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MirandaNet Fellowship Casestudy

Membership List | Publications | Research | Specialist Area List | Braided Learning Ejournal

The Impact Of IWB’S In Teaching And Learning

A report from Auckland Park Preparatory School

Gail Rossini

Year of posting: 2005


The following research took place between January and November 2005. It is on going at this time. The report is informal in nature and not intended as a formal research document. As such, it must be seen as a journal of personal experiences while introducing, working with and evaluating the role of interactive white boards in teaching and learning.


Implementation, Integration, Foundation Phase, Whole-school developments




The following research took place between January and November 2005. It is on going at this time. The report is informal in nature and not intended as a formal research document. As such, it must be seen as a journal of personal experiences while introducing, working with and evaluating the role of interactive white boards in teaching and learning.


Auckland Park Preparatory School. (Known as APPS)

We are a small private school in Johannesburg and have 257 pupils enrolled. Two teachers, Mrs Gill Barnard and I have agreed to undertake research in our respective fields. Mrs Barnard teaches computers and maths and I teach in the foundation phase and have a particular interest in children that need extra learning support.

E-mail address:

(Please use

Pupil Group:

A class of twenty Grade One pupils between 6 and 7 years of age.

(According to British standards, Key stage one.) The group is made up of twenty children from mixed backgrounds. There are two Black children, one Muslim child, two Indian children, one mixed race (Coloured) and fourteen White children mostly from privileged backgrounds. The majority of the parents both work, some in very high-powered jobs and one Black child whose parents are a domestic worker and school gardener. A bursary covers her school fees. At least eight of the children in the group have special education needs. Their teacher is remedially trained and for this reason is particularly interested in the outcome of the research. The group has been described as ‘difficult’ by other members of staff. They are very immature, more easily distracted than normal and the pupils are extremely demanding and competitive.

Previous skills:

The pupils have had limited access to computers and visited the computer centre approximately one a week for perceptual training in their Grade 0 year.

Title of research:


Research outline:

It has been my aim in this research to establish whether the use of the ACTIVboard has in any way impacted on how Grade One pupils learn to read, spell and establish number concept.

In previous years these basic skills were taught using basal readers, worksheets, flashcards and word lists. The formation of letters has been paper and pen orientated and creative writing has been an extension of simple sentences.

The pupils have been introduced very informally to the sounds of the letters during perceptual activities. Some informal number work has also been covered in the Kindergarten year.

ICT has played a very limited role in South African education to date. Access to the Promethean Board has changed this teacher’s perception of the role of computers in education. (Further research into this role is being considered!)

How the research material will be collected and measured

This will based mostly on pupil interviews and observation of the pupils at work as well as class assessments. The pupils are unable to write down responses themselves at this stage.

Auckland Park Preparatory School

Johannesburg, South Africa

Interactive White Boards

A Report drawn up by Gail Rossini


Who would have thought when our headmistress mentioned “new whiteboards” that my teaching philosophy would change forever?

My interest in computers goes back to the day when my teenage son told me about an ‘electric typewriter’ that was connected to a screen. This, he said, would allow me to edit my work without using Tippex! I can remember declining his offer and admitting that these ‘new fangled ideas’ were just too complicated and that the status quo suited me just fine. At this stage, I must tell you that I’d learnt to type on an old, manual typewriter the likes of which I have recently seen in a museum. Nevertheless, being a bright, innovative adolescent, his nagging got the better of us and we eventually invested in our first home computer. Initially, I eyed the ‘gray boxes’ with acute suspicion but after fiddling with ‘the thing’ when no one was looking, began to realize the potential of this wonderful new technology. We had no access to graphics at that point and the screen produced orange text on a black background. This was pretty primitive in hindsight but I thought it was wonderful! Furthermore, the ability to make flashcards for my pupils without spending hours coin-printing every number and letter made me the envy of my teaching colleagues. My interest grew from there and I took every opportunity to learn about computers and their ‘ilk’. I attended courses in PowerPoint, Windows, Word, Excel and the Internet and slowly gained in confidence and enthusiasm. I was one of few teachers in Johannesburg at that time to use a computer for perceptual training and classroom games. With one computer set up in a sick room, I started a computer club for interested pupils after school. Demand grew and soon another second-hand computer was purchased. At this stage, I was offered a teaching post at a private school where computers was very much part and parcel of the curriculum. I jumped at the chance.

An introduction to the research project

In October 2004, two teachers from our school met with Christina Preston and teachers from St Mary’s School. Here she filled us in on the research she was doing for MirandaNet with regards to the impact on Interactive White Boards in teaching and learning. At this stage, we’d not even seen a picture of one of these ‘miracles’ and were totally in the dark when we agreed to take part in the MirandaNet research funded by Promethean. This resulted in a visit to the BETT 2005 and initial training in London. What an opportunity and eye-opener that was!

None of us had realized the role that ICT was playing in British Education. While computers were becoming commonplace in some ‘advantaged schools’ in South Africa the extent of the resources available to teachers in the British Isles had positively escaped us. The Exhibition Hall at Olympia was positively overflowing with software of every description. And there, in the midst of this hubbub, was the hallowed white board being demonstrated by enthusiastic users. We were transfixed, overwhelmed and enthralled. For four days we trudged around the show, collecting what ever we could in terms of information and we returned to South Africa with our suitcases bulging at the seams.

A training stint at the Education Institute near Russell Square days later was much enjoyed. This gave us an opportunity to meet with people from MirandaNet, Promethean and the Promethean Ambassadors from Mexico, China and Britain. Dave Jordan arranged for me to visit a small primary school in Croydon where I saw the whiteboard being used in daily lessons. Valuable networking took place and we returned to our schools enthusiastic and rearing to go only to find that there was some delay in the installation of our board. What a disappointment.

This time however, was not wasted. It gave us an opportunity to investigate the resources from the Primary National Strategy that we had gleaned during our visit. We downloaded the training manual, bound it and set about converting our colleagues. This has been a rather disappointing exercise. We have about twenty teachers that could make use of the white board and only four or five are using it optimally. The reasons for this will be discussed later in this report.

Getting to grips with the Software

One of the most valuable aspects of the Promethean Software is its availability on ones home computer. This, I believe, is by far the best place to initiate one’s own training. As in all good teaching, the user needs to start off with some background knowledge and build on this. I found the home computer ideal in this respect. It allowed me to experiment with the Active Studio tools and the quiet and ‘safety’ on my own environment. The first lesson using the actual board can be a daunting experience. The pupils are excited and ‘geared up’ and working with the pen is quite different from using the mouse. “Just play with it” is good advice but this, I found, did not prevent the pitfalls that awaited me at my first white board lesson.

Starting off

Looking back, my initial flipcharts were very simplistic. This was probably the best start I could have had. I teach a Grade One class and in the first term we introduce the very earliest concepts in Maths and Literacy. During March, I designed a flipchart to teach initial sounds in phonics, the first words on our basal reader and I also produced an early counting exercise using fish and a background from the Promethean resources. The pupils adapted without difficulty and were soon dragging objects and writing letters and numbers with confidence and aplomb. The reveal tool made its mark by allowing me to introduce the pupils’ first sentences one by one. Having scanned in the pictures from their first readers, the children got to know the characters from the New Way series of reading books which are phonics based. I have taught this age group for more years that I wish to remember. Flash cards and photocopied pictures formed the basis of our early resources. With the whiteboard however, the possibilities are extended ten-fold. Coloured graphics and text, the interactive nature of the software and the ease of presentation has without doubt played a huge role in motivating our early readers. I have also noticed better results in spelling and phonics that in previous year and I find myself digging into resources that were previously only introduced later in the school year.

An interesting exercises

In order to try and establish the value of the Promethean Board, I set up a reading experiment with two Grade One classes. A Grade Six class, with the help of word lists and comprehension questionnaires assisted in assessing the pupils both before and after the reading lessons. The results were very positive. The scores, drawn up on graphs, showed that those that interacted with the board had better sight word recall and comprehension than the class that had not worked on it. Similar exercises using the Inspirations Software showed that creative writing also showed improvement and greater maturity.

Further whiteboard resources were added to as needs arose. Between May and July, lessons with consonant digraphs such as ‘ck’, ‘sh’ ‘ch’ and ‘tch’ were prepared and enjoyed by the children. At this time, there was some discussion regarding and AIDS policy at our school. Very little was available in terms of suitable material for younger children. This led to the creation of an AIDS presentation via PowerPoint which has been most successful. (This particular presentation has been seen by the Curriculum Co-coordinator of our Department of Education and this, with input from the Learning Institute and Linda van der Loo has led indirectly to the creation of a sub-site for the Thutong Web portal for which I will be responsible.)

This small success has led to me producing other flipcharts that include the life cycle of the butterfly, biology revision for Grade Seven pupils, lessons on communication and ICT as well as mathematical resources for the Middle Phase of the Primary School.

A difficult concept to teach is place value. Working with graphics such as crayon boxes and crayons, a very worthwhile lesson was created to this end. A similar lesson to teach time, which is also interactive, has also been successful. These lessons will be uploaded to our new website shortly and will be available for download both here in South Africa and other interested users.

Difficulties encountered

One of the severest stumbling blocks of this wonderful technology is its availability at our school. The board is situated in a Science Laboratory and access to it is for this reason rather limited. Access to the computer suite, network, and security needed to be considered when deciding its placement. Although important considerations, this limits the use by junior primary staff and pupils. Our school was established some 87 years ago. Mrs Maud Trennery started the school in her back yard under a small thatched booma. (roof) As the school grew, her house became part of the institution, as did the houses of neighbours on each side. Soon the entire block was bought up and converted to classrooms. This meant that the various departments are not under one roof but set in a large garden as individual units. This involves a considerable walk sometimes in rainy weather to the ‘white board room’. Furthermore, science experiments need to be set up for use by the older girls, and cleared away afterwards. One lesson can thus take up three or four periods. Ideally, each classroom should have its own board and this would ensure that the technology is used to full benefit. Cost of course is an important deciding factor and somehow funds get routed to other, what the board feels, are more important projects.

The reluctance of some teachers to embrace new technology is another stumbling block. Many teachers feel overloaded in terms of the curriculum objectives and others appear to have an innate fear of anything technological. Training in our country is limited at present although this is something that I would like to endorse and develop in conjunction with Promethean South Africa. While I agreed to undertake further training with the staff after staff meetings on Wednesday afternoons, this was one day of the week where teachers were able to get home a little earlier or catch up with other tasks. This arrangement was for obvious reasons not an ideal situation in terms of training and soon fizzled out. The staff knows however that I can always be called upon to help where needed. I was able to assist Grade 7 girls with IWB projects recently and this was much enjoyed by them all.

(more on this exercise from Gill Barnard)

My own training is also fairly limited. Other than an hour in Cape Town in July, we have had no other formal training. Most of what has been done has been through self-taught exercises and experimentation. I would like to extend my training and in this way develop resources for other teachers throughout South Africa. This is a considerable possibility with the Thutong portal. Funds are extremely limited however and I hope to generate funding from Promethean for this project.

My findings

The interactivity of the ACTIVboard is making a valuable contribution to my pupils learning. Early training has taught me the value of the VAKT (visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile) method developed by Fernald. This multisensory approach has proved its worth over the years and I find it an invaluable teaching and learning method. The boards provide ample stimulus for discussion and the ability to link to useful sites on the web during lessons is an added advantage. This is particularly useful for second language learners. While discussing topics, everyday items that are not always in the realm of the SLL can be illustrated within moments. We were discussing the ‘ck’ digraph and days later had the fortune to read about a yak in a story. The oddities of our language as well as a visual aid of the animal made an interesting discussion point when we pull it up on the whiteboard and read about the animal’s habitat and habits.

Pupils in the early primary phase have short concentration spans and are extremely egotistical. Pupils quickly lose interest if they are not directly involved any aspect of a lesson. Furthermore, being remedial trained (M Ed special Ed) I often have the task of helping children with special needs. The ACTIVboard has proved invaluable in these situations. The old black and white worksheets do not generally have much appeal for these children who don’t particularly want to be at an extra lesson anyway! The availability of animated graphics and coloured text makes these lesson less daunting and the pupils who have come to extra lessons are finding the time spent on the board a much more enjoyable experience than they did previously. The ability to provide immediate feedback to these children also adds to their self-esteem.

Lesson preparation is a pleasure with the ACTIVboard. Resources can be shared and saved for reinforcement and consolidation at a later date. Children are going home and investigating topics discussed in class and they are bringing to my notice interesting links to the World Wide Web. This is extending their learning into the home and involving the parents more. It also gives the parents an indication of what is being taught to their children.

Another useful utility is the ability to print annotations and lessons for children that have been away or merely for record purposes. Heads of Departments are able to have a clear idea of what is being taught by staff members. It is not always easy to judge from typed up lesson plans the progression followed or the methods used. This ‘record of work’ can also be viewed by teachers in the next grade and allow them to see clearly what work has been covered.

Questioning strategies are also enhanced. Different possibilities can be explored, questions broken up and answers written down. Open-ended questions also lead to interesting discussions and learning can be extended immediately using the availability of the World Wide Web.

Assessment with the ACTIVEvote is something we look forward to. This is not at present available in South Africa but I foresee great things using this technology for we will be able to assess pupils informally according to our new Curriculum Standards.

How has the board affected me personally?

After teaching for some twenty-three years, I was beginning to tire of my profession and was feeling frustrated and unfulfilled in my workplace. The ACTIVboard has opened unforeseen teaching opportunities and has provided me with a much-needed challenge and inspiration. The possibilities, I feel, are exciting and endless. I will always be a firm advocator of interactive white boards and look forward to exciting and worthwhile lessons using them.

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