Tips for Using Interactive Whiteboards to Increase Participation of Students with Disabilities

By Whitby, Peggy J. S.; Leininger, Mark L. et al. | Teaching Exceptional Children, July/August 2012 | Go to article overview

Tips for Using Interactive Whiteboards to Increase Participation of Students with Disabilities


Whitby, Peggy J. S., Leininger, Mark L., Grillo, Kelly, Teaching Exceptional Children


As more children with disabilities are served in the inclusive settings (U.S. Department of Education, 2010) and are expected to compete academically with their peers (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001), there is an increased need for interventions to support their learning. It has been suggested that technology can serve as a means to increase outcomes for students with disabilities, yet teachers report little training on how to use advanced technology such as whiteboards (Campbell & Martin, 2010). Given the challenges associated with autism and the apparent desire of students with autism to engage in technological activities, emerging technologies may be a means of increasing quality of life for those with autism as well as other students with disabilities (Tincani & Boutot, 2005). This article presents the characteristics of students with learning disabilities that lend themselves to technology as a successful educational intervention, present tips for using the interactive whiteboard (IWB) as a means to increase participation and academic engagement for all students, and discuss strategies to increase student outcomes when using IWBs to support students. Resources for teachers are also provided.

The teaching pedagogy employed in most classrooms is delivered via spoken language, although many students have deficits in receptive and expressive language. When students do not have the receptive language abilities to acquire meaning from verbal instructions, they miss learning opportunities (Tissot & Evans, 2003). As the content becomes more advanced, students may have difficulties understanding abstract information (Peelers, 1997). However, many students have strong visual processing skills and can process instructional directions and content when presented in a visual format or with visual support (Tissot & Evans, 2003). Technology has shown promise as an intervention in supporting the receptive language needs by (a) increasing student understanding through visual support of learning materials (Pennington, 2010), (b) providing a visual concrete representation of absttact concepts (Peeters, 1997), and (c) allowing for repetition of an activity or model without the effort and risk of inconsistency (Goldsmith & LeBlanc, 2004). Additionally, computer-generated speech may be preferable for students who have difficulty understanding pragmatics and prosody of person-generated instructions (Pennington, 2010).

Students may also have difficulty with expressive language. Technology has been shown to be a promising intervention in addressing expressive language deficits as it may mitigate the difficulties in retrieval by providing an array of visual (Pennington, 2010) and mechanical prompts to increase initiation, interactions, and extend behaviors (Goldsmith & LeBlanc, 2004). Difficulties in attention further impact the abilities of students in an inclusive classroom. Technology is a promising intervention to address the attention issues of students as it may allow students to (a) engage in preferred tasks or restricted interests (Boyd, Alter, & Conroy, 2005), (b) sustain attention as the multimodal material directs attention to the salient features of a lesson, and (c) shift attention or prepare for changes as prompts can be embedded into the instruction (Goldsmith & LeBlanc, 2004).

An individual will usually be motivated to engage in activities they prefer (Harris & Reid, 2005). IWBs take the preferences of children and present an activity in a large group format, which forces the child to engage with others and provides opportunities to teach attention, social interactions, and communication. Instruction with IWBs differs from traditional computer-assisted instruction because it provides opportunities to teach social and communication skills in a whole group interactive setting versus an individual learning experience (Swan, Schenker, & Kratcoski, 2008). IWBs are well suited for supporting whole-class teaching compared to personal computers, which integrate less readily into wholeclass teaching methods (Kennewell, 2001).

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