Information and Communication Technology
For generations that are evolving from traditional values and adopting a modern lifestyle, education serves as a critical part of the transition. Contemporary school systems are faced with the task of creating strategies aimed at preparing students to easily adapt to the information era (Bingimlas, 2009). According to Koehler and Mishra (2009), teachers play a leading role in the creation of a favorable environment that incorporates innovative opportunities for students to communicate, learn, develop and apply classroom knowledge in non-educational contexts (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). Firmin and Genesi (2013) stated that most contemporary schools around the globe are adopting diverse teaching and learning programs supported by information technology (IT). Meanwhile, Wong, Li, Choi and Lee (2008) emphasized the benefits of introducing technology at the primary level of schooling, such as building interest in the workings of IT systems and focusing on the learning process.
Recently, an increased number of studies have investigated the opportunities and benefits associated with the adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) in the educational system. In addition to increasing the efficiency of the learning and teaching process, ICT has been found to improve the quality of education, providing an infrastructure that effectively enables the integration of modern communication and computing. ICT can be used as a tool for change and innovation as well as for building knowledge in society (Tezci, 2009). In the education sector, ICT ensures that school systems are redesigned in a manner that will facilitate efficient delivery. This approach involves using computers, mobile devices, the internet and interactive whiteboards to broach the barriers present in the classroom (Al-Ghaith, Sanzogni, & Sandhu, 2010).
Passey (2006) found that ICT makes students more active learners compared to those in the conventional classroom environment where students are passive listeners and observers. Furthermore, Almalki and Williams (2012) highlighted that ICT encourages collaborative and self-reliant learning opportunities as well as problem-solving. Benchmarking from global giants in ICT such as the United States and the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia has tried its best to enhance public education by adopting technologies that power the revision of the country’s curriculum, along with introducing electronic tools into the teaching environment (Almalki & Williams, 2012). In 2015, the Ministry of Finance committed about £36 billion to transform the education sector, with an emphasis on promoting ICT implementation and amenities in learning environments (Albugami & Ahmed, 2015).
Educational technologies have swiftly transformed the teaching and learning environments in developed countries, expanding access to various ICT programs (Al Mulhim, 2014). Meanwhile, developing countries are actively striving to adopt and implement educational technologies in their institutions through social reform and policymaking (Jhurree, 2005). To empower educational support, Saudi Arabia has adopted technologies such as interactive whiteboards, smart table technologies, computer interaction sessions and the projection of course material software (Amoudi & Sulaymani, 2014).
The primary aim of adopting these technologies is to ensure that students are given the opportunity to discuss, interact and share information and new ideas with their teachers and peers and enhance their learning process through the use of digital augmentation (Albugami & Ahmed, 2015). The technology also offers learners the opportunity to explore various digital lessons, search for relevant course solutions and participate in educational games. Most of the technologies adopted in Saudi Arabia’s educational system are multi-user in nature. As a result, students can exercise teamwork through an enjoyable collaborative learning process (Almalki, Finger, & Zagami, 2013). Moreover, the technologies are aimed at enhancing the connections between teachers and learners.
A common type of technology in the school system is the interactive white board (IWB), which acts as an effective instructional tool. With the implementation of technologies (such as IWBs) in the Saudi education system, it is essential to accurately analyze the utilization of this technology, already in use, in the following sections (Amoudi & Sulaymani, 2014).
Interactive White Board (IWB)
IWBs have become a common instructional tool in modern-day classroom environments. They provide advanced technologies that can help to analyze information or to enhance teaching and learning processes (Groff, 2013). IWBs are defined by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (2003) as follows:
An interactive whiteboard is a large, touch-sensitive board which is connected to a digital projector and a computer. The projector displays the images from the computer screen on the board. The computer can then be controlled through touching the board, either directly or with a special pen. (p. 1)
Türel and Johnson (2012) emphasised that IWBs are made up of numerous built-in applications and features specifically designed to improve the quality of classroom interaction and delivery processes in the classroom. For example, this technology offers an opportunity to run video clips, animations and presentations as a way of enhancing learners’ ability to understand the concepts presented. These features make it possible for teachers to demonstrate material, incorporate web-based resources, edit textual works, save notes, display diagrams and effectively share these items with learners on-screen or through the student portal in multi-media formats (Alghamdi, 2015).
Moreover, Farooq and Javid (2012) determined that interactive technologies can facilitate a student’s ability to make sense of curriculum content. For example, in a science class, the teacher can smoothly showcase and explain abstract scientific concepts such as the solar system, the moon and eclipses through the use of animations and real-life video. As a result, learners are given the opportunity to imagine, understand and describe a model based on what they are shown (Farooq & Javid, 2012). Similarly, in English language learning, IWBs can be a significant help in presenting linguistic fundamentals, English vocabulary and phonics in a manner that enhances learners’ understanding (Alsied & Pathan, 2013).
Furthermore, Thomas and Schmid (2010) observed that IWBs feature crucial presentation tools, such as reveal, share, snapshot and spotlight, that provide the class with a chance to collaborate in the learning process. IWBs also offer the teacher the opportunity to record all learning sessions and later share them with the learners for the purpose of review and discussion (Thomas & Schmid, 2010). In case the teacher wants to remodel a diagram or to draw a chart, IWBs provide a space where the teacher can easily write, comment, draw or annotate. All work done on the board can be saved as an electronic file and later used for a repeated class session with other students (De Vita, Verschaffel, & Elen, 2012). In summary, IWBs can increase and maintain a high level of interaction in the classroom by making it possible for both teachers and students to engage in the learning process. Therefore, it is critical to explore the specific benefits of using IWBs in the classroom (Isman, Abanmy, Hussein, & Al Saadany, 2012).
Significance of Using IWBs in Teaching and Learning
In a tech-driven world, educators’ ability to capture learners’ minds remains a major challenge. Alghamdi (2015) suggested that the teaching and learning processes are both complex in nature and require different approaches based on context. Therefore, the adoption of technologies such as IWBs can facilitate structured and creative learning, discussion and high performance in the classroom (Alghamdi, 2015). In the context of IWB functionality, Kershner, Mercer, Warwick and Kleine (2010) revealed that using this technology results in enhanced lessons by integrating different learning styles into a single experience, providing students the opportunity to learn by interacting, hearing and seeing. Thus, it provides teachers with the chance of teaching the same subject material in an innovative manner, improving the quality of content (Kershner et al., 2010).
Alghamdi (2015) found that IWBs allow children to effectively interact with peers as well as with the learning materials. IWBs ensure that students become agents in their own learning. According to Alghamdi (2015), when using IWBs, student learning is based on their interactive drawing, writing and touching the board, while educators can better understand what each individual requires in the process. As a result, learning is made more interactive. Nevertheless, some teachers feel that these interactive classroom affairs would result in information overload for the learners, hence ruining the learning process (Hodge & Anderson, 2007). Additionally, since the board encourages the use of educational games, teachers have the opportunity to measure learners’ decision-making ability as well as their learning progress. Data is also easily customised or modified using specialised pens, making writing, drawing and highlighting content more effective. As a result, efficiency in the output of the course material is assured (Celik, 2012).
Flexibility and Integrated Technology’
As has been shown, IWBs help teachers to smoothly showcase photos, graphs, illustrations, videos and animations with an abundance of options, making it exceedingly easy to create innovative and customised lessons that inspire students based on their needs and abilities (Thomas & Schmid, 2012). As the IWB instructor tools are connected to the internet, the teacher is given the opportunity to enjoy resources from both online and offline sources (Hockly, 2013). For example, teachers can enhance the teaching process by searching for online videos on YouTube and TeacherTube to provide learners with rich resources for learning and research.
IWBs allow easy integration of various technologies that enhance the teaching and learning processes. For example, any device, such as a video camera microscope, computer or gaming tool, can be attached to the board, making the learning process more effective. In exploring these features and benefits, Celik (2012) found that IWBs’ effectiveness in enhancing the teaching process is assured as long as educators have a comprehensive understanding of the possibilities IWBs offer in the primary education setting.
Barriers to Using IWB in Teaching and Learning
According to Farooq and Javid (2012), a lack of sufficient training on the use of different features of e-learning remains a primary barrier to effective adoption of the technology, leading to reluctance on the part of teachers to incorporate this useful tool into their classroom routine. Teachers without knowledge of ICT such as IWBs find it difficult to manage their students and course materials, not being effectively prepared for the information age (Al Mulhim, 2014). Similarly, a lack of appropriate and specific curriculum content directed towards the IWB creates a huge information gap that affects the smooth adoption of the technology by teachers. Also, a reluctance to make time for using the IWB constitutes a significant barrier to its use and appreciation by instructors (Afshari et al., 2012).
Physical factors are also related to the ability to employ ICT resources within an educational environment. For example, issues related to the accessibility of ICT requirements include the necessity that computer labs should be well-designed, making it difficult for some public schools in rural regions to adopt technological advancements. Thus, technical support, internet support and understanding of computer equipment influence the likelihood of IWB adoption (Al Mulhim, 2014). Moreover, Levy (2002) reported several problems that related to the use of IWBs, including connections between different parts of an IWB system, slow access and low reaction from digital pens. Also, due to the cost involved in purchasing IWBs, financial barriers can prevent teachers from having the opportunity to acquire this technology. For example, in most government-funded schools, the lack of budgetary resources for buying whiteboards, along with the supplementary budget needed for training, presents a challenge (Türel & Johnson, 2012).
Cultural barriers touch on the general attitude of the school, the teachers and the community towards such issues as ICT adoption. School culture plays a critical role in determining whether technologies will be adopted. For example, some institutional barriers include the school leadership’s attitude towards technology, the managerial routine and the general school curriculum. Others include school policies, staff training and access to an internet connection and technical support (Shamir-Inbal, Dayan, & Kali, 2009).
Overview of Education in Saudi Arabia
For the government of Saudi Arabia, education has remained a priority since the late 18th century. By 1989, Saudi Arabia had already created approximately14,000 educational institutions, including seven universities, 11 teacher-training colleges, various technical training centres, vocational centres, adult literacy centres and special needs learning institutions (Countrystudies, n.d.). To ensure a smooth transition into the use of ICT at various educational levels, the government has remained at the forefront in funding (Albugami & Ahmed, 2012). Articles by Al Arabiya News (2016) and Feteha (2017) have indicated that education represents the most-funded public services in the KSA.
ICT and IWBs in the Saudi Education Context
Since the millennium, the Ministry of Education of Saudi Arabia has been a driving force behind transforming the education system. For instance, the ministry has worked to create ICT-related educational reforms that require teachers to become IT adopters from primary school to the higher-education level (Oyaid, 2009). In their attempt to achieve this goal, the Ministry of Education provided Learning Resource Centre (LRC) administrators and teachers with training programs aimed at improving their understanding of the IT infrastructure (Alenezi, 2016). The training programs are focused on training teachers how to use IT tools and the current advances in technologies while supplying them with technical and theoretical knowledge regarding how they can implement ICT in their immediate school setting (Alghamdi & Higgins, 2015). However, the teachers’ uptake of these opportunities appears to be slow.
In the context of classroom affairs, ICT comprises a diverse set of technological resources and devices that effectively promote the interaction, creation, control and distribution of data and information between teachers, learning resources and students. These devices include computers, laptops, desktops, projectors, the internet and interactive whiteboards. In ensuring that Saudi Arabia realises its ICT vision for education, the government has maintained the lead in developing projects such as digital technology learning centres and computer labs in the country’s schools (Al-Ghaith et al., 2010). However, Türel and Johnson (2012) revealed that successful implementation of ICT and associated technologies has remained a major challenge for both the government and the learning institutions in developing countries.
Despite the determination of the Ministry of Education to boost ICT adoption in learning environments, the move has faced numerous barriers involving traditional non–technology-based methods of learning and teaching. Tondeur, Keer, Braak and Valcke (2008) found that a major barrier within the education system is a lack of technical know-how to ensure that IT tools are maintained in a working condition. Additionally, teachers’ attitudes towards this revolutionary transformation are sub-optimal. Teachers remain unable to smoothly integrate ICT tools into the classroom (Tondeur et al., 2008). These issues are the foundation for exploring the barriers to this transformative move that has been spearheaded by the Ministry of Education. Furthermore, reviewing these barriers offers a good opportunity to identify the most effective integration strategies that could be adopted to establish primary schools in Hail City, Saudi Arabia as technological leaders. A limited amount of research has been done to uncover these issues.
According to Passey (2006), one of the core issues resulting in ineffective adoption and implementation of ICT in education centres is the lack of evidence-based justification for ICT incorporation in the classroom. Without this justification, educators or teachers remain unconvinced of how ICT works and how its integration would improve the flexibility and efficacy of their teaching process (Passey, 2006). On a related note, Almalki and Williams (2012) emphasised that a lack of a solid understanding of ICT abilities within the education system results in barriers and challenges linked to the implementation of those technologies. Therefore, the question arises as to how the adoption of technology could be streamlined in primary education. Wong et al. (2008) determined that establishing a shared vision between the teachers, educational policy makers and governmental agencies is the only way to facilitate adoption, appreciation and execution of educational technologies.
The dedicated efforts of both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education have not been able to bridge the gaps within the Saudi school system. Whilst some researchers have stated that the lack of an effective strategic approach by the government has resulted in the ineffective adoption of ICT in schools (Oyaid, 2009), others have found that teachers’ attitudes and societal-based barriers are the core issues hindering successful implementation (Bakadam & Asiri, 2012). Therefore, before reviewing these negative drivers, it is important to analyse what has already been done by both the government and the supporting agencies to implement ICT in the education system.
DiGregorio and Sobel-Lojeski (2010) explored how the use of interactive whiteboard technology ensures that learning becomes more explorative, engaging and enjoyable for primary-level learners. However, the adoption of ICT and other educational technologies has not been met with enthusiasm in the KSA. Tezci (2009) claimed that ineffective adoption of technologies is caused by barriers such as a lack of better infrastructure and teacher attitudes towards the integration and implementation of technologies. Thus, comprehensive understanding of the benefits of adopting technology as well as the barriers to its maximal integration and implementation in learning institutions will create a better platform through which existing literature can be reviewed and concerns associated with the implementation of ICT in Hail City can be explored.
Teachers’ Perspectives Towards IWB
Teachers have varying perspectives when it comes to the use of IWB. Those exposed to initial training on ICT programs and the use of instructor tools view the IWB as an effective innovation that promotes pupil integration into the learning process (Shen & Chuang, 2010). Others feel that its flexibility makes it possible for teachers to demonstrate diverse information that causes the learning process to be more enjoyable and innovative; added to that, the quality of ideas and information gained by the students is valuable (Pourciau, 2014). A good number of teachers view the IWB as a tool for transforming traditional instruction into innovative, constructive and interactive teaching methods (Alghamdi, 2015). The opportunities created by IWB make teaching productive compared to traditional approaches. Nevertheless, a proportion of teachers view IWB as an ineffective tool (Celik, 2012).
According to Farooq and Javid (2012), teachers who lack awareness of how ICT tools work view IWBs as ineffective in the classroom environment. Others are concerned about the initial cost of IWB hardware and software for classroom use (Al Mulhim, 2014). Furthermore, the technical problems associated with the functionality and maintenance of IWBs make it difficult for many teachers to appreciate this technology as a reliable instructional tool. Due to the integrative nature of IWB, some teachers argue that it may result in overload for learners, causing confusion and hindering the quality of education (Jang & Tsai, 2012). However, in a review of current studies regarding the use of IWBs’ affordances in math, De Vita et al. (2014) revealed that negative perceptions and attitudes towards IWB can originate from uncertainty and lack of awareness of how the tool can be used and its potential to benefit students.
Teachers Use of IWBs and Their Training Needs
It is important to consider teachers’ use of IWBs and to explore their issues and needs related to the implementation of this technology to successfully exploit the high potential of these promising tools. Teachers believe that the adoption of technologies such as IWBs makes the teaching and learning processes more effective and convenient for both learners and teachers. In reviewing 26 studies conducted in different national and education contexts, researchers found that most teachers assert that IWB technologies increase the efficacy of delivering course materials and increase interaction within the classroom (De Vita et al., 2014). As a result, the learning experience is stabilised, assuring high knowledge distribution and adoption by the students (Alsied & Pathan, 2013).
Nevertheless, Türel and Johnson (2012) discovered that although IWBs present a wide array of features for teachers to use in the classroom, only a few are adequately used. The researchers argued that the reluctance in terms of exploiting these opportunities may be a result of limited knowledge, unseen barriers and attitudes towards IWB technologies (Türel & Johnson, 2012). In response to this issue, Yang and Teng (2014) suggested that teachers should undergo training on use of IWBs to remove barriers and optimise their use. Thus, despite the overall interest displayed by teachers in regard to IWBs, educators continue to face difficulty in employing these technologies within the classroom setting.
Other studies mentioned in this paper also investigated the factor of training as part of the efficient use of IWB technology. An article by Isman et al. (2012) notably provided information specific to the Saudi educational environment. In addition, an article by Türel and Johnson (2012) emphasized the evident need among Saudi teachers for “training about effective instructional strategies using IWB” (p. 381). The aim of this research is to discover whether the same situation identified by the mentioned authors is occurring in Saudi Arabia. In general, training appears to be one of the most important aspects affecting teachers who intend to implement IWBs in their classrooms. Such authors as Alghamdi and Higgins (2015), Jang and Tsai (2012), as well as Albugami and Ahmed (2015), have pointed to a lack of training and experience as the most important factors negatively impacting the efficient implementation of IWBs in Saudi schools.
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