What Matters Most When Students and Teachers Use Interactive Whiteboards in Mathematics Classrooms? the Team from Avondale College of Higher Education Answers Many Questions about the Use of Interactive Whiteboards in the Teaching of Mathematics. We Encourage Teachers to Consider the Implications of IWB Use in Their Classrooms as a Result of Reading This Article

Article excerpt

Background

As teachers, we are encouraged to immerse our students in rich and engaging learning environments (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2003). One teaching tool that can facilitate the creation of rich learning environments is the interactive whiteboard (IWB) (Baker, 2009). IWBs are quickly being introduced into schools across the nation and worldwide, and educators are exploring the implications of having them in the classroom. Of particular interest are student attitudes to the use of IWBs: what students think and feel about IWBs, and what factors matter most to students when IWBs are used in their classroom. Attitudes play an important part in student interest and engagement levels, therefore, it is important to determine current student attitudes towards IWB use in the classroom.

Existing studies have highlighted several possible advantages of IWB use. One such study conducted by researchers in the UK highlighted the positive effect interactive whiteboards have on student engagement and motivation as well as their capacity to facilitate the use of a wide range of learning styles (Schroeder, 2007). In a learning area such as mathematics, where motivation and relevance is sometimes questioned, the use of IWBs may be a relevant tool in reversing this trend. It is claimed that the IWB has the ability to enhance students' learning and retention (Hall & Higgins, 2005; Knight, Pennant & Piggott, 2005). These studies also indicate that using the IWB in the classroom to develop lessons can help educators integrate ICT more effectively into the mathematics classroom (Hennessy, Deaney, Ruthven & Winterbottom, 2007; Maher, Phelps, Urane & Lee, 2012).

However, some controversy surrounds the use of IWBs since they have sometimes been associated with a revival of delivery-focused, teacher-centred teaching strategies (Kelley, Underwood, Potter, Hunter & Beveridge, 2007). In fact, much of the research conducted so far on their use has focused on teacher use rather than student use (Kennewell & Higgins, 2007). When being used in the mathematics classroom, Swan and Marshall (2010) caution against an overemphasis on two-dimensional as opposed to three dimensional representations in association with IWB use, in light of the hands-on nature of mathematical teaching. However, when used in a way that emphasises student participation, the IWB can be used in mathematics classrooms to incorporate a wide range of strategies for the facilitation of learning. Rather than devaluing the teacher's role in such lessons, the teacher's 'vicarious presence' can be fundamental to the achievement of collaborative and participatory student learning (Warwick, Mercera, Kershnera & Staarman, 2010).

What matters most to students?

When teaching mathematics, the varied representational aspects of IWBs can be used to assist students in achieving specific learning outcomes. IWBs can be used to represent mathematical shapes, activities and processes. In terms of their representative abilities, the benefits and limitations of IWBs have been considered (Bennett & Lockyer, 2008). Even so, despite their many affordances, the use of IWBs, like any other tools, should be used with pedagogical caution and informed intent. Glover, Miller and Averis (2004) suggest that, for the IWB to be an effective teaching tool, the quality of teacher support must be high. If overused or used inappropriately, they have the potential to create misunderstandings and to cause learning difficulties.

This article considers what matters most to the students and teachers who use IWBs, drawing from a study of how IWBs were used in two primary schools. Along with their seven teachers, 130 students from two primary schools participated in this study. They were asked to respond to such statements as "I prefer lessons which are taught with an IWB" and "I dislike going out to the front to use the whiteboard". …