Not smart enough for the whiteboard

TEACHERS ARE not making the most of interactive whiteboards because of a lack of training, a Government-commissioned study is expected to report later this month.

Promethean, one of the biggest whiteboard manufacturers, agreed, saying that some teachers were using the pound;2,000 items as little more than fancy blackboards.

The study, to be published by Becta, the education technology agency, is expected to find that smart whiteboards are helping primary pupils to be more motivated and gain better results.

The two-year study, conducted by Manchester Metropolitan university, examined the use of high-tech whiteboards in 97 schools in south-west England and found that they were particularly useful in assisting boys to read and write.

The report is expected to recommend more training so teachers can fully integrate the technology into advanced teaching.

Stephen Jury, chief executive of Promethean, has called on the Treasury to relax capital spending rules so that schools can use money to train teachers on new technology.

He cited the pound;50 million schools whiteboard extension project and a similar pound;8m Welsh Assembly scheme, both of which funded schools to buy the technology but did not fund training.

"It's not a panacea that you drop in and everything's wonderful," Mr Jury said.

Some schools had bought high-tech whiteboards but did not use them much, he said. Some teachers used them like old blackboards, "at a relatively mundane level".

There are now an estimated 350,000 interactive whiteboards in English classrooms, a third of them made by Promethean.

Educationists at a debate on interactive whiteboards in London last week also concluded that teachers needed more training.

Guy Underwood, senior ICT advisor for Barking and Dagenham in east London, said the borough had resisted intense official pressure to invest in smart whiteboards. Its schools used horseshoe-arranged classrooms with the teacher in the middle, and had not wanted to return to the old-fashioned model of the teacher at the board at the front, he said.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "We have now put funding and training guidance in place to ensure staff are able to adapt the whiteboards and other ICT to their teaching, particularly in English and maths."

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