Interacting with Interactive Whiteboards
A Project Presented to the Faculty of the College of Education
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree of
Masters of Arts
In Educational Technology
Interactive technology is becoming a mainstay in many classrooms all over the world.
Although some teachers are finding it easy to make the transition into the digital world, others
are struggling to stay caught up and work the technology into their lessons and classrooms.
Interactive whiteboards are a perfect example of technology being implemented into all sorts
of classrooms without teachers really understanding their capabilities, or how to use them as
anything more than a projector. If the technology is available, why not make sure our educators
are educated in ways it can be used most effectively? This thesis will look at how interactive
whiteboards are being used in many classrooms today, and what strategies are shown to be the
most effective at improving students’ understanding of the content.
New technology is entering our schools and classrooms everyday. Sometimes it’s in the
form of laptop computers or document cameras, and other times as an interactive tool such as an
interactive whiteboard (IWB). However, just because these tools enter the classroom, doesn’t
always mean that there is adequate training for the teachers that will be using it.
When I received an IWB in my classroom this school year I was sent to a one-day
training session where I learned how to turn my board off and on, orient the screen, and perform
other basic tasks. I walked away realizing that the new tool I had waiting for me in my room
probably had more uses and tricks than I would figure out for quite some time. Now here I am,
about six months later, still trying to learn what the best strategies are for using my IWB and
connecting to my students. How do I get them more involved in the learning process? Are
there proven strategies that will help raise standardized test scores when a teacher uses an IWB?
What obstacles do most teachers who receive IWBs face when they are new to the technology?
Statement of the Problem
Many researchers have begun to scratch the surface on many of these questions and how
technology has affected the teaching and learning community as a whole. A study done by
Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010) delves into the idea that teachers of the 21st century are
still using the same tools as those who came before them. Unlike the doctors and mechanics
whose diagnostic equipment has evolved and changed with the technology available, classroom
teachers are expected to teach to higher standards with the same equipment and knowledge that
was available ten to twenty years ago. “It is time to shift our mindsets away from the notion
that technology provides a supplemental teaching tool and assume, as with other professions
that technology is essential to successful performance outcomes” (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-
Leftwich, 2010, p. 256). With this understanding then comes the fact that teachers need to be
taught “how to use technology to facilitate meaningful learning, defined as that which enables
students to construct deep and connected knowledge” (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010, p.
257). Simply understanding how to use a digital camera or presentation software is not enough.
Teachers need to learn how to use these tools to make their lessons and content more interactive
and vibrant, and how to teach students to use the same tools to express their own understanding
of the content.
Teachers have been using Shulman’s (1986, 1987) framework to conceptualize a
teacher’s knowledge for over twenty years. According to Shulman (1986), teacher knowledge
includes knowledge of the subject (content knowledge), knowledge of teaching methods and
classroom management strategies (pedagogical knowledge), and knowledge of how to teach
specific content to specific learners in specific contexts (pedagogical content knowledge). “To
use technology to facilitate student learning, teachers need additional knowledge and skills that
build on, and intersect with, those that Shulman (1986) described” (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-
Leftwich, 2010, p. 259). Well where does this additional knowledge come from? Ertmer and
Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010) argue that teachers need to redefine their understanding of what
good teaching looks like in this new day and age, and once their definition has evolved they
then “need to see examples of what this kind of teaching looks like in practice” (p. 277). They
also believe that one of the best ways to support the change that teachers need to make in their
teaching is by “providing opportunities for them to witness how the change benefits their
students” (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010, p. 277). Borko and Putnam (1995) also believe
that more is needed than professional development opportunities for teachers in the area of
technology when they said, “The workshops alone did not change these teachers. It was
listening to their own students solve the problems that made the greatest difference in their
instructional practices” (p.55). Teachers need professional development to help them
understand the technology and tools that they are able to work with, and then they need the
opportunities to see examples of it being used in a classroom, or even better, in their own
The technology pieces that teachers are learning to work with come in many packages
and can support the classroom, teacher, and student learning in many different ways, but what
about IWBs specifically? Are IWBs able to really make a difference in a students’
understanding of the content? According to research done by Swan, Schenker, and Kratcoski
(2008) the use of IWBs in a K-12 setting can positively affect standardized test scores in both
language arts and mathematics when used with strong teaching strategies. It was how the
teachers in the study used their IWBs to convey the content that ultimately made the difference
in whether or not students’ test scores fell below or above the mean on average. Using the IWB
in a way that presents information to students similar to how a teacher might give a lecture isn’t
the most affective method; rather making the lessons and topics more student-centered and less
teacher-centered is how students become a key part of the teaching and learning process.
Showing teachers how to get from presentation-mode to interactive-mode is the challenge, and
those strong teaching strategies are the building blocks to unlocking the potential of the IWB.
Purpose of the Project
The purpose of this project is to research the best strategies and methods for using IWBs
in a K-12 classroom. With this information I hope to put together a handbook that will help
teachers current lessons move away from being teacher-centered to more student-centered by
utilizing the interactive piece of the whiteboard to its fullest potential.
I will be using articles, journals, teacher interviews, surveys, and observations to collect
data on this quickly growing problem within the Benicia Unified School District. Some of the
questions I hope to answer with my research are:
• How much knowledge do most teachers have when they first begin working with an
• How do most teachers combine their IWB knowledge with their pre-established content
• What problems do most teachers come across when learning how to use their IWB?
• What ways do most teachers use their IWB once they feel comfortable with the
technology and the tool?
• What strategies can make the IWB more interactive and student-centered?
The objectives for this project include the following:
• Determining how much exposure and understanding most teachers have when they first
begin working with their IWB.
• Determine how teachers combine their former content knowledge and teaching methods
with the new technology and opportunities that the IWB offers.
• Discovering the most common ways that teachers use their IWB in the classroom after
adapting to the technology.
• Discovering the best strategies that make lessons with the IWB more student-centered
and less teacher-centered.
Definition of Terms
Interactive Whiteboard - An interactive whiteboard or IWB, is a large interactive display that
connects to a computer and projector. A projector projects the computer's desktop onto the
board's surface, where users control the computer using a pen, finger or other device. The board
is typically mounted to a wall or on a floor stand.
If school systems don’t begin to educate teachers in the most productive uses of
technology in today’s classroom, then all of the technology tools in the world won’t do our
students any good. It’s important for teachers to understand that even though the skills and
strategies that were around twenty years ago still work, they don’t work as well more student-
centered and interactive strategies do especially when it comes to supportive tools like the IWB.
We know that IWBs can make a positive impact on students’ understanding of content, but the
best strategies will help teachers use the IWB to its highest potential. I hope to put together
those strategies and methods to make the transition for teachers who are new to IWBs easier and
Borko, H., & Putnam, R.T. (1995). Expanding a teacher’s knowledge base: A cognitive
psychological perspective on professional development. In T.R. Guskey & M.
Huberman (Eds.), Professional development in education: New paradigms & practices
(pp. 35-66). New York: Teachers College Press.
Ertmer, P.A., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A.T. (2010). Teacher technology change: How
knowledge, confidence, beliefs, and culture intersect. Journal of Research on
Technology in Education, 42(3), 255-284.
Shulman, L.S (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational
Researcher, 15(2), 4-14.
Shulman, L.S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard
Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.
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, 3290-3297. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.