It has been said that if “we do not manage change, change will manage us”. For some time now, we have tried at Bryneven Primary School to keep at the forefront of progressive schools, determined to ensure that the quality of our physical and learning environment should keep pace with an increasingly competitive society. Indeed, Bryneven has always been a school where the management in the form of our School Governing Body and School Management Team were and still are determined to ensure that the future will not arrive unannounced. For many years now we have placed our faith, not to mention our finances, in the area of technology, believing that this tool would enhance teaching and learning. We remain utterly convinced that our decision to immerse our learners in the world of Information Technology was correct, in fact visionary and critical for our graduates of the future. Judging from the results of our children at high school, our faith has been vindicated.
In January 2007, the first of our envisaged Multi-media Centres was opened at Bryneven Primary School, exposing our children to the very exciting concept of Interactive whiteboard teaching. Some creative timetabling ensured that all our children from Grade R to 7 would have a minimum of one timetabled period for the integrated teaching of the curriculum.
What is an Interactive whiteboard teaching? : Teaching with an interactive whiteboard is an evolutionary process. An IWB is essentially a projector-screen, except that the screen is either touch sensitive or can respond to the touch of a special ‘pen’. This means that the projector-screen can be used to interact with the projected computer image – to launch programs, to navigate within programs / websites / presentations, etc. This provides a more physical and intuitive way to interact than using mouse / keyboard to navigate a computer screen which is being projected. IWBs have a huge advantage over individual computers and computer labs for incorporating Information and Communication Technology into teaching. Teachers can provide content for a wide range of learning styles, rather than relying on pupils ‘e-learning’ ICT skills while working 1:1 or 2:1 per computer. This makes an IWB a very effective tool in learner-centred teaching and learning.
There are different types of IWB technology. These differ in whether they are operated by touch or using a stylus. In terms of durability and functionality they are very similar. All IWBs must be connected to a computer running appropriate software in order to function.
IWBs are a highly intuitive type of technology. There are two basic functions of an IWB:
- “writing” on the board (the IW detects your touch and renders this as freeform writing – N.B. all common IWBs have character-recognition and can convert scrawls into text-boxes) – and
- as a “mouse” – paging through a presentation, following links, double-clicking to open an application, etc.
Some IWBs (SmartBoard) can be touched with your finger, elbow, etc., while some use a stylus. There are a great deal more features available on an IWB than just clicking and writing. Specific benefits of the IWB technology include the drag-and-drop facility for all digital content displayed and the unlimited amount of pages (which is easily accessed in PowerPoint, but not on a blackboard or flipchart or several textbooks).
Each IWB has both character-recognition and an onscreen keyboard. A user can easily revert to the computer keyboard when they need to do a lot of typing.
IWBs can have a profound effect on teaching and learning w
ithin a dynamic teaching environment. They enable ready access by ANY person irrespective of their individual learning needs. They can be easily linked to augmentative communication aids (e.g. soundbeam, Writing with symbols) as well as a diverse array of conventional peripheral hardware.
In conclusion, digital convergence in a classroom context is the ability to capture and present information in a usable form from a variety of ICT devices and digital information sources. Interactive whiteboards allow teachers to teach multi-sensory lessons, seamlessly jumping from one type of digital media to another. Teachers can easily introduce text, sound, video, graphics and interactivity based on the tactile nature of the board. These combined with other skills that the teacher holds provides a teaching and learning environment where providing for different learning styles, and teaching a variety of literacy skills is the norm.
The nature of the interactivity and the images that can be used to reinforce learning is vital in teaching all pupils. To participate in the learning process empowers pupils to engage in a way that would not normally be possible in a classroom situation, adding to the richness to the learning experience. The possibilities are endless, although it must be noted that as any other teaching method, the excitement of using the technology can wane if over used and a range of approaches is essential to maintain interest and enthusiasm. An IWB allows the information used within a lesson to come from a variety of different types of media. Digital cameras can provide still images and video that are set in the context of the children; microphones can capture voice and the sounds of the local environment; CD and DVD facilities can bring a wide range of music and video experiences that can be readily included into lessons. Scanners can convert the work of pupils (writing, charts, concept cartoons, drawings and diagrams) into a digital form. They can also digitise books and other paper based resources relevant to the class. The Internet can provide text, sound, graphics and video, as well as interactive software. Interactive educational software is a great source of digital content to enrich a lesson.
With this wide array of digital sources to call upon teaching and learning will naturally transpire into a multi-media, multi-sensory environment.