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What does it mean to "Use the
Interactive Whiteboard" in the daily numeracy lesson?
Penny Knight, Jennie Pennant,
Bracknell Forest LEA
Jennifer Piggott, Faculty of
Education, University of Cambridge
It is really easy to make assumptions about the role of technology
in the classroom, its introduction is often accompanied by sweeping
statements which assume the reader (or listener) is interpreting
the context in the way the writer (or speaker) intends. There have
been a number of reports on the effectiveness of the use of the
interactive whiteboard to motivate teachers and pupils and to give
pace to lessons (BECTA, 2004; Latham, 2002). However, there is
little evidence to suggest that we all have the same image of how
the whiteboard is being used in the context that gives rise to the
evaluation. Too easily we describe the type of software or the
mathematical activity assuming the way the whiteboard is being used
is a given.
This incongruity became evident when six teachers from Bracknell
undertook some research in their classrooms on the use of the
Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). As their individual research
questions took shape, all the teachers were making reference to
"the use of the IWB" and it soon became apparent that they were all
interpreting this phrase in slightly different way, even when they
were referring to the same software. (The research questions chosen
by the teachers are listed at the end of this article).
One key issue throughout the study related to how much of the
activity was very specific to the IWB and how much could have been
achieved with a data-projector and/or technologies, such as
overhead projectors. The purpose of this article is not to detail
this aspect of the work but to identify contexts and purposes for
IWB work, even when alternative technologies may have enabled
similar goals to be achieved.
This article attempts to make explicit possible meanings of the
phrase "using an interactive whiteboard" and to encourage further
Out of the initial discussions with the six teachers we began to
identify the connections between the roles of the hardware and
software and the teaching approaches being used. It was this
variety of interpretation that we felt it important to unpick. Key
to this was their descriptions of the teaching and learning
The teaching and learning contexts:
- Teacher control - didactic approach with teacher taking the
lead and having control of the IWB and software. This reflects the
findings of Smith (2001). In these cases the IWB was used to:
- demonstrate/illustrate teaching points
- demonstrating technique of features of the software for pupils
to use independently
- Structured interplay between teacher and pupils. Here the
teacher is leading the discussion and controlling the use of the
IWB but inviting pupils to engage with the interactivity of the IWB
to demonstrate understanding or develop a point.
- Pupils can take control. They use the software on their own
(probably after demonstration and/or modelling. Pupils adapt
software by changing settings and investigate the mathematical
From these we were able to identify five basic contexts for
the use of IWB:
- Teacher as demonstrator
- Teacher as modeller
- Teacher in control - inviting the pupils (shared ),
- Pupils in control with the "teacher" advising (guided ).
- Pupils working independently
"Demonstration " was
used to describe teacher input that simply demonstrated the
mathematical process e.g. how to add two 3 digit numbers, or
"Modelling " suggests
the modelling of mathematical thinking with the aid of the IWB
software (metacognitive modelling).
Sharing occurs when
the teacher has control of the IWB but invites pupils to
participate in a task.
Guided use refers to
pupils leading with guidance for teacher concerning content,
direction or technical issues.
independently either in small groups or alone on IWB The
size of the image and the interactivity means small groups can
share ideas with greater ease than if they were sitting around a
single computer screen.
Implications for the teachers involved in the project
The teachers adopted models for the use of the technology, at
least initially, with which they felt most comfortable. Although
the IWB was felt to change the flow, content and pace of the
lessons, to begin to use it, teachers did not feel that they had to
make large shifts in their classroom practice.
Whilst the teachers recognised the first two teaching
contexts, demonstrating and modelling, as part of their general
classroom practice they could offer little anecdotal evidence of
pupils participating in any form beyond the "come up and show us"
model in the whole class activities at the start and end of the
numeracy lesson (Kennewell, 2001). The identification of the lack
of pupil involvement led to discussion about teachers' everyday IWB
practice. As a consequence teachers considered the need to expand
the sphere of influence of the IWB into parts of the lesson where
they were not taking the lead.
Certain software encouraged the adoption of particular
approaches to the use of the IWB by the teachers. The majority of
the software being used was for whole class- teacher centred work.
Where the software had the potential for pupils working
independently it required additional impetus for change. Even when
the software had the potential to support pupils working
independently this facility was not utilised.
||Types of software
||Easiteach maths*- using Venn diagrams
||Interactive Teaching Programme called difference found at
||Smart notebook on division... ...grouping and sharing models.
Devised by teacher.
||Easiteach maths Function machine...one of the software
||Showing the process of dividing data into the relevant circles.
Drag and drop. Gives whole picture. Indicates areas where data can
||Play the animation to demonstrate the structure of
||Demonstrate the features of the notebook, the way items can be
moved around to model grouping or sharing and pages used to compare
||Show machine and how it works. Feed in several numbers and
predict outcomes. Check by using machine function.
||Speaking aloud the process of where to put data. Discussing the
||Play and pause with explanation of the process and questioning
to challenge and extend pupil thinking about the subtraction model
||Explore the way that division can be represented as a grouping
or a sharing model and how this affects the way that we divide out
our items on the IWB. Consider the number sentence that relates to
||Discuss what the machine does and how we know to predict the
outcome given the input and function. Consider what happens if we
have the output and function given. What reasoning can we apply to
find the input? How many examples of input and output do we need if
we are to predict the function?
||Pupils invited up to classify data. Assisted with reasoning
process and questioned about decisions.
||Pupils choose numbers and the explanation of the process is
rehearsed again by pupils and teacher together.
||Teacher investigates, with pupil involvement further examples
of division number sentences and how they can be represented as a
grouping or sharing model.
||Pupils invited to share in the posing of questions using the
function machine, discuss reasoning needed to solve them and to
manipulate the function machine on the IWB. Teacher leads the work.
||Blank for pupils to fill in. Talk through reasoning. Teacher
supports the reasoning process.
||Pupils choose numbers and are invited to explain to the class
how the difference model is working with these chosen numbers.
Teacher supports with prompts and questions as required.
||Pupils try to represent division number sentences using both
the sharing and grouping models with teacher support where
||Pupils carry out activities as above and teacher takes a
prompting and questioning role as needed.
||Other examples as in guided. Pupils share reasoning with each
||Pupils rehearse the model, choosing a range of numbers and
giving the commentary. Pupils evaluate the clarity of each other's
||Pupils consolidate their understanding of the sharing and
grouping models for division by carrying out, and discussing with
each other, a number of examples on the IWB.
||Pupils use the function machine to pose and solve problems for
each other. They justify their answers to each other and describe
*Easiteach Maths is an RM product used in many Primary Schools. The
latest version is now part of the Easiteach Studio package. More
information can be found on the RM website http://www.rm.com/rmcomhome.asp
The examples illustrated above are those that the teachers
came up with in the session. They are not necessarily presented as
the best practice in these areas.
Although the purpose of this article has not been to discuss
the role of alternative means of achieving similar practices with
other technologies -it does appear to be the case that the
"interactiveness" of the IWB comes more into its own as you move
"down" the contexts that appear in table. That is, models of
teaching and learning that are more open and social are more likely
to result in the IWB offering a unique feature to the
By identifying a framework for "the use of the interactive
whiteboard" the teachers were alerted to a wider variety of
teaching and learning contexts and possibilities. This has begun to
influence their practice and enabled them to engage their
established understanding of the flow of pupil/teacher activity in
a lesson with their developing use of the IWB. The IWB thus
becoming as instrument of change as it becomes more fully adopted
and teachers adopt new models of classroom practice that more fully
utilise the potential of the whiteboard (Cuban, Kirkpatrick, Peck,
2001; Becker, 2000).
The mapping of a possible framework for the use of the
interactive whiteboard meant that teachers now had a way to refine
their research questions so that the reader and writer could have a
greater chance of having the same understanding as to how the IWB
was being used, rather than relying on assumptions as discussed in
our introduction. The need for such a framework is clearly evident,
the one presented here is intended to stimulate debate as to the
precise nature of such a framework.
- Penny Latham,Teaching and
Learning Primary mathematics: the impact of interactive
whiteboards , Beam Education (2002)
- BECTA, Getting the most from
your interactive whiteboard; a guide for Primary schools
- Cuban, L. Kirkpatrick, H Beck, C., "High Access and Low Use of
Technologies in High School Classrooms: Explaining an Apparent
Paradox", American Educational
Research Journal 38,
4, 813-834 (2001)
- Becker, J., "Findings from the Teaching, Learning and Computing
Survey: Is Larry Cuban right?" Education Policy Archives ,
8 , 51, ISSN 1068-2341.
- Levy. P., Interactive
Whiteboards in Learning and Teaching in two Sheffield
schools (2004) (http://dis.shef.ac.uk/eirg/projects/wboards.htm
- Report from the ATM's Interactive whiteboard working group,
Micromath 19 /3 (Autumn 2003)