Teaching with Technology, Page 1
Running Head: Teaching with Technology
Teaching with Technology: It Helps, But How Much?
Research Analysis Paper
By Brandy Shelton
In partial fulfillment of the requirements for EDU 710
April 21, 2010
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This review seeks to find similarities in research done on teaching with technology, especially with
interactive whiteboards. Benefits have included an increase in language arts and math test scores, and a
higher engagement with at-risk students. Researchers have been working with teachers to find some of
the best strategies for teaching with technology both at the secondary and adult levels. Many of them
include student-centered activities and learning, compared to teacher-centered ones, and scaffolding the
workload and blending the type of learning taking place. More research is still needed in this area due to
its quickly growing resources and high-demand in today’s classrooms.
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Teaching with Technology: It Helps, But How Much?
Technology is an ever-growing being both in the world at large and in the classroom. Between
smart phones, mp3 players, and notebook computers it’s no wonder teachers are seeing results after using
interactive whiteboards and other forms of technology in the classroom. Is it really helping though? I
asked myself this question recently while teaching my third grade students a math lesson with the
SmartBoard I acquired a few months ago thanks to my school’s PTA. Sure I was able to create lessons
that included pictures and video embedded in hidden links, but was any of it really helping my students
understand the content any better? With these questions weighing heavy on my mind I set out to find
research that supported the use of interactive whiteboards in the classroom as a learning tool, not just
another video player/projector for the classroom. Quantitative data that was well supported proved
difficult to find, but qualitative data was an ever-growing source with common threads that point toward
strategies being more important than simple use.
The Interactive Whiteboard
Many of us grew up with chalkboards that you wrote on with dwindling pieces of dusty chalk.
Schools later evolved by placing whiteboards into classrooms that use dry erase markers to write with in
an array of colors and sizes. The interactive whiteboard (IWB) is like its dry erase cousin with the
exception that it needs no ink or messy tool to write with. An IWB also connects to a projector and a
computer to display whatever image you can find on your laptop or PC and display it for all to see on the
board. Its perks don’t stop there either. What makes the board interactive is touch recognition that allows
you to write on, select, and move objects projected onto the board as if you were using a mouse instead of
your finger. IWBs also come with a special program that allows you to create lessons students can write
on, move around, and interact with. All of the IWBs features have made it a hot commodity both in the
corporate world and the classroom. They are popping up in classrooms all over the world with the idea
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that with them test scores will raise and teachers will have more access to resources available from just
Interactive Whiteboard’s Affect on Standardized Tests
As an elementary school teacher I am always looking for better ways to grab my students’
attention and hold onto it for longer periods of time. I almost feel like a comedian trying to read the
crowd which happens to be the eight and nine-year olds in my classroom. The IWB was an instant
success when it came to captivating their attention, but what else could I be doing with it besides finding
math and word games on the internet? Many research studies have shown that the “use of whiteboards
shifts instruction from presentation to interaction and students’ focus away from teachers and onto
content, making interactive whiteboard lessons more student-centered than traditional ones” (Swan,
Schenker, & Kratcoski, 2008). When lessons are more student-centered students are more likely to
remember what they are being taught because they were part of the teaching and learning process. So
how do teachers use their boards effectively? In one study done by Swan, et al. (2008), teachers who
used their IWBs more frequently (on average 4.7 times a week) had students that scored above the mean
on standardized tests, when compared to teachers’ whose students took the same test and scored below
the mean and reported using their IWBs less frequently (on average 2.9 times a week).
Swan, et al. (2008) also found that IWBs were being used slightly more to teach math than
language arts. Teachers that taught math using their IWBs that had students score above the mean on
standardized testing “were more likely to use white boards interactively and to focus whiteboard activities
on visualization of concepts and processes” (Swan, et al., 2008). On the other hand teachers who taught
math using their IWBs to students who scored below the mean on the same standardized tests tended to
use the interactive features of the whiteboards for more teacher-centered activities like showing a Power
Point presentation, or demonstrating how to use a ruler.
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The contrast between students that scored above and below the mean on the reading / language
arts standardized tests was even more drastic. Swan, et al. (2008) believes that the difference between
student-centered and teacher-centered activities made most of the difference. Teachers whose students
scored below the mean were more likely to use their boards to show their own presentations or to display
vocabulary words, while teachers whose students scored above the mean used their boards “to support the
visualization of concepts with concept mapping, brainstorming, and interactive editing” (Swan, et al.,
2008). Some even used their boards in a creative way by videoconferencing with other classes.
Using the data from Swan, et al.’s (2008) research it’s clear that there is a positive affect using an
IWB could have on math and language arts. However, the activities must be student-centered and involve
the class in the teaching and learning process.
Technology and At-Risk Students
When I first began using my IWB I was excited and wanted each and every one of my student’s
to have the opportunity to come up to the board and play with the tools or experience the touch
recognition features. I soon realized that although most of my students were eager to come to the front
and try out their tech legs, some seemed resistant and too embarrassed to give it a shot. As I looked at
who was raising their hands to participate, I realized my low-performing students were doing their best to
blend into their chairs like a chameleon praying not to be noticed by its prey. I thought that they would be
clambering to get out of their seats considering many of them are ADD and kinesthetic learners, but no,
they simply weren’t interested. Now what? How can technology help more than hinder? What other
strategies and resources can help me make the technology work for my low-level or at-risk students?
A study done by Edmonds and Li (2005) took a closer look at how nine experienced high school
teachers worked with at-risk teens and adults using technology as a tool to help them overcome their past
academic challenges. Three of the teachers taught exclusive distance learning, while the other six “taught
at-risk learners in blended learning environments” (Edmonds & Li, 2005). Some of the strategies that
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Edmonds and Li (2005) found after coding the open-ended questions they asked the nine teachers were
choice, diverse curriculum, structure, customization, blended learning, and building a safe learning
Choice refers to allowing the students to “freely choose to work in a technology-based
environment” (Edmonds & Li, 2005). All teachers felt that if students were forced to take a technology-
based class they would end up resenting it and feel less motivated to succeed or try.
Providing a diverse curriculum is important so that students have a variety of ways to
communicate, learn, and complete work. This is important so that all students feel as if they are able to
contact you if they have problems or questions in multiple ways. It’s also strongly suggested to include
“demonstrations, graphical explanations, extra resources, and self-assessments” (Edmonds & Li, 2005) so
that students are able to check-in with you and themselves on their understanding level.
Structure is important in order to help the students move through the material and coursework.
“Providing possible organizers, such as calendars, webpage postings, email announcements, digital work
plans, or a list of deadlines, proves to be helpful” (Edmonds & Li, 2005).
Customization is especially important in digital environments because it allows teachers to
scaffold the content of the course or topic to the level of the learners, and it allows students to produce
their work in many different formats. This is a great way for the student to show-off their preferences and
talents using creative formats outside of the typical Power Point or Word document. This also makes the
learning more interesting for the student so that they want to succeed and reach their academic goals.
Blended learning was used by some of the teachers so that they were meeting face-to-face and
online. The two styles compliment one another well because they “increase practice time, exposure to
more learning materials, and added discussion of concepts” (Edmonds & Li, 2005). This was also seen as
a better way for students to connect with the teacher and build a stronger connection that fostered a
greater amount of learning.
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Lastly, building a safe learning environment is a key part of teaching at-risk students with
technology because everyone should feel “accepted and supported” (Edmonds & Li, 2005). It is
important for teachers to develop a trusting relationship with these types of students because their past
experiences in the classroom aren’t usually positive ones.
Although teaching an all-distance course or even a blended course is quite different than working
with an eight or nine-year old who doesn’t want to work on the IWB, they do have the same type of
student in common. These students should be approached with the new technology in a supportive and
non-forceful manner, scaffolding the information, and varying the types or formats of the assignments.
Technology is available for many of us to use each and everyday in the classroom, but the
question is how do we use it so that it helps our students grow and learn to their highest potential?
According to Swan, et al.’s, (2005) research lessons should be student-centered rather than teacher-
centered and include activities that involve the students in the teaching and learning process. Some of the
most affective strategies noted by the study were using the board for visualization and concept mapping,
or even more creative ways such as videoconferencing. The most ineffective ways to use the IWB were
for presentations or other teacher-centered activities.
Technology can also be a great tool even for students who struggle in a more traditional classroom
setting. With the right support, curriculum scaffolding, and varied types of formats or assignments,
students who once struggled to succeed academically have a better chance at reaching their goals.
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Edmonds, K., & Li, Q. (2005). Teaching At-Risk Students with Technology: Teachers' Beliefs,
Experiences, and Strategies for Success. Online Submission, Retrieved from ERIC
Swan, K., Schenker, J. & Kratcoski, A. (2008). The Effects of the Use of Interactive
Whiteboards on Student Achievement. In J. Luca & E. Weippl (Eds.), Proceedings of World
Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2008
(pp. 3290-3297). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.