Although it was not planned as such, this article continues with the theme of interactive whiteboards, albeit from a different perspective. An interactive whiteboard arrived in our school nearly three years ago as part of the CBI project (http://www.cbiproject.net/). The main users of the board were the two teachers involved in the project. The finishing of the project in 2007 meant that there was greater freedom to decide how best to proceed with a planned integration of the technology for a greater number of staff.
The context is a second level, all-girls city school of approximately 500 students. Experience has taught me that teachers need time/space/support if they are to successfully use new equipment in their teaching. I decided to experiment with a different approach to that provision. As it so happened, I was about to embark on the thesis stage of an M.Ed programme and took the opportunity to research my practice.
This is how the CPD worked. Every Tuesday after school I provided a ‘drop-in’ opportunity for any member of staff who wished to avail of it. The length of the session was determined by the participants (within reason of course!) and the aspect of IWB use was also determined by the participants. The underlying principle was to enable a staff member to use the board to support their teaching of some item/topic that would be coming up in the next few weeks. Working with whoever arrived at the session, the emphasis was always on the teacher using the board. This might all appear just too fluid to work and it certainly wasn’t perfect but all those who attended agreed that there had been a benefit to them. Learning to use the IWB is certainly influenced by the comfort level teachers already have around using technology in a class context. However I would argue though that it is a good place to start for someone who wants to move to integration of ICT but is nervous about doing so. The IWB is a powerful tool with many fancy capabilities but it is not necessary to master them all before using it in teaching. In fact, becoming confident with a few elements of its use can become the catalyst for learning about more of them.
Over the course of four months, ten teachers attended one or more sessions. ICT skill range was from novice to very comfortable, number of years teaching was from 1 to 30+. Three of the group had never used ICT in any shape or make with students and have done so since the CPD. All but one of the group used the board with classes before the end of the academic year 2007-2008. Since the beginning of this academic year that individual is a regular user of the technology.
The attraction for teachers of this approach as reported subsequently in interviews included: on-site provision, using the actual equipment in situ, a manageable time-slot being immediately after school, familiarity with the tutor and availability of the tutor during the rest of the week to resolve problems. Teachers also indicated that they would alter the structure by starting with a 3/4 week structured lesson set followed by a 3/4 week drop-in option. The crucial thing is to get people curious and looking for more.