Interactive whiteboards 1: what the research says February 2, 2014Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, research, Technology.
In an earlier post, I mused on the possibility of conducting a desk analysis of interactive whiteboard research. Once unearthed, there’s an adequate sufficiency through which to riffle, so that took slightly longer than I would have hoped. The following constitutes a summary of that literature review, once more often frustrated by the number of articles trapped behind publisher’s paywalls.
As the millenium turned and IWBs began to filter into educational settings, research followed close behind. The majority of the early reviews were small-scale, localised case studies or action research, often in single institutions. Given that the spread of the technology was far from ubiquitous, this was hardly surprising. As time passed, and more and more schools began to explore the technology, which in the UK received pump-primed funding from national and local initiatives, the scope and scale of research could change to embrace larger scale deployments, over longer time periods and bring to bear greater resources in terms of research teams. This also meant the focus could shift towards more longitudinal matters, like the change process for accommodating this new technology and the impact it was having on teachers and learners. As the technology has become more mature, indeed reaching the point where it needs to be refreshed, are studies taking the opportunity to look back over the progress made since the early, exploratory steps?
I’ve assembled a timeline of research articles which are on the whole accessible (i.e. not behind paywalls). Included are my brief comments and where available, a link to the original report/article. Switch to the ‘Text view’ to see more detail in a list layout.
Early days (2001 – 2004): The honeymoon period?
These initial explorations tended to focus on the contexts within which the technology was deployed, the benefits which became immediately apparent and any issues which began to emerge. Given the brief period time period over which the technology had been available, tentative offerings with language couched in terms like ‘suggests’ and ‘indicates’ was only to have been expected. Evidence from many of these studies centred on teacher and student perceptions (Smith et al, 2005), so one is obliged to ask whether the findings from studies on early adopters are sufficiently representative to draw reasonable conclusions.
Mid-term (2005 – 2008): Adolescence?
As the technology became more ubiquitous and usage behaviours and experience became more mature, there was a shift in the nature and emphasis of the research. Public bodies and national government seeking evidence of efficacy commissioned more rigorous, extensive and analytical research which searched for the anticipated gains in achievement and changes in approach afforded by this new technology. The impact on student achievement became a rather contested area with some studies showing positive effects under certain circumstances, yet most were unequivocal in noting few if any gains. At the same time, the effects on pedagogical approach began to receive more attention, but the overwhelming impression is that change was minimal and that IWBs largely reinforced (or amplified) existing teacher-led, whole class approaches. Established, conventional styles of teaching might have been adapted somewhat, but remained largely unchanged with little evidence of teachers moving past the second stage of Lewin et al’s (2008) 3-Stage Model and into “Embedding technologies into transformed pedagogic practices.” Perhaps this is a consequence of failure to invest in the level of professional development required to effect this transformation, a point identified in numerous studies.
Recent times (2009 – present): Plus ca change?
With more than a dozen years of experience now to draw on, one might expect to see a degree of progression in the research with papers able to draw on previous findings, but also be able to focus on the current state of play where IWBs long moved past the novelty value and are now accessible to the majority of teachers most of the time (Becta, 2010).
Much of the early research originated in the UK, but now we have countries which were slightly later to adopt adding to the knowledge base. However the tendency is largely to repeat what has gone before, with few fresh insights. Nor apparently is anything new emerging from countries further along the adoption cycle. Where are the studies exploring long term effects? Where are studies focusing on the truly physically interactive elements, especially now that mobile technologies enable the interaction to be easily dis-located from the board itself? Is the IWB morphing into new technology using Google’s Chromecast or Apple TV etc?. Has a distinction or divergence emerged between IWBs used in different sectors? Where are the studies looking at pedagogic progress – has it peaked and/or failed to live up to the promise?
Interactive whiteboards have achieved some measure of success where implementation projects were well-planned and executed, where the technology and infrastructure was robust and reliable, where schools and teachers were receptive to the necessary changes in pedagogies and enjoyed adequate professional development opportunities to enable them to meet that challenge, and where those new pedagogies leveraged the interactive aspects of this new technology to best advantage. It would appear however that the aforementioned conditions are rarely encountered, though the broad, large-scale research to either confirm or disprove this assertion is notable by its absence.
I’m curating a list of research and non-academic articles on Zotero. If you know of any to add to the list, do please leave them in the comments below.