Interactive Whiteboards in Guided Inquiry-Based Learning

The proposed literature review aims to focus on the use of interactive whiteboards in guided inquiry-based learning in early childhood education. It is reported in the researches on the topic (e.g., Ju-Ling, Chien-Wen & Gwo-Jen, 2010; Spronken-Smith, Walker, Batchelor, O’Steen & Angelo, 2011) that there are different modes of inquiry-based learning depending on the level of scaffolding, but this review will focus on guided inquiry, whereby instructors provide an appropriate level of scaffolding and guidance during learning activities (Trundle and Saqkes, 2012). In the guided inquiry, instructors provide questions to arouse inquiry but learners are self-directed in terms of exploring or investigating these questions (Spronken-Smith et al, 2011).

The justification for reviewing the guided inquiry-based learning as opposed to other modes, such as structured inquiry (instructors provide an issue or problem and an outline for addressing it) and open inquiry (students formulate the questions themselves as well as going through the full inquiry cycle) (Spronken-Smith et al, 2011), rests on the premise that self-directed learning not only enhances the children’s collaboration skills but also promotes their conceptual understanding, motivation and reflective thinking (Trundle & Saqkes, 2012). Shenton and Pagett (2007) define an interactive whiteboard as “…a touch-sensitive screen that work in conjunction with a computer and a projector” (p. 129).

In their turn, Jones, Kervin, and McIntosh (2011) note that interactive white boards have numerous learning functionalities, which include: capacity to split screens for comparing texts; choice of more various texts; diagrams and scientific illustrations; tools for drawing visual attention to print, including enlargement with the magnifier, and; modification and experimentation with text, diagrams, and illustrations, including removing and substituting alternative words and diagrams, and the use of hypertext. Spronken-Smith et al (2011) define inquiry-based learning as “…an umbrella term that encompasses a range of teaching approaches in which learning is stimulated by a question or issue, learning is based on constructing new knowledge and understanding, the teacher’s role is one of a facilitator, and there is a move towards self-directed learning” (p. 15).

In context, the proposed literature review will focus on school-going children between the age of five and eight years, also known as lower graders. The justification behind selecting this age group is based on the fact that the early years of children’s life are critically essential not only for their physical and social-emotional development but also for their cognitive progression and language proficiency (Ellis, Marcus & Taylor, 2005). This particular review will hence be limited to children in school settings. The review will also be limited to the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) due to the existing paucity of literature regarding the use of guided inquiry-based learning in early childhood settings in other countries (McPherson, 2009).

Research Questions This Review Answers

How has the use of interactive whiteboards contributed towards children’s learning and development processes, with specific reference to guided inquiry-based learning?

The review of contributions will include:

  1. Development of dispositions to learning through self-directed inquiry and exploration (Ju-Ling et al, 2010).
  2. Development of cognitive and metacognitive learning processes, and facilitation of resource utilization (Ellis et al, 2005; Wang, Kinzie, McGuire, & Pan, 2010).
  3. Enrichment and provision of structure for problem contexts (Kanuka, 2006).
  4. Physical and social-emotional development and language proficiency (Ellis et al, 2005).
  5. Acquirement of operational skills (McPherson, 2009).

What is the present landscape of the use of interactive whiteboards for inquiry-based learning in early childhood educational settings, both in the UK and the US?

The review of the current landscape regarding the use of interactive whiteboards for inquiry-based learning in early childhood education will include:

  1. Current trends in the adoption of technology for inquiry-based learning in the UK (Marsh et al, 2005; Rapp, 2005).
  2. Current trends in the adoption of technology for inquiry-based learning in the US (Conole et al, 2010; Wang et al, 2010).
  3. Comparisons across geographical contexts in terms of usage and student learning outcomes (Chung & Walsh, 2006; McPherson, 2009; Ray & Smith, 2010).
  4. Anticipated future trends (Lau, Higgins, Gelfer, & Miller, 2005).

It is important to note that the type of technology reviewed will be limited to the adoption of interactive whiteboards in early childhood education settings.

What are the enablers and constraints to the use of interactive whiteboards for inquiry-based learning in early childhood education?

The review of enablers will include:

  1. Teacher attributes, namely:
    1. Exhibition of a student-centred teaching philosophy (Malone, 2008b);
    2. Exhibition of adequate knowledge and comfortableness in the use of interactive white boards (Levin & Wadmany, 2006);
    3. Exhibition of passion and commitment towards striving for higher order student learning outcomes (Kanuka, 2006);
    4. Exhibition of individual capacity to develop an excellent rapport with children (Malone, 2008a), and;
    5. Formal training in the use of interactive white boards and other technologies (Jones et al, 2011; Mouza, 2005).
  2. Student attributes, namely:
    1. Capacity to brainstorm ideas (Malone, 2008a);
    2. Capacity to demonstrate active engagement and self-directed predisposition to the learning process (Ju-Ling et al, 2010; Preston & Mowbray, 2010), and;
    3. Capacity to demonstrate constructive alignment in the use of interactive white boards to facilitate learning outcomes (Keengwe & Onchwari, 2009; Spronken-Smith et al, 2011).
  3. Technology design attributes, namely:
    1. Capacity to have a wide-range of electronic learning materials (Jones et al, 2011);
    2. Interactivity, which actively mediate, expand and encourage children in the learning process (Ju-Ling et al, 2006; McPherson, 2009), and;
    3. Capacity to connect to other users, either locally or globally, to share learning experiences (Kanuka, 2006).

The review of constraints will include:

  1. Costs of hardware and software for the effective inquiry-based learning process.
  2. Lack of adequate training on the use of interactive white boards (Jones et al, 2011; Kanuka 2006).
  3. Social-cultural barriers affecting students engagement with technology (Bell, Urhaline, Schanze and Ploetzner, 2010).
  4. Lack of philosophical insight into the use of technology for inquiry-based learning approaches (Spronken-Smith et al, 2011).
  5. Lack of literature and current research on how information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as interactive white boards, can be effectively adopted as useful learning tools for young children (Terreni, 2010).


Overall, there is compelling evidence that technology can be applied to inquiry-based learning in early childhood because it facilitates inquiry learning that could not be otherwise attained by reducing some of the superfluous and lower-level procedures involved in learning activities. Moreover, it also facilitates learner supports during the inquiry learning process, thereby enhancing higher-order thinking and metacognitive capabilities that are fundamental to meaningful learning (Ellis et al, 2005; Wang et al 2010). These and other mentioned deliverables of the application of technology (interactive whiteboards) to inquiry-based learning can trigger an insatiable appetite to explore further the literature related to this topic with the aim of answering the research questions outlined above.

Reference List

Bell, T., Urhaline, D., Schanze, S., & Ploetzner, R. (2010). Collaborative inquiry learning: Models, tools, and challenges. International Journal of Science Education, 32(3), 349-377. Web.

Chung, Y., & Walsh, D.J. (2006). Constructing a joint story-writing space: The dynamics of young children’s collaboration at computers. Early Education and Development, 17(3), pp. 373-420.

Conole, G., Scanlon, E., Littleton, K., Kerawalla, L., & Mulholland, P. (2010). Personal inquiry: Innovations in participatory design and models for inquiry learning. Educational Media International, 47(4), 277-292. Web.

Ellis, R.A., Marcus, G., & Taylor, R. (2005). Learning through inquiry: Student difficulties with online course-based material. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 21(4), 239-252. Web.

Jones, P., Kervin, L., & McIntosh, S. (2011). The interactive whiteboard: Tool and/or agent of semiotic mediation. Australian Journal of Language & Literacy, 34(1), 38-60. Web.

Ju-Ling, S., Chien-Wen, C., & Gwo-Jen, H. (2010). An inquiry-based mobile learning approach to enhancing social science learning effectiveness. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 13(4), 50-62. Web.

Kanuka, H. (2006). Inquiry-based learning with the Net: opportunities and challenges. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 107, 57-65. Web.

Keengwe, J., & Onchwari, G. (2009). Technology and early childhood education: A Technology integration professional development model for practicing teachers. Early Childhood Education Journal, 11(6), 513-528. Web.

Lau, C., Higgins, K., Gelfer, H.E., & Miller, S. (2005). The effects of teacher facilitation on the social interactions of young children during computer activities. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 25(4), 208-217. Web.

Levin, T., & Wadmany, R. (2006). Teachers’ beliefs and practices in technology-based classrooms: A developmental view. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 39(2), 157-181. Web.

Malone, D.M. (2008a). The efficacy of personal learning plans in early childhood teacher preparation. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(1), 47-56. Web.

Malone, D.M. (2008b). Inquiry-based early childhood teacher preparation: The personal learning plan method. Early Childhood Education Journal, 35(6), 531-542. Web.

Marsh, J., Brooks, G., Hughes, J., Ritchie, L., Roberts, S., & Wright, K. (2005). Digital beginnings: Young children’s use of popular culture, media and new technologies. Sheffield: University of Sheffield Press.

McPherson, S. (2009). A dance with the butterflies: A metamorphosis of teaching and learning through technology. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(3), 229-236. Web.

Mouza, C. (2005). Using technology to enhance early childhood learning: The 100 days of school project. Educational Research & Evaluation, 11(6), 513-528. Web.

Preston, C., & Mowbray, L. (2008). Use of SMART boards for teaching, learning and assessment in Kindergarten science. The Journal of the Australian Science Teachers Association, 54(2), 50-53. Web.

Rapp, W.H. (2005). Inquiry-based environments for the inclusion of students with exceptional learning needs. Remedial & Special Education, 26(5), 297-310. Web.

Ray, K., & Smith, M. (2010). The Kindergarten child: what teachers and administrators need to know to promote academic success in all children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38(1), 5-18. Web.

Shenton, A., & Pagett, L. (2007). From ‘bored’ to screen: The use of the interactive whiteboard for literacy in six primary classrooms in England. Literacy, 41(3), 129-136. Web.

Spronken-Smith, R., Walker, R., Batchelor, J., O’Steen, B., & Angelo, T. (2011). Enablers and constraints to the use of inquiry-based learning in undergraduate education. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(1), 15-28. Web.

Terreni, L. (2010). Adding new possibilities for visual art education in early childhood settings: the potential of interactive whiteboards and ICT. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 35(4), 90-94. Web.

Trundle, K.C., & Saqkes, M. (2012). Science in early education. In R.C. Pianta, W.S. Barnett, L.M. Justice & S.M. Sheridan (Eds.), Handbook of early childhood education (pp. 240-258). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Wang, F., Kinzie, M.B., McGuire, P., & Pan, E. (2010). Applying technology to inquiry-based learning in early childhood. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(5), 381-389. Web.