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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 09:02 GMT
Doubts over hi-tech white boards
Teacher demonstrates interactive white board
Smart boards can cost up to 3,000 each
Computerised whiteboards in class fail to boost pupil achievement, research into their early use suggests.

Interactive whiteboards can even "slow the pace of whole class learning", the study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills suggested.

They can also lead to "relatively mundane activities being over-valued", the Institute of Education study found.

The team visited London schools in 2004-05, a year after a government project to introduce the boards.

Physical interactivity with the IWB was seldom harnessed to produce significant shifts in understanding
Institute of Education report

It sought to give every London secondary school funding for IWBs for at least one core subject area.

IWBs allow teachers to access computer programs and multi-media, such as images, music and video, on a large screen at the front of the class.

Pupils can come up to the front of the class and touch the board to interact with what is on it.

The report said teachers were using them in most or every lesson, but particularly strongly in maths and science.

There was considerable variation in the use of the boards within departments and between subjects, but most were using them as a data projector.

The researchers said IWBs could contribute to the transformation of teaching methods "under the appropriate circumstances".

'Matter of chance'

But they added: "Statistical analysis showed no impact on pupils' performance in the first year in which departments were fully equipped."

Statisticians looked at whether changes in student attainment at Key Stages 3 and 4 in three core subjects could be attributed to the use of IWBs.

The team said the results were not surprising considering how soon after the boards' introduction the assessment was made and the variations in the way they were used.

The report found that "although the newness of the technology was initially welcomed by pupils", any boost in motivation seemed "short-lived".

The team found there was little use of external plug-in devices (or peripherals) such as videos and music players, and that there was no clear policy advice on the potential of these to enhance IWB use.

"Departments' purchases seem to be as much a matter of chance as informed choice," the study said.

'Mundane activities'

The team also said that although teaching could be transformed by using IWBs, the worth of new methods needed to be established first.

When the use of the technological tools took precedence over a clear understanding of their purpose for teaching, IWBs were not used in way that could enhance learning, it said.

The report gave the example of the focus on interactivity leading to "mundane activities being over-valued".

The report went on: "Such emphasis on technical interactivity was particularly prevalent in classes with lower ability students.

"Lessons with higher ability students tended to be less focused on getting students up to the board and were less concerned with being seen to be interactive."

It continued: "In lower ability groups it could actually slow the pace of whole class learning as individual pupils took turns at the board."

Schools Minister Jim Knight said the report gave an insight into the early days of electronic white boards - "before they had the chance to fully bed in".

"I believe passionately that ICT can be a excellent tool in helping teaching and learning. But ICT will never be a substitute for a good teaching.

"Only when teachers have the skills to use it properly can we expect them to use the technology to support and transform traditional teaching methods," he added.

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