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Interactive whiteboards 1: what the research says February 2, 2014

Posted 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.

IWB Timeline

IWB Timeline on Timetoast

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.

Harnessing Technology schools survey 2010, 2010. British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA).
Lewin, C., Somekh, B., Steadman, S., 2008. Embedding interactive whiteboards in teaching and learning: The process of change in pedagogic practice. Education and Information Technologies 13, 291–303.
Smith, H.J., Higgins, S., Wall, K., Miller, J., 2005. Interactive whiteboards: boon or bandwagon? A critical review of the literature. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 21, 91–101.

ePortfolios … Part Deux April 29, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Resources, Tools.
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The previous post outlined the reasons behind our investigations into ePortfolios. Here are some thoughts following those explorations.

ePortfolios mean different things to different people and are defined subtly differently. For Sutherland and Powell1 an ePortfolio constitutes a

… purposeful aggregation of digital items – ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc, which ‘presents’ a selected audience with evidence of a person’s learning and/or ability.

and this is where the highly informative and extensive JISC Infokit begins.

George Siemens summarises other definitions and also examines in more detail the components forming an ePortfolio, their benefits and uses and the steps necessary to implement a system, then create the portfolios themselves. Lorenzo and Ittelson produced a helpful overview through an Educause ELI Publication, covering definitions, issues and different types (student, teacher, institutional), rounded off with some useful case studies, though these are all understandably within a higher education context. To find material more closely related to primary/secondary (K-12) education, you need to dig a little deeper, but there is plenty there. Dr Helen Barrett produced a Google site which explores how ePortfolios might be provided through Google Apps and John Pallister provided a detailed and informative account of how Wolsingham School engaged its community in the eportfolio process … and product!

Process? Product? Both?

Our students will be recording and reflecting on their ongoing learning, activities and participation yet at some points the collection of artefacts they’ve aggregated will need turning into a product provided for an audience or audiences. It’s this process-product interaction which steered us towards considering an ePortfolio solution to service those needs. But, as I asked in the previous post, is it really a full-blown ePortfolio we need? Or might there be other options?


There are several continua across which different solutions can be mapped.

  • Control: the extent to which the solution is in the hands of the institution or learner. Is it locked down or open, rigid or flexible, fixed or customisable, learner-centric or institutionally driven?
  • Alignment: the extent to which a solution meets the specified requirements
  • Cost: always a thorny one! Accounting for the hidden costs is often problematic, especially attributing a specific value for aspects such as people’s time, whether the teachers’, technical support or administration.
  • Features: the range of features the solution offers.
ePortfolio Continuum

ePortfolio Continuum, Ian Guest (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/) / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Here’s one example within which, from back to front, feature-richness and alignment increase, and indeed, likely does cost. And control? Well that could probably be argued either way. Some solutions may be feature-rich, more costly but be well-aligned with our needs whereas others might be more flexible, cheaper, but less well-aligned. So how to reach a more objective decision?
In some sense it could be possible to ascribe a numerical value to each of the potential solutions and thereby place them more objectively on each of the continua. A weighting could be applied to each continuum based on the degree of importance i.e. if cost is critical, that could be weighted more highly. In this way each solution could be scored and compared with other alternatives … but that’s quite some job. Particularly so when you begin to explore the possibilities out there:

About.me https://about.me/
Desire2Learn http://www.desire2learn.com/products/eportfolio/
Easy Portfolio (app) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/easy-portfolio-eportfolio/id516212900?mt=8
eFolioworld http://v2efolioworld.project.mnscu.edu
epsilien ePortfolio http://corp.epsilen.com/k12/eportfolio/
Foliofor.me http://foliofor.me/
Foliotek http://www.foliotek.com/
Google Apps for Edu https://www.google.co.uk/
Mahara https://mahara.org/
OneFile http://www1.onefile.co.uk/tour_eportfolio_overview.aspx
PebblePad http://www.pebblepad.co.uk/
RCampus http://www.rcampus.com/eportfoliohomeshellc.cfm?view=cp
Relection2 http://www.symplicity.com/reflection
Sakai http://www.sakaiproject.org/
Taskstream https://www1.taskstream.com/solutions/student-assessment/
Wikispaces http://www.wikispaces.com/
WordPress http://wordpress.com/

… which is of course just a flavour of what’s available across the spectrum and is far from exhaustive, leaving us with much pondering, ruminating and exchanging of views still to be done.

1Sutherland, S. and Powell, A. (2007), CETIS SIG mailing list discussions [Online] Available at: https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A1=ind0707&L=CETIS-PORTFOLIO#3 (Accessed: 13 August 2012).

Must it be an either or? 1:1 or BYOT? November 24, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings.
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Spending a leisurely weekend away allowed me to catch up on a few podcasts and become acquainted with a relatively newcomer in ‘Out of School’ from Fraser Speirs and Bradley Chambers. Many of you may know Fraser through Twitter and already be aware of the 1:1 iPad project he’s overseen at Cedars, the school where he works in Scotland. Bradley too manages an iPad project in a school in Chattanooga in the US, but with a slightly different model, one which provides access through iPad ‘banks’ in school.

Though the content is perhaps inevitably skewed towards Apple products and services, they discuss at length the planning, strategies and issues you’re likely to need to take into account if you’re considering a 1:1 programme. The episodes cover ground like networks, connectivity, devices and their management, the people (students, teachers, parents, school leaders), legal and insurance issues, breakages and support, lifetime and refresh cycles, applications and workflow … the whole spectrum. As such they’re a great listen and certainly helped me think through our forthcoming programme, revisit the planning we’ve done so far and brought to the fore some of the issues we might need to revisit.

byot comparison

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by seantoyer: http://flickr.com/photos/seanhobson/4504828599/

Now for many reasons, our project is not 1:1 in the same ways that the guys have at their schools. Ours is a BYOT initiative and about those, our hosts were rather less than complimentary. All the usual slings and arrows were loosed: bewildering variety of platforms & applications, difficult for teachers to plan/manage lessons, difficult for tech support, equity/uniformity of access. These are all valid points and ought to be addressed during preparatory discussions with stakeholders and as part of the project planning process … and indeed doubtless will need to be revisited as the project rolls out. But it’s not as though a more traditional, school-managed 1:1 project isn’t without its challenges too. Yes it overcomes some of the difficulties inherent in BYOT, but as Fraser and Bradley kindly point out during the series of podcasts, 1:1 also raises its own challenges.

For me the choice between one flavour and the other requires me to revisit the underlying philosophy. In a 1:1 programme, I’d suggest the emphasis is on the school (the devices are school-owned or school-procured or the spec. is school-determined), the teacher (a consistent platform makes it more manageable for them), tech support (techs are better able to support and manage the estate and infrastructure) and the devices (the spec., the apps, the frequency of refresh etc). But surely the starting point should be the learner? Outside the school gates, they (or at least the ones who can afford it!) make the choice of technology they want to use: tablet, laptop or desktop, phone and/or camera, phone and/or music player … though of course that choice will be different for some than others and is not immune to external influences. Oughtn’t we to allow the same degree of freedom in the device they choose to support their learning? When they leave our schools to hopefully continue their learning, won’t they then have the freedom to choose their platform and, having had the opportunity to undertake BYOT, be better placed to make a rationale choice? In the real world if they can’t connect to the coffee house’s wireless network, do they ask the barista? Back in school, are we really so incapable of designing a learning experience which is sufficiently open to enable our learners to succeed whichever way they choose to access it?

In a well-balanced blog post, Keith Rispin took a close look at comparing iPad versus BYOT programmes and highlighted several strengths and weaknesses of each. He also recognised how considering a transition from school-owned and controlled devices through to BYOT might be valuable as students become older, more responsible and more capable of managing their own learning.

In conclusion then, for me it’s BYOT to encourage learner autonomy, choice and independence, not 1:1 in order to make life easier for us … at least it is as students become older.

You might like to check out one particular episode of ‘Out of School’ in which Fraser & Bradley compare a 1:1 with a BYOD programme:

Teachers Don’t Tinker

Wisdom of the many? July 7, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings, research.
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I got the following response to a question I asked about BYOD during the week:

Would they be covered on the insurance? Where would they be stored? Overall I remain unconvinced. It is probably a good idea for 6th formers but certainly not for younger students.

This was a verbatim response … from a student!

survey responses

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by The Bees: http://flickr.com/photos/thebees/4982556761/

We’re launching a BYOD pilot programme across our 6th form in the Autumn term, but with the intention of extending it across other years following an evaluation of that pilot. Our preparations have included discussions with staff, and with the students who will be included in the pilot. We also wanted to ‘test the water’ with years 7 to 10 though and find out the level of technology to which they had access, their attitudes to using it in school and if indeed they had any desire to use it. Rather than the face-to-face discussions we’ve had with other constituencies, we felt a short poll would suffice at this stage and I’ve just begun analysing the results.

In addition to finding out the types of device they have, their confidence with them and whether they would bring them to school, we also asked an open-ended attitudinal question:

Have you any thoughts at all about the possibility of being allowed to use mobile devices to help your learning? Good thing? Bad thing? Possible problems?

Bear in mind this was done in a few minutes during morning registration, there was no preliminary discussion and this was the first time any of them would have heard about the possibility of BYOD. Without performing a numerical analysis of how positive or negative the responses to this question were, I got the impression that they were largely favourably inclined to the possibility of BYOD. Some students provided positive responses, some negative and many produced balanced returns. However, whilst the general feeling was positive, it was nowhere nearly as focused and specific as the concerns they expressed:

  • Batteries often go flat.
  • You could lose them or have them stolen.
  • Not everyone has their own device.
  • Might be problems connecting to the wifi.
  • Can sometimes get distracted and go off task.
  • I wouldn’t want someone else to borrow my phone.
  • My mum wouldn’t let me bring it.
  • Some people would text rather than doing what they should be.
  • Where would be able to store them?
  • I wouldn’t want it to cost me money.
  • I prefer not to use mobile devices for learning, although laptops are OK.
  • What programmes students use wouldn’t be controllable.
  • With everyone using it, it might slow up the Internet.
  • If it breaks, you wouldn’t be able to do any work.
  • Although a good thing, we should still be allowed to use pen and paper if we want.
  • Different students might have different programmes.

How amazing that with so little preparation, forethought and time, students should come up with almost the same list of concerns that educators did during an hour-long #ukedchat on BYOD. I was stunned! And I’ve only analysed half the returns so far! The positive responses, though less clearly focused towards specific aspects of learning than the educators, nevertheless pointed towards familiarity, ease and speed of use and increased level of access.

Knowing the concerns that students actually have, rather than the concerns that we think they might have … or that we have as staff, means we can redouble our efforts into resolving them. We can then make sure that prior to taking the next steps, we ensure students are aware of how their concerns are being addressed. The one issue that still bothers me above others however is that of equity, but maybe here’s an opportunity to engage the students yet further – how would they prefer to see the equity gap narrowed. Maybe the Wisdom of Crowds could help out here too?

BYOD: Narrowing the digital divide? April 19, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings.
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cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Eelke de Blouw: http://flickr.com/photos/fanintoflames/3638004493/

I’ve been following the BYOD/BYOT discourse for some while now, avidly reading as many blog posts as I can find, chipping in following an #edchat debate and listening to podcasts involving practitioners who have implemented BYOD programmes. Hardly surprising perhaps since we’re almost in the position to begin such a programme in school and I’m keen to learn from the experiences and thoughts of others.

One factor which inevitably emerges in almost all discussion is that of equity i.e. what will the impact of a BYOD programme be on those students from families who aren’t in the position to be able to provide them with a device. People are rightly concerned that BYOD will stretch the equity divide yet further; as someone who would have been in the ‘have nots’ category, it’s been troubling me too. But maybe there’s an alternative perspective?

Let’s first imagine the pre-BYOD circumstances: the ‘haves’ have their iPads, Smartphones, MBPs and so on … but they’re not allowed them in school. Here, both the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ suffer because neither has the opportunity to use a device other than the IT suites and laptop banks the school can provide. There’s certainly no sense of ownership/agency.

Now imagine a post-BYOD situation: the ‘haves’ bring in their devices, thereby reducing the impact on the school IT estate. Rather than seeing this as the means by which the school can reduce the estate, perhaps it’s a wonderful opportunity to redeploy it … in favour of the ‘have nots?’ Now the ‘haves’ have AND the ‘have nots’ too.

Yes the details would certainly demand careful thought, but just maybe BYOD might actually be one way the digital divide can be narrowed.