Smartboards are becoming universal in modern classrooms, much to the curmudgeon’s dismay, and an important research project has taken a look at whether or not the high-tech teaching tool actually helps.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide sought to answer the question; “does smartboard technology in high schools lead to a positive impact on students' learning?”

The answer is yes, according to researcher Dr Amrit Pal Kaur.

Dr Kaur investigated the adoption and impact of interactive whiteboard use on student learning, in a study involving 12 South Australian public and independent secondary schools, with 269 students and 30 teachers participating.

“Surprisingly, despite costing many thousands of dollars per unit, schools have been purchasing interactive whiteboards without really knowing how they would impact on students' learning,” she said.

“To date, there has been a serious lack of evidence at the secondary level, especially in the Australian educational context.

“Smartboards are still relatively new in high schools, having been gradually introduced over the past 7-8 years. Even today, there are not that many secondary schools or teachers using this technology.”

Much of the uptake of the technology appears to have depended on whether or not individual teachers are interested in it.

“Some teachers have spent a lot of time exploring the possibilities of what this technology can do, while others – even though they have the support of their schools – simply don't feel they have enough time to do so.”

Interactive whiteboards enable students to control objects on the screen through touch, and they can be linked to classroom computers and tablet devices.

“Using an interactive whiteboard, a teacher can open up all resources needed for a particular topic on the screen, and they can incorporate their lesson plans into the smartboard's software. There are many teaching resources available, including a 3D frog that can be dissected on the screen,” Dr Kaur said.

“At one school, all students in a class had tablets that were connected directly to the interactive whiteboard, and they could sit at their desks and do activities on the board."

Dr Kaur's research has found that interactive whiteboards have an overall positive impact on the quality of students' learning.

“When used correctly, this technology can lead to an enhanced interactive classroom environment. There is clear evidence that when used in this way by both teachers and students, students are more likely to adopt a deeper approach to their learning.

“As a result, the quality of the students' learning outcomes improves.

“Factors influencing the quality of students' outcomes include the attitudes of both students and staff towards the technology, the level of classroom interactions, and even the age of the teacher,” Dr Kaur said.