In this chapter, the review of the existing recent literature on the use of information technologies and interactive whiteboards will be discussed with the focus on global tendencies in education and a specific context of Saudi Arabian schools. The key aims of the study are to identify teachers’ attitudes towards using interactive whiteboards and possible barriers associated with the process to provide recommendations on the integration of this tool in primary schools in Hail City, Saudi Arabia. In order to understand what factors influence the integration of information technologies and interactive whiteboards in schools, with the focus on Saudi Arabian primary schools, it is necessary to conduct the review of literature on the topic, the results of which are presented in this chapter.
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Education in Saudi Arabia
As generations evolve from their traditional way of life to adopt modern ways of life, education is a critical part of the transition. Contemporary schooling systems have the task of creating structures and strategies for preparing students to easily adapt to life in the information era (Bingimlas, 2009). According to Koehler and Mishra (2009), teachers have a leading role in the creation of a favorable environment incorporating innovative opportunities for students to communicate, learn, develop, and replicate what they have learned in real life. The study by Firmin and Genesi (2013) revealed that most contemporary schools worldwide are adopting diverse teaching and learning programs supported by information technology (IT). Wong, Li, Choi, and Lee (2008) emphasized the benefits of the introduction of technology at the primary level of schooling. For example, introduction to technology at a young age helps build interest in learning how IT systems work early on.
In relation to classroom needs, DiGregorio and Sobel-Lojeski (2010) explored how the use of interactive whiteboard technology (an example of information and communications technology), or ICT in lecture halls ensure that learning becomes more explorative, engaging, and enjoyable for learners at the primary level. Regardless of these discoveries, the adoption of ICT and other educational technologies has not been met with much enthusiasm in the KSA. Tezci (2009) claimed that ineffective adoption of technologies is caused by unprecedented barriers, such as the lack of better infrastructure and teacher attitudes towards the integration and implementation of technologies into the learning process. A comprehensive understanding of the benefits of adopting technology and the barriers to its maximal integration and implementation in learning institutions will create a better platform from which to review the existing literature and explore the concerns associated with the implementation of ICT in primary schools in Hail City, 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 about 14,000 educational institutions, including seven universities, eleven teacher-training colleges, various technical training centers, vocational centers, adult literacy centers, and special needs learning institutions (Countrystudies, 2018). To ensure a smooth transition to the use of ICT at various education levels, the government has remained at the forefront in funding (Isman, Abanmy, Hussein, & Al Saadany, 2012). For example, while looking at articles by Al Arabiya (2016) and Feteha (2017), it appears that health and education are the most-funded public services in the KSA. For instance, in the fiscal year 2017/2018, education needs were budgeted at 192 billion riyals, a slight drop from 228 billion riyals in the financial year 2015/2016 (Feteha, 2017).
Historically, primary school education formally began in Saudi Arabia in the early 1930s (“Education profile of Saudi Arabia,” 2018). In the year of 1951, King Abdul Aziz set up the first publicly funded secondary school education system. In mid-1954, the Ministry of Education was established to operate the public institutions. The first university (King Saud University) was established in late 1957 (“Education profile of Saudi Arabia,” 2018). Girls were not allowed to benefit from education until the year of 1960. In 1975, the Ministry of Higher Education was developed with the aim of ensuring that better learning systems were created within its purview. Nevertheless, it is critical to note that regardless of the difference between religious education and practical training, Islamic teaching has remained inseparable from public education. Religion creates the principles and moral background whereby policies and strategies are evaluated before implementation (Bakadam & Asiri, 2012). The diagram in Figure 1 summarises the educational system adopted in Saudi Arabia.
Since the turn of the millennium, the Ministry of Education of Saudi Arabia has remained at the forefront of transforming the education system in the region. For instance, from the year of 2000, the ministry has strived to create ICT-related educational reforms that require teachers to become IT, adopters, from the primary school to the higher-education level (Oyaid, 2009). In striving to realize this goal, the Ministry of Education provided the Learning Resource Center (LRC) administrators and teachers with training programs aimed at improving their understanding of IT infrastructure (Alenezi, 2017). The training programs are focused on training teachers on how to utilize IT tools and the current advances in technologies while supplying them with technical and theoretical knowledge on how they can implement ICT in their immediate school setting (Alenezi, 2015; Alghamdi & Higgins, 2015).
Despite the dedication and the determination of the Ministry of Education in boosting ICT adoption in learning environments, the movie has faced numerous barriers involving traditional offline methods of learning and teaching. Tondeur, Keer, Braak, and Valcke (2008) found that the major barrier within the education system is a lack of technical know-how that could ensure that IT tools are maintained in a working condition. In addition, teachers’ attitudes towards this revolutionary transformation are sub-optimal. Teachers lack the motivation to support the adoption of ICT tools in the classroom (Tondeur et al., 2008). These issues are the foundation for exploring the barriers to this progressive and transformative move spearheaded by the Ministry of Education. Furthermore, reviewing these barriers offers a good opportunity to review the most effective integration strategies that could be adopted to establish the primary schools in Hail City, Saudi Arabia as technological leaders.
Information and Communication Technology
In the last few years, there have been increased reports and studies focusing on the opportunities and benefits associated with the adoption of ICT in the education system. Other than improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the learning and teaching processes, ICT has been found to improve the quality of education. According to Tezci (2009), ICT is a technology that makes up the infrastructure and components that effectively enable modern communication and computing integration. Therefore, ICT is a central tool for building and nurturing knowledge in society. In the education sector, ICT ensures that school systems and processes are redesigned in a manner that efficiency in delivery is attained. As mentioned above, the Ministry of Education of Saudi Arabia has taken up ICT as a strategic resource in curriculum planning, teaching, and learning implementation. ICT involves computers, mobile devices, the internet, and interactive whiteboards to bridge the barriers present in classroom teaching and learning processes (Al-Ghaith, Sanzogni, & Sandhu, 2010). Still, some researchers also stated that inappropriate application of ICT can also disrupt the learning process of students (Almalki & Williams, 2012).
Passey (2010) found that ICT makes students more active learners compared to the conventional classroom environment, in which they are passive listeners and observers. Furthermore, Almalki and Williams (2012) highlighted that ICT encourages collaborative learning, flexible learning opportunities, and effective problem-solving skills from learners. Benchmarking from global giants in ICT such as the US and the UK, Saudi Arabia has tried its best to enhance public education by adopting technologies that power the revision of the curriculum and introducing electronic tools into the teaching environment (Tondeur et al., 2008). In the year of 2015, the Ministry of Finance committed about £36 million in transforming the school curriculum while enhancing ICT amenities in learning environments (Albugami & Ahmed, 2015).
Nevertheless, the dedication by both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education has not been able to clear the gaps within the Saudi school system. When reviewing existing research on the topic, Bakadam and Asiri (2012) found that, while some researchers argue that the lack of an effective strategic approach by the government has resulted in the ineffective adoption of ICT in schools, others feel that teachers’ attitudes and societal-based barriers are the core issues hindering successful implementation. Therefore, before reviewing these negative drivers, it is important to analyze what has already been done by both the government and the supporting agencies to implement ICT in the education system.
Notable success Indicators for ICT implementation
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 and resources include computers, laptops, desktops, projectors, the internet, and interactive whiteboards. In ensuring that Saudi Arabia realizes its ICT vision for education, the government has been in the lead in developing projects such as digital technology learning centers, learning resource centers, and computer labs in the country’s schools (Al-Ghaith et al., 2010). However, Turel and Johnson (2012) revealed that the successful implementation of ICT and associated technologies have remained a major challenge for both the government and the learning institutions.
Technology Use in Education
According to Passey (2010), one of the core issues that result in ineffective adoption and implementation of ICT in education centers is the lack of evidence-based justification for ICT incorporation in the classroom. Without this justification, educators or teachers are unconvinced about how ICT works and how its integration would improve the flexibility and efficacy of their teaching processes (Passey, 2010). Therefore, Almalki and Williams (2012) emphasized that a lack of a solid understanding of ICT abilities within the education system results in barriers and challenges linked to the adoption and implementation of those technologies, such as interactive whiteboards, in primary schools in Saudi Arabia. So, how could the adoption of technology be streamlined in primary education?
Wong et al. (2008) determined that establishing a shared vision between the teachers, educational policymakers, and governmental agencies is the only way to facilitate adoption, appreciation, and execution of related educational technologies. Collaborative decision-making and implementation are nurtured by the fact that they come with boosted productivity, supportive learning processes, and enhanced technological literacy (Wong et al., 2008). As far as technological literacy is concerned, it is critical to review the diverse technologies already in use in the Saudi Arabian primary education system and the key performance indicators.
Types of Technologies in Use in Saudi Education System
Educational technologies have swiftly transformed teaching and learning environments in developed countries (Al Mulhim, 2014). Meanwhile, developing countries are actively striving to adopt and implement educational technologies in their institutions, including Saudi Arabia (Gray, 2010). To empower educational support, Saudi Arabia has adopted technologies such as interactive white, smart table technologies, computer interaction sessions, and the projection of course material software (Amoudi & Sulaymani, 2014).
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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. Through smart table technologies, students are given the chance to collaborate, interact, discuss, and enhance their learning processes through the use of digital augmentation (Albugami & Ahmed, 2015). The technology also offers them the opportunity to explore various digital lessons, search for relevant course solutions, and participate in educational games. Most of the technologies adopted in Saudi’s educational system are multi-user in the sense that the design enables numerous students to participate in an interactive discussion at any given time. As a result, the students can enjoy the learning processes while exercising teamwork through a collaborative learning process (Gray, 2010). Moreover, the technologies are aimed at powering the connection between the teachers and the learners. With the wide implementation of technologies in the Saudi education system, it is essential to accurately analyze primary education and the technologies already in use in the following section.
Primary Education and Technology
Primary schools are at the forefront of introducing young learners to the technological world. Technologies have been shown to make the learning process more enjoyable and effective for students at the primary school level (Schmid, 2010). As seen above, the introduction of Smart Tables in Saudi’s primary schools has made it possible for learners to enjoy a collaborative learning environment that boosts their learning capability (Gray, 2010). Additionally, based on the fact that students have varying educational needs, at primary levels technology makes it possible for teachers to customize the learning materials and knowledge generation in such a manner that all the learners’ needs are met. Also, they are capable of making the learning process more creative and engaging for the students (Hockly, 2013). For example, they make it possible for teachers to involve both theoretical and virtual learning elements, making the learning process more encouraging and enjoyable for the learners (De Vita, Verschaffel, & Elen, 2014).
Another common type of technology in the primary school system is the interactive whiteboard (IWB), which acts as an effective instructional tool in the primary school classroom. According to De Vita et al. (2014), 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. Depending on the review of 26 studies conducted in different national and educational contexts, the researchers found that most teachers argue that IWB technologies increase the efficacy of delivering course materials and increase interaction within the classroom. As a result, the learning experience is stabilized and high knowledge distribution and adoption by the students is assured (Alsied & Pathan, 2013).
Nevertheless, Türel and Johnson (2012) discovered that although IWBs present a wide array of features for teachers to utilize in the classroom, only a few of them are adequately utilized. They argued that the reluctance in exploiting these opportunities may be a result of limited knowledge, unseen barriers, and teacher attitudes toward IWB technologies (Türel & Johnson, 2012). Yang and Teng (2014) suggested that teachers should undergo training on the use of IWBs to remove barriers and optimize their use and in primary education (Yang & Teng, 2014). From this point, the reviewed literature indicates that, despite the overall interest of teachers in using IWBs, they still face some barriers to doing that. More research is required to understand how additional training or other techniques can contribute to the wider adoption of ICT in class settings.
Interactive White Board (IWB)
According to Alsied and Pathan (2013), IWBs have become a common instructional tool in modern-day classroom environments. They provide high-tech technologies that can help analyze information to enhance teaching and learning processes (Alsied & Pathan, 2013). IWBs are defined by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency as follows: “An interactive whiteboard is a large, touch-sensitive board which is connected to a digital projector and a computer” (BECTA, 2003, p. 1). Moreover, “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” (BECTA, 2003, p. 1).
Türel and Johnson (2012) emphasized that IWBs are made up of numerous built-in applications and features that are specifically designed to improve the quality of classroom interaction, and delivery processes in the classroom. For instance, it offers the teacher an opportunity to run video clips, animations, and presentations as a way of enhancing learners’ ability to understand the concepts. With these features, it is possible for teachers to demonstrate issues, incorporate web-based resources, edit textual works, save notes, display diagrams, and effectively share notes with learners on-screen or through the student’s portal (Alghamdi, 2015).
Moreover, Farooq and Javid (2012) determined that IWBs can facilitate a meaningful and engaging learning process making full use of the 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 very significant in presenting linguistic fundamentals, English vocabulary, and phonics in a manner that enhances learners’ understanding (Isman et al., 2012).
Furthermore, Thomas and Schmid (2010) observed that IWBs also have 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 of recording all learning sessions and later sharing them with the learners for purposes of review and discussion (Thomas & Schmid, 2010). In case the teacher wants to remodel a diagram or wants to draw a chart, IWBs provides the space where the teacher can easily write, comment, draw, or annotate. All work done on the board can then be saved as an electronic file and later utilized for a repeated class session with other students (Celik, 2012). The board software is designed with the ability to link up with the school’s library. This means that teachers can easily search the library and showcase images, videos, or journals for course reading purposes.
This review has shown that 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. However, if the use of IWBs is excessive, this aspect can lead to decreasing the effectiveness of the tool (Alghamdi, 2015). Therefore, it is critical to explore the specific details and benefits of using IWBs in the classroom (Isman et al., 2012).
Significance of Using IWBs in Teaching and Learning
In the tech-driven world, educators’ ability to capture learners’ hearts and minds remains a major challenge. Alghamdi (2015) suggests that the teaching and learning process is both a science and an art. Therefore, through the adoption of technologies such as IWBs, exceptional classroom results are assured (Alghamdi, 2015). In the context of IWB functionality, Kershner, Mercer, Warwick, and Kleine (2010) revealed that it results in enhanced lessons. IWBs integrate different learning styles into a single experience. This means that learners are offered the opportunity to learn by interacting, hearing, and seeing. In so doing, it provides teachers with the chance of teaching the same subject material in an innovative manner, improving the quality of the 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 each learner becomes part of the lesson and has the ability to teach fellow students based on their level of understanding. According to Alghamdi (2015), while using interactive whiteboards, student understanding is based on their interactive drawing, writing, and touching the board. As a result, learning is made more interactive and collaborative. Nevertheless, some teachers feel that these interactive classroom affairs would result in information overload for learners hence ruining the learning process (Celik, 2012). 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. In addition, data is easily customized or modified using specialized 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 in the Classroom
As seen above, with IWBs, teachers can display different types of media on-screen with ease. For example, they can smoothly showcase photos, graphs, illustrations, videos, and animations with a diversity and abundance of options. Through these options, it becomes exceedingly easy to create innovative and customized lessons that inspire students based on their needs and abilities (Celik, 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 processes by searching for online videos on YouTube and Teachertube to provide learners with rich resources for learning and research.
IWBs allow the 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. With all these features and benefits, 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 (Celik, 2012).
Use of IWBs in the Primary Education Setting
Growth in the use of IWBs in primary education is part of the initiative of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Finance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to develop the transformative exploitation of ICT in education (Ministry of Finance, 2018). Alghamdi (2015) found that IWBs present divergent opportunities and challenges to instructors and teachers. For example, teachers without ICT skills tend to adopt a negative attitude towards IWB use in the classroom as they consider it hard to apply (Alghamdi, 2015). Additionally, teachers without formal training on IWB usage tend to find it hard to benefit from IWB features in a collaborative and innovative manner in a classroom environment (Al Mulhim, 2014). These challenges constitute the core reasons why most schools in Saudi Arabia are yet to enjoy a smooth transition to the use of technologies such as IWBs in their classroom environments (Shen & Chuang, 2010).
Teachers’ Perspectives towards IWB
Teachers have varying perspectives when it comes to using IWB. Teachers 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 makes the learning processes more enjoyable and innovative; the quality of ideas and information gained by the students is valuable (Hockly, 2013). A good number of teachers view the IWB as a catalyst tool for transforming traditional instruction into innovative, constructive, and interactive teaching methods (Al Mulhim, 2014). The opportunities created by IWB make teaching enjoyable and productive compared with the traditional approaches. Nevertheless, there are those teachers who view IWB as an ineffective tool (Celik, 2012).
According to Farooq and Javid (2012), those of teachers who do not have any idea of how ICT tools work view IWBs as ineffective in the classroom environment. Others are concerned about the initial cost of setting up an IWB for classroom use (Al Mulhim, 2014). Furthermore, technical problems associated with the functionality and maintenance of IWBs make it difficult for many teachers to appreciate it as an excellent 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 (Farooq & Javid, 2012). Nevertheless, referring to the review of current studies, De Vita et al. (2014) revealed that negative perceptions and attitudes towards IWB can originate from uncertainty and unawareness of how the tool works and the benefits it can have.
Barriers to using IWB in teaching and learning
According to Farooq and Javid (2012), a lack of sufficient training and know-how on the use and exploitation of different features of IWBs remains a primary barrier to the effective adoption of the technology by teachers. Teachers without knowledge of IWBs find it difficult to manage their students and course materials using the technology (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 transition and 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 (Farooq & Javid, 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 (there are requirements that computer labs should be well designed which make it difficult for some public schools in the rural regions to adopt technological advancement), technical support, internet support, and understanding of computer equipment influence the likelihood of IWB adoption (Al Mulhim, 2014). Also, due to the cost involved in purchasing IWBs, financial barriers can also prevent teachers from getting the opportunity to acquire them. For example, in most government-funded schools, the lack of budget for buying whiteboards for schools and the supplementary budget for training presents a challenge (Shen & Chuang, 2010). Thinking critically, the barriers to using IWBs and the subsequent negative attitudes toward IWBs seem to originate from a lack of training and support for teachers on how to utilize the technology. Barriers are experienced because teachers do not have the knowledge on how to integrate the technology into their regular teaching approaches (Al Mulhim, 2014). Therefore, Alsied and Pathan (2013) argue that all barriers and negative attitudes of teachers towards IWB would be neutralized by initiating a well-planned training program, integrating classroom practice, and including IWB into the curriculum.
Cultural barriers touch on the general attitude of the school, the teachers, and the community as far as ICT adoption is concerned. According to Alghamdi (2015), school culture plays a critical role in determining whether technologies will be adopted or not. For example, some institutional barriers include the school leadership’s attitude towards technology, the managerial routine, and the general school curriculum. Others include the school time-tabling policies, staff training, and school internet connection (Alghamdi, 2015).
Use of IWBs in Saudi Arabian Schools
Alghamdi (2015) confirmed that smartboards and IWBs are already widely used in Saudi Arabian schools. They have made it possible for schools to transition from the traditional way of delivering course material to adopting modern and innovative teaching approaches. For example, IWBs have played a leading role in promoting English learning in the region (Alghamdi, 2015). Both students and teachers view IWBs as an effective way of facilitating quality education in the country. As in any other country, IWB utilization in Saudi Arabia has improved student’s performance by guaranteeing the quality of information and content fed to students (Alghamdi, 2015). However, it is important to note that the creativity and skills of teachers are a primary determinant of how effective IWBs contribute to the learning process. Regardless of the fact that adoption and utilization of IWBs are not complete in Saudi Arabia, a good number of schools are utilizing them (Al Mulhim, 2014).
This section has provided the researcher with the foundation to collect primary data to understand the issues directly or indirectly affecting the extensive implementation and utilization of IWBs in primary education in Hail City, Saudi Arabia. The review of the literature has helped to identify the following important themes associated with the topic under discussion: specifics of the education system in Saudi Arabia, the adoption and use of information technologies in school settings, and the focus on primary schools. In addition, the following themes have also been explored: the use of IWBs, the significance of using ICT and IWBs with reference to promoting interactive and enhanced learning and flexibility, teachers’ attitudes to using IWBs, and possible barriers.
However, in spite of the fact that many studies were focused on examining the application of ICT in schools in Saudi Arabia and worldwide, there are still questions that require answers with reference to the topic of using IWBs in primary schools. Thus, it is unclear what particular attitudes teachers in Saudi Arabia have regarding the implementation of ICT, what barriers they typically face while adopting IWBs, and what factors are associated with the process. In spite of the fact that general trends regarding the implementation of ICT at school are widely discussed in the literature, little research is devoted to the situation in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the gaps in research are directly associated with the national context and with the specifics of teaching in a primary school. The following research question has been formulated as a result of analyzing the gaps in research and determining the perspective for this study: What are the barriers to and attitudes of teachers that affect the integration of interactive whiteboards in primary schools in Hail City, Saudi Arabia?
Several sub-questions have been proposed to analyze the topic in detail:
- How do Saudi teachers use IWBs in primary schools in Hail City?
- What is the usefulness of IWBs as guiding tools for teachers and their pupils?
- What are the primary school teachers’ attitudes towards using the IWBs in the classroom?
- Does the gender of teachers affect their attitudes towards the use of IWBs?
- How were teachers trained to use IWBs and which training topic they need to be more effective to users of IWBs?
- What are the barriers preventing the implementation of IWBs in primary schools in Hail City, Saudi Arabia?
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