Implementing Interactive Whiteboards: What Can We Learn?
Implementing interactive whiteboards: What can we learn?
Arthur Winzenried 0
Mal Lee Director 0
0 Associate Director-Curriculum, Adventist Schools Australia , Melbourne, Vic
What is it about?
There is considerable preoccupation regarding
the involvement of technology in the learning
process, at all levels of education. Views
range from excitement about the reality of the
‘connected classroom’ to a fear of computer
tutors totally replacing the classroom teacher.
Of concern is the sheer cost of technology that
is often seen as a financial drain on schools.
Talk of the ‘black hole’ aspect of computing
costs is common.
Between the hype on one hand and the limits of
applying technology to learning on the other, the real
point in question, more commonly is ‘To what do I
allocate my few resources?’
One of the more recent developments has
been that of the fully interactive digital whiteboard.
Commonly referred to as Interactive Whiteboards
(IWBs), these pieces of equipment are being
increasingly appreciated for their versatility and
learning enhancement potential.
A typical Interactive Whiteboard installation
consists of a large format, touch-sensitive board
(generally around 1 x 1.5 metres) connected to
a video projector and a computer. A complete,
installed system costs approximately $A5,000
$A8,000 per classroom. Such a system allows the
”have found is that adding an IWB to the classroom
display and manipulation of a variety of interactive
multimedia on a large-scale display, using familiar
desktop layout controls. Despite the cost, what users
environment generates excitement, increases
the engagement of both learner and teacher, and
engenders change. The process is almost organic.
This article describes and comments on the IWB
implementation process in some ‘case study’
How did it start?
Initial investigation identified several sites, in
Australia and overseas, as already having interactive
whiteboard policies. In the present case studies,
coordination and direction of integrating the IWBs
into the learning environment of the selected schools
was provided by an IWBNet representative with
assistance from an academic advisor/analyst. Both
individuals chaired site meetings held in schools.
Much of the experience reflected in the current
study is based around boards developed by
ActivBoard, SMART Technologies and Promethean.
While the investigation concentrated on the effect
of IWB take-up in the wider teaching and learning
context, it is often difficult to isolate individual factors
contributing to altered learning patterns. To assist
with this aspect, responding schools were selected
for a whole-school take-up of the new technology.
Rather than look at implementations where only a
minority of teaching areas were to receive IWBs,
we chose to focus on schools whose intention was
to have the equipment in every teaching space, but
ones which did not necessarily commence their
implementations with a specific aim to ‘re-equip’ the
school. A traditional ‘before and after’ comparison
provided a framework for evaluation.
Thus the focus of the project was on schools that
were willing to consider the potential teaching and
learning value of IWBs and prepared to implement a
wide-scale application of the technology.
What happened? What did we discover?
All schools involved, thus far, typically included
school administrations that were committed to ‘try
out’ IWB implementation and devote the necessary
resources to it.
We contend that strong leadership is critical for a
successful IWB ‘takeoff’. It needs to be school-wide
and definitive. Elsewhere we contend:
Unless it is patently obvious the school leadership
is whole-heartedly behind the wise use of ICT in all
facets of teaching and learning, and has very high
expectations of the technology, the strategy has
little chance of success.1
In all the case study schools, the principal played a
key role in facilitating the whole-school acceptance
of IWBs. The nature of the role played, and the
leadership style adopted differed, but in all instances
the principal played a leading role in seeing through
the implementation program.
A leadership style of devolved responsibility
identified an active and respected teacher who had
staff support, acquired some experience with IWBs,
and displayed visionary capacities. These ‘project
managers’ were then provided with back-up, and in
some cases the time to lead the project, enthuse
teachers, demonstrate possibilities and develop
Every school selected a project manager who
was a ‘doer’, a driving force, who coordinated the
everyday implementation of the IWB take-up; at the
same time engendering enthusiasm and pointing
out resources (people or materials) that would
be helpful. Their brief often included an aspect
of ‘research’ regarding IWB use and improved
pedagogy. Some participating schools split their
coordination role two ways, appointing an e-learning
leader from among their staff and then following with
the appointment of an e-teaching leader.
In every school, individuals guiding the innovation
worked closely with the principal and, in most cases,
were given encouragement and support in taking
charge of the change process. All of the program
coordinators held a position of responsibility within
the school (mostly at the deputy principal level).
Those selected displayed change management skills
and all were interested in using the IWBs to enhance
teaching and learning. Appointing effective
cocoordinators led to the rapid implementation of the
IWBs, while achieving successful implementation, in
part, was explained by team building efforts; unity of
purpose thus became an important factor.
With funds to acquire a critical mass of IWBs, and
expertise and school leadership to mount a
wholeschool implementation, it was possible to adopt a
structured implementation program and achieve high
Schools starting without the funds or IWB
expertise were still able to achieve full teacher ICT
usage within a relatively quick time. But, invariably,
they commenced with less clarity of purpose
and needed to acquire funds and shape their
implementation program ‘on the run’. In schools
where there was an attempt to move from
paperbased operations to a digital operating environment,
IWBs were assumed or expected to assist in this
transition. Anecdotal data collected suggest that
IWBs may play a part in reducing photocopying
Most schools that shifted to full IWB
implementation succeeded in convincing staff to take
the technology innovation ‘on board’ in a relatively
short time. By the close of the third year, all staff
were using the boards. One public primary school
with approximately 400 students, and the initial funds
and expertise, achieved full staff take-up in only four
months, while a secondary school of 700 students
achieved it in eighteen months.
At yet another school, IWBs were in normal
use in every classroom within 10 months of
commencement of implementation; a fact noted
and commented on in an inspection report. In one
school where the implementation was still ‘a work in
progress’, more teachers were using the technology
and parents were requesting that their children
be included in classes using IWBs; an interesting
The technology’s educational benefits are enhanced
when clear expectations are outlined regarding its
usage on a daily basis, in an integrated way. Boards,
in all of the schools sampled, were used as a part
of everyday teaching and not as lesson or task
specific items. This was in line with relevant research
findings.2 Thus IWBs are expected to be an integral
part of curriculum delivery at all times. Further, the
technology is seen as being utilised by staff and
students, with neither group dominating the usage.
Two schools involved parents as well as the staff and
students in their whiteboard rollout; the technology
was clearly regarded as an important aspect of
the whole learning process and not as an end in
itself. These observations ‘echo’ findings by a study
in Kent (UK) schools. There, IWBs were used to
support lessons across the curriculum and delivered
a variety of learning benefits in the classroom. It was
• They provide, electronically, all the familiar
features of a traditional classroom chalkboard
or roller whiteboard.
• Whereas the number of pupils that can
practicably be accommodated around a
standard computer set-up is limited, whole
classes may comfortably participate in
• Lessons can be enhanced by easily integrating
video, animation, graphics, text and audio with
the teacher’s spoken presentation.
• It is possible to highlight and annotate key
points, using the marker pens. Anything on the
screen can be saved as a ‘snapshot’, making
it easy to review and summarise key teaching
saved as a
it easy to
• Material can be displayed from a number of
sources, including CD-ROMs, websites, DVDs,
VHS tapes or television.
• Notes, diagrams and entire lessons can be
saved, archived and added to the school
intranet or similar centralised teaching
Using IWBs and recognising their facilitation of
learning has been an experience common to schools
studied to date. In a brief review of one of the early
Australian whole-school applications of whiteboard
technology, researchers summarised the findings at
one school as follows:
...within two years it has achieved something that
few other schools have done. [The ACT school]
has successfully integrated a pedagogically
different use of ICT in every facet of education from
Kindergarten to Year 6. It has every staff member
wanting to use the strategy and also caused the
parents to embrace and actively support the
strategy. The key has been integration, in particular
integrating into the ‘whiteboard’ deployment a
host of educational and administrative activities,
while linking the whiteboard initiative with a range
of other whole-school student development and
teaching programs. It has achieved all this with no
external assistance, and with no charts to show
The potential implications of this development for
ACT schooling are profound. [The school] would
be the first to say the impact of the strategy needs
to be better evaluated, but when the response from
the children, the parents and the staff is so positive
and when the small staff is so preoccupied with
acquiring and making the most of the technology,
the school has little time itself to devote to
At one school in NSW, teachers reported definite
changes in teaching approaches, with less time
preparing spectacular files and more time working
with students. Some said they felt their teaching was
”drawn from our findings. In the first instance,
What did we conclude?
Two clear and compelling conclusions may be
strong administrative support that incorporates
a delegated responsibility will ensure rapid and
effective technological change, particularly relative
to interactive whiteboard take-off.
Secondly, IWBs as a technology are highly suited
to classroom practice. They have the potential to
encourage adoption of, and confidence in, ways
that other existing technologies don’t easily match.
Beyond that, they offer some real advantages to
classroom teaching practice, developing a higher
level of learning generally, increased engagement,
and greater collaboration.
In summary, it is our opinion that IWBs applied
purposefully and strategically, make a significant
contribution to utilising technology for stimulating,
effective teaching and learning in schools. TEACH
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1 Lee, M. ( 2004 ). Is it time to rethink your ICT and education strategy? The Practicing Administrator , 26 ( 2 ), 14 - 16 .
2 Greiffenhagen, C. ( 2000 ). A report into whiteboard technologies . Unpublished report , Oxford University Computing Laboratory, Oxford University, UK.
3 Smith, H. ( 2003 ). Interactive whiteboard evaluation . Retrieved January 24 , 2006 from: http://www.kented.org.uk/ngfl/ict/IWB/ index.htm
4 Lee, M. & Boyle , M. ( 2003 ). The educational effects and implications of the interactive whiteboard strategy of Richardson Primary School - a brief review . Retrieved January 23 , 2006 from: http://www.richardsonps.act.edu.au