The UK Government’s Primary National Strategy undertook a pilot programme “Embedding ICT in the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies” where interactive whiteboards were installed in the classrooms of teachers of 9-11 year old students in more than 80 schools in six regions of England. Research to evaluate this project collected multiple sources of data, including students’ attainment, structured lesson observations and the perceptions of teachers and students. Results suggest that the use of the interactive whiteboards did lead to significant changes in teachers’ practices in the use of technology and in aspects of classroom interaction, and that the perceptions of those involved were overwhelmingly positive, but that the impact in terms of students’ attainment on national tests was very small and short-lived. This raises questions about the integration of new technologies into classroom teaching and how such technologies might improve teaching and learning.
The UK has invested heavily in promoting the use of educational technologies in primary or elementary schools. Initiatives such as training for teachers in the use of information and communications technology in the late 1990s aimed to offer a course of training to all serving school teachers in the UK at a cost of about $800 million. Additionally investment in hardware, software and networking (such as the development of a “National Grid for Learning”) have similarly seen considerable sums (over $3 billion up to 2008).
At the policy level, the introduction of interactive whiteboards was seen as a way to integrate technology into teaching in primary or elementary schools and at the same time support the development of “whole class interactive teaching” (Reynolds & Muijs, 1999) in order to improve standards of attainment. Other goals were informally identified, such as greater engagement of boys in lessons to address their perceived under-achievement. These aims were discussed with the funders of the research and this helped to shape the development of the research methodology.
The implementation of training and the support for the teachers involved was also studied as part of the research. A model was developed in the project where one full-time specialist teacher supported groups of about 20 teachers in each region. Training materials were developed centrally, then revised as they were used locally. A temporary website was created to exchange ideas and teaching resources (used mainly by the specialist teachers, but also by a number of classroom teachers in the project). In addition, most regions established support groups which met more informally on a regular basis. The approach to supporting teachers in using the technology effectively was a key part of the pilot programme.