

OECD. (2000). Knowledge Management in the Learning Society. Paris: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

OECD. (2001). Knowledge and Skills for Life: First results from the Programme for International Student Assessment. Paris: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Ofsted LEA findings,BBC,2001, BBC News EDUCATION Helping schools to improve

Pedlar M., J. Burgoyne and T. Boydell (1997) "The learning company. A strategy for sustainable development" McGraw Hill


Senge,P,M. (1990) The Fifth Discipline, Doubleday


\imitation,mirror neurons and autism. Williams et all




Mirror neurons and imitation learning as a driving force behind “the great leap forward” in human evolution- Ramachandran


, G. & Craighero, L. (2004). The mirror-neuron system. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 27, 169-192

Davidson, me you and it: an interview with Donald Davidson


Honey P, Mumford A (1992) The Manual of Learning Styles. Peter Honey, Maidenhead.




























Video Clip 1


Target Group : Year 10 GCSE Group


Aim: To encourage the group to engage at the lesson start and to reinforce the previous lessons materials as the lessons are often a distance apart.




In this video clip you can see the IWB being used to start the lesson and to give powerful review session to this group. The group were completing a project about the use of public information and its associated technologies. The board notes were completed using Active studio software to build a flipchart and various elements then used to build the pages.


A time line was created through discussion in the lesson with students about technological advances through the ages. This time line was then further improved by the addition of graphics after the lesson.


Concepts maps were built again through student group task of pair and share. We then built a large group concept map of ideas of what technologies contributed to public information and the differences in dynamic and static information sources.

A presentation slide layout plan was then produced with students and this then planned to be implemented by the students.



The students enjoyed seeing their contributions again as board work. Some students commented positively about the improvement made in the historical time line and a conversation was developed about the time line again. Had the students thought about this lesson when they went away and now were more easily keyed into discussion because of the same board work display. Did the improved images help to give enhanced visual cues to help them think about the timeline again?



Video Clip 2


Target Group : Year 10 GCSE Group


Aim: To use the powerful review tools in IWB software to re enforce learning and engage visual memory aids such as icons and colour


In this video clip you can see the flip chart software in Active studio used as part of the plenary within a lesson. The power of reviewing work and board notes made during the lesson is useful during this type of activity.


You can see that colour highlighting has been used to reinforce points about advantages and drawbacks.


I could easily use this saved flip chart to remind students of the presentation content plan time and time again. I even printed out the board notes for a student who was having difficulties in organisation of their presentation.


The students responded very well to the use of the board in this way, many asked to return to a certain flipchart page so that they could remind themselves of the content and technicalities of the work.

Video Clip 3


Target Group : Year 10 GCSE Group


Aim: To use the visual power of the IWB to develop the use of concept maps. These maps could then be further enhanced by making them into hyper linkable menus.


In this video you can see that the rough concept maps have been developed into more readable and visually stimulating concept maps. A cheap and readily available software was used to create this called e mind map. The software can import clip art into the branched concept map and also by made to be hyper linkable. The resulting map can then be exported as a HTML based web page and can be accessed through a web browser.

The maps were accessed through a school based web server and therefore could be used by students at home to reinforce learning outside of the classroom.



The students really found using these maps useful. They were used to not only focus student research to the correct resources but also to reinforce visual groupings and connections in the theory being taught.







Sound Clip 1


Target Group : First Time board user


Aim: To establish patterns of first time users and collect impressions about IWB and difficulties.



This sound interview clip was conducted to gain some insight into teacher use of the board other than my own. The teacher talks about the initial use of the IWB as a glorified projection screen and evaluates their own need for further training and time to develop their expertise.


The interview clip makes some very useful points

Ø Board use is phased

Ø A long period of time is needed for teachers to become proficient board users

Ø Training is especially important in the initial introduction and in initiating smooth transition between phased use


Sound Clip 2


Target Group: First Time board user- barriers to progression


Aim: To establish patterns of first time users and collect impressions about IWB and difficulties.


In this interview clip we ask the question “what barriers have you experienced that hinder your progression in effective IWB use?”


The interview makes an important point that seems to be echoed by many IWB users:


Ø Lack of time to play and progress, develop personal materials

Ø Quality sharing of good practice and meeting time to talk to other board parishioners

Sound Clip 3


Target Group: Peer researcher conversation


Aim: To record some of the thoughts that were gained during peer group meetings to discuss board use.



This clip captures the essence of typical conversation that was to form my thoughts and that of others whilst taking part in this study. The direct question “How do we share each others resources?”


The discussions that took part helped us to identify issues within the current Active studio software that were making sharing resources more difficult as well as helping to instigate the connection of IWB resources with existing resources as part of our Managed Learning Environment (MLE).

Sound Clip 4


Target Group: Student impressions of the board in classroom use


To establish student focus group views on IWB use.




The students were asked to answer the following questions:


Ø What changes has the IWB had within the lessons that it has been used?

Ø Does the use of the IWB help you to remember what went on within the last lesson?




The students made valid points about reviewing and visualisation. They also made less obvious suggestions about endless boards etc













Sound Clip 5


Target Group: Student impressions of resource sharing systems


To establish students views of the “ Board Walk” sharing resource area




Boardwalk was a development internet site that used a file upload and directory catalogue script to list resource files (figure 2.). Content could be uploaded via http transfer to the web server by any teacher users with security access. This allowed flip chart files and other resources to be uploaded and an automatic file directory list updated.

The main menus within boardwalk were developed using concept maps (figure 1.)




Figure 1.




Figure 2.




Students found this system useful and their feedback was used to develop new feature.

















Other Supporting Work Programs and CD based files



The CD ROM contains a file called Visual learning.pps This should open using PowerPoint and run. You can access video clips and sound from there and an early electronic version of the study. I used this initially to give presentations to other teachers.


If this file does not work for any reason or you can not access Power point you may also access video and sound files through the disc as raw files.


There is also a copy of timeline.doc which shows the development processes I have been leading over the last 4-5 years, this helps to give historical context to where I am now in my use of Learning Technologies.



CPD programs


I have now just completed the first IWB CPD program session, this was well attended ( 25 staff) and I used lots of materials that I found during this study to help make this a useful exercise.

I have now developed a program of IWB CPD which will include Board focused observations and am in the middle of implementing this. Program attached)




The development of “Boardworks” my resource sharing website was instrumental in developing further VLE and content management systems. I am currently running MOODLE as a VLE and several Mambo based content management systems for collaboration.


IWB Implementation


The implementation of IWB across the college has gone well with the first 4 pilot boards being used for this study. I was able to then install another 6 and develop their installations to a more practical working model. In September 2005 we will install another 11 boards bringing our school total to 21. The results of this study were instrumental in giving the SLT continued confidence in this investment.




I am currently developing a digital media server to server digitally recorded TV to each board user, this will already compliment the successful college based Internet Radio pilot programs that are played every lunch hour for students approval through the multimedia sound systems attached to each board.

I am currently seeking connections with a major concept mapping software developer who is soon to develop a IWB specific concept map tool. I would very much like this to be part of some type of further study as well as a further impact of IWB evaluation study in about 12 months time.


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