|Australasian Journal of Educational Technology
2010, 26(Special issue, 4), 523-533.
Networked interactive whiteboards: Rationale, affordances and new pedagogies for regional Australian higher education
This article presents an argument for the use of networked interactive whiteboards (NIWBs) in regional Australian higher education and identifies new pedagogies for this context. Most Australian universities operate multiple campuses, and many use video conference facilities to deliver courses across these sites. For students at remote video conference sites, their classroom experience is often one of isolation and limited student to student contact. In this article, NIWBs are proposed as a tool to enhance this mode of delivery and exploratory research into the additional affordances they provide is presented. By using networking with IWBs, annotation and gesture can be shared across distances. Emerging possibilities from the integration of NIWBs with video conference, web conference and lecture capture systems are also explored. Three new pedagogies for regional Australian higher education are proposed based on these new capabilities.
This paper presents an argument for the use of NIWBs in regional higher education. This argument is based on exploratory research and informed by theoretical and empirical literature. Firstly the challenges of course provision at regional campuses and education access centres are discussed to provide a context for the discussion of NIWBs. The possible actions facilitated by IWBs and NIWBs are then discussed as identified from exploratory research. Three adaptations of existing higher education pedagogies are then proposed. This work is framed in the context of the Deakin at Your Doorstep (D@YD) project, which is an A$8.2 million Australian Government funded initiative by Deakin University to extend access to higher education to an increased number of regional centres.
Regional learners have a variety of online learning opportunities available to them, although for underprepared students these can present further challenges. Learners may not yet possess the required technical skills for online study; the assumption that students are literate in the required technology for study by virtue of their age has been the subject of some debate (Bennett, Maton & Kervin, 2008). In addition to technology literacy, success in online learning demands greater motivation and academic skills (Kilpatrick & Bound, 2003). For students who lack motivation, or technical or academic skills, online study may be less preferable than face to face study.
For regional learners, face to face university study is typically accessed through a comparatively small satellite campus or education access centre. Most Australian universities teach courses across multiple locations; this feature of higher education was examined by Winchester and Sterk (2006) through a review of Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) audits. Issues of "fragmentation, duplication, inconsistency and inequitability over a range of areas of activity" (p. 164) were found. Absent from Winchester and Sterk's work was a discussion of the educational implications of cross-campus teaching; for this we turn to work done in understanding video conference teaching, one of the dominant delivery modes in this field.
In a video conference lecture, students distributed across multiple sites can see and hear each other and through video cameras and screens. Although this interaction occurs in real time and attempts to mimic a face to face lecture, student satisfaction can be lower. Freeman (1998) found that compared with the alternative of delivering face to face lectures at all sites, video conferencing was not considered to be a great improvement:
students and staff felt the lecturing, learning activities and interactions were not improved. They were also slower. Other disadvantages were the time lost through technical difficulties and the greater likelihood for distractions at the remote campus. Students at the remote campus felt disadvantaged despite various preventative strategies. (Freeman, 1998, p. 209)Later work echoes Freeman's finding of disadvantage to students at remote video conference sites, and describes problems of isolation, less time spent on learning, and unsuitable teaching strategies (Knipe & Lee, 2002; Worthy, et al., 2008). Less peer to peer interaction is reported in some video conference teaching environments when compared with face to face classes (Worthy, et al., 2008; Saw, et al., 2008).
To provide students with peer learning (Topping, 2005) opportunities, many Australian universities have implemented programs such as Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS, also known internationally as Supplemental Instruction - SI) on their larger campuses (Martin, 2008; Murray, 1999). PASS has been operating in Australia since the 1990s on a small scale and in the 2000s on a larger scale. The program has a track record in improving student success, academic achievement and retention (Martin & Arendale, 1993; Tinto, 1998). Despite these benefits, it can be a difficult intervention to support in a local, face to face mode across geographically dispersed campuses for quality assurance, administrative and logistical reasons (Dawson, Lockyer & Ferry, 2007).
Online learning demands skills of regional learners that underprepared students may not have. The dominant synchronous lecture delivery platform, video conference, provides students with a substitute for face to face lectures, but provides little opportunity for peer to peer interaction. It can also be an isolating experience. Local interventions to address issues of social connection and peer learning can be costly and difficult to support. In the next section, networked interactive whiteboards (NIWBs) are proposed as a tool that can be used to address these challenges.
One starting point for examining the capabilities of IWBs is by comparing them with familiar classroom tools. In their review of the literature, Glover, Miller, Averis and Door (2005) describe the IWB as similar to a white or black board, but with added functionality from inbuilt programming. Software running on the attached computer allows learners to move on-screen objects or answer questions and receive automated feedback. From a technical perspective these interactions would all be possible with a touchscreen such as those found on smartphones or tablet computers, however the larger scale of the IWB allows for sharing and collaboration. IWBs can also be described as an extension of the data projector, and Glover, et al. (2005) note additional capabilities IWBs provide over that familiar classroom tool. Citing Berque, et al. (2000) they note the possibility for 'overwriting' (writing with markers on top of the on-screen picture) that is not possible with a data projector. One application of overwriting is to provide signalling (Mayer, 2009) to learners. Signalling reduces the amount of mental processing required by providing cues to the learner about what to focus on and how to organise it.
Gesture can be used as another form of guidance in IWB settings, and is discussed by Miller and Glover (2006) in the context of mathematics education. Gesture is understood to be a part of collaborative mathematical problem solving (Reynolds & Reeve, 2001), and understanding of unfamiliar mathematical concepts (Herbert & Pierce, 2007). Through video examination of secondary mathematics lessons, Miller and Glover found that IWB lessons incorporated a greater amount of gesture, however this was dependent on the individual teacher. As with the other affordances of IWBs, the tool provides the opportunity for gesture, but the teacher's approach determines if it will be used.
Some studies indicate that IWBs can increase student motivation, although little of this literature is from a higher education context. The novelty of IWBs, as well as the use of colour and 'hide and reveal' has been found to increase motivation in school based contexts (Glover, et al., 2005), however these gains are often short lived (Moss, et al., 2007, as cited in Higgins, Beauchamp & Miller, 2007) and may not apply to tertiary students.
The additional interactivity allowed by IWBs does not necessarily translate into more interactivity between students. Higgins, et al. (2007) raise the issue of the context-dependent meanings of the term 'interactive'. Although using IWBs can result in an increased volume of technology interactions, this can come at the cost of reduced student to student interactivity. The different types of interactivity are defined by Higgins et al. as "technical interactive affordances" and "pedagogical interactive affordances" (p. 219). From their review of the literature on IWBs they find that "An IWB may be technically interactive, but may lead to less interactive and more didactic teachings" (p. 219). Somewhat counter-intuitively, less interactive uses of IWBs can lead to more interactions between learners and between learners and teachers (Smith & Higgins, 2006). Within the context of video conference lectures in regional higher education, the literature reviewed indicates that student-to-student interaction is lacking but necessary for integration, and ultimately, retention. In the next section some of the additional affordances of networked IWBs for interactivity will be discussed.
This investigation forms part of a larger mixed methods multi-case study into a distributed learning community model being developed and evaluated through the Deakin at Your Doorstep project. In the initial phase of the project, classrooms equipped with video conference facilities and NIWBs have been built in the regional Victorian centres of Warrnambool, Bairnsdale, Dandenong and Swan Hill. Teaching in these facilities commenced in March 2010, and data collection through interviews and surveys is currently underway at the sites. Preliminary data from this project are not yet available for research ethics reasons; the data used in this article are from the exploratory investigation.
In the next section of this paper, the room design is presented and followed by new affordances identified through the exploratory research project. New pedagogies identified through combining these affordances with existing higher education pedagogies are then discussed.
The D@YD classrooms can be used for a variety of class types. The most relevant to this discussion are lectures, tutorials and computer labs. During lectures, each site is synchronously connected, with the projector showing video conference feeds from all sites and the NIWB showing materials such as a PowerPoint slideshow. This is similar to a common two-projector video conference configuration where one projector shows video of each site while the other projector shows media such as a PowerPoint presentation. In tutorials and computer laboratory classes the video conference facilities can be disabled and the NIWBs can operate as standalone IWBs.
Another feature of the NIWB revealed through experimentation is the ability of the screen to switch between operating in a local mode and operating in a networked mode. This provides the opportunity for each site to work on a local IWB, and then share it with the other sites.
The two cross-site collaboration affordances provided by NIWBs may address deficiencies in the video conference delivery mode discussed earlier in this paper. By providing a shared space for students to collaborate and a facilitated group process, the technology may increase the amount of student to student interaction, which has been identified as low in video conference environments (Knipe & Lee, 2002; Saw, et al., 2008; Worthy, et al., 2008). This is currently being investigated in the larger research project.
In a larger lecture space, the ability to connect to the NIWB via web conferencing could be useful for students who are not able to reach the front of the classroom. Students could view the contents of the NIWB in real time on their laptop or tablet and contribute from where they are sitting in class. This may also provide more equitable participation for students who have impaired mobility or vision. Students and technologists at Deakin University's Warrnambool campus are currently working on developing support materials for the web conference-video conference mode of delivery.
Another problem posed by the new NIWB classroom context is that of reliability. The NIWB can pose further technical difficulties in addition to those described by Freeman (1998). Designing classes around the integrated use of NIWBs and video conference has meant that when either technology failed at a site, the students at that site could participate in only part of the class. In cases where the NIWB failed at a site, students were left with static print copies of materials. The teacher faces a difficult decision in this circumstance: to continue using the capabilities of the technology, which are available to most students, or to only use the features available to all students.
The pedagogical approach described here addresses identified deficiencies in video conference lectures, while attempting to model necessary academic skills. Peer learning opportunities are less common in standard video conference lectures (Knipe & Lee, 2002; Saw, et al., 2008; Worthy, et al., 2008), and the use of the NIWB for local and networked student interactions attempts to address this. Academic skills can be role modelled by the teacher and the students, particularly in relation to understanding visual and text information, which may assist regional students to succeed in online learning. Data are currently being gathered about this mode of delivery to understand its effectiveness.
This new pedagogical approach can extend participation in higher education lectures to students who are not able to physically attend, and is particularly suited to rural and regional students; rather than just watch captured lectures, they can contribute in real time. Although experimentation shows this method of lecture delivery is technically possible, further investigation is required into student preferences, participation levels and achievement in this mode.
VSI provides students with time to think by having them set the pace of the lecture. The IWB allows students to control the video using their hand or whiteboard pen on the board and proceed to annotate the frame. The VSI program incorporates the development of academic skills through role modelling by peers and the facilitator, and the ability to annotate video frames may enhance this. Students can write on the video, which may include visual materials the lecturer is explaining.
In addition to single-site VSI groups, NIWBs can be used to facilitate multi-site sessions. As VSI is suited to small tutorial-size groups, this may be a useful approach when small numbers of students at geographically dispersed sites wish to study elective subjects. In the Deakin at Your Doorstep context, four sites with less than five students per site could participate in a VSI group using NIWBs and video conference facilities. They could view the weekly lecture recordings for an elective unit together and pause or rewind their shared video at any time using the controls on their NIWB. While paused, any student can discuss the lecture content and use any of the annotation or gesture methods the IWB provides. Using this technology to provide a multi-site session may avoid some of the difficulties of supporting SI sessions at remote sites described by Dawson, et al. (2007).
When used in conjunction with existing recordings from a lecture capture system, multi-site VSI delivery using NIWBs is a method of expanding face to face subject delivery with minimal cost. A centralised facilitator can work with students across many sites without the need for the lecturer to redevelop course materials or travel to those sites. Further research into the development and testing of this model is currently underway as part of the Deakin at Your Doorstep project.
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|Author: Phillip Dawson, Lecturer in Education Studies|
Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Rural and Regional) and School of Education
Deakin University, Warrnambool, Victoria 3280, Australia.
Please cite as: Dawson, P. (2010). Networked interactive whiteboards: Rationale, affordances and new pedagogies for regional Australian higher education. In M. Thomas & A. Jones (Eds), Interactive whiteboards: An Australasian perspective. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(Special issue, 4), 523-533. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/dawson.html