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Interactive whiteboard and dialogue in a classroom

The case studies demonstrate the impact that involvement in the project has had on our teacher partners and their schools. So, what are the broader messages? How can the IWB be used to develop a more ‘dialogic classroom’?

Our research suggests that:

1. Teachers’ views about learning, and the classroom cultures they develop, are central to developing a productive, dialogic use of the interactive whiteboard (IWB). Their willingness to at least partially relinquish control over the IWB and to take the time to consider students’ views is critical.

“The dialogic classroom, that's what it’s about, isn't it, to make thinking more analytical (rather) than just descriptive and narrative.” (Lloyd)

All of our teachers were concerned that their children should make their reasoning and different perspectives explicit, cumulatively develop ideas by building on those of other pupils and co-construct new understandings with their classmates. A teacher with such intentions is likely to seek ways in which any classroom tool might help – and the IWB fits the bill nicely. Importantly, both teachers and learners can use it to manipulate a wide range of multimodal resources.

2. In this context, the IWB can be a versatile tool for helping develop classroom dialogue.

When the teacher purposefully creates the right conditions to support risk taking and changing of minds, rich new forms of dialogue and activity emerge – both at the board and away from it. This we call creating a ‘dialogic classroom space’ where teacher and students learn with and from each other using a variety of resources (not just the IWB), and where the dialogue and hence the learning continues over time.

The case studies illustrate how getting to grips with more IWB features opened up new ways for our teachers to fulfil their aims. For example, they used the IWB to provide continuity in a subject ‘story’ as they flipped backward and forward between work carried out across a lesson series (or even displayed the work of other classes). They, or their pupils, created, revisited and annotated digital resources, sometimes modifying early ideas, sometimes pulling together conclusions from homework. They encouraged pupils to show their thinking through manipulating and categorising screen objects. And they collated and compared multiple representations - including those of the pupils - on the same screen, using this to stimulate rich classroom discussions as in this annotated example of whole class dialogue in the final history lesson.

3. Using the IWB as a ‘digital hub’ can effectively draw together different technologies for dialogic teaching and learning: sound and images in particular.

4. ‘Whizzy’ uses of the IWB are not essential - thinking about the learning purpose is more important.

A key feature of all the teachers’ lessons was a greater use of images and audio, drawn from numerous sources – including hyperlinked recordings of children’s own views about personal safety played back and discussed by classmates. This seemed to stimulate dialogue and allow the pupils greater thinking and talking time, meaning that the teachers could focus on the pace of learning, rather than simply ‘getting through the lesson material’. This is quite a remarkable achievement from such a straightforward use of the IWB.

“In using the IWB (no matter how simply) as a tool to facilitate dialogue in my classroom, our learning experiences became more engaging and meaningful.” (Diane)