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The Use of Interactive Whiteboards in Guided Inquiry-Based Learning in Early Childhood Education Research Paper


Abstract

For the past 20 years technology has been increasingly applied in learning and teaching in schools (Glover & Miller, 2001; McPherson, 2009). During this period, it has gained much prominence as a result of rapid globalization and a move towards technology enabled society. Interactive whiteboard is one of the many technological and software developments which has recently made available as a result of this development.

They are widely used as a learning tool in primary, secondary and institutions of higher learning (Glover & Miller, 2001; Solvie, 2001; Somekh, 2007). Though interactive whiteboards are still a new technology to many stakeholders in the education sector, users of the technology have termed it as a practical approach which learners and teachers effectively use to support learning in schools (Higgins, Beauchamp, & Miller, 2007; Ray & Smith, 2010).

The introduction of interactive whiteboards in early childhood education has changed the way in which a learner and a teacher interact providing a platform for effective learning process. The aim of this literature review is to explore the use of interactive white- boards in guided inquiry-based learning in early childhood education.

The literature review will explore the contribution of interactive whiteboards towards inquiry-based earning in early childhood education as well as investigate the present landscape of interactive whiteboards in the United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US.).The elements associated with inquiry based learning are suited to support educators in reaching out to a modern learner (Turel, 2010).

Through them, a student builds the habits of mind that prepares him/her to compete with others. Hence, the use of technology to support inquiry based learning gives a student a process he/she needs to shift to inquiring mind with command to originality, actively and intelligently solve a problem.

Introduction

The literature review focuses on the use of interactive white- boards in guided inquiry-based learning in early childhood education. The effects of interactive whiteboards in classroom settings have recently been investigated in a number of studies in the UK and US (Baran, 2010; Bell, 2002; Brown, 2003; Glover & Miller, 2001; Glover, Miller, Averis, Door, 2007; Johnson & Turel, 2012; Turel & Demirli, 2010).

The purpose of the literature review is to provide an overview of selected and current scholarship on this topic and to locate the current research study in the continuum of scholarship with regard to this topic. 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 a child’s life is critically essential not only for their physical and social-emotional development, but also for their cognitive progression and language proficiency (Ellis, Marcus & Taylor, 2005; Schweder, Wissick & Mounce, 2008).

Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive white- boards have increasingly formed part of the learning process in modern learning environments (Bell, 2002; Brown, 2003; Solvie, 2001). They provide a balanced learning process for a child during early years and reinforce the learning experience through engaging the child. Interactive whiteboard have been instrumental in supporting a child through learning processes through activities such as; interaction, play, manipulation, exploration with “real” resources and experimental scenarios (Higgins et al., 2007).

An interactive whiteboard encompasses a touch sensitive screen that works with a projector connected to a computer system. The user of interactive white board can either check the computer system with a finger, a pencil or a mouse (Morgan, 2010). The boards are fixed on a wall. Besides, the interactive white-boards’ are popular in classrooms across all levels of educations hence replacing the classical whiteboards and flip charts (McCrummen, 2010; Terreni, 2010).

In the UK, interactive whiteboards have increased in popularity (Baran, 2010). This is because the government provides significant funding to support the implementation of interactive whiteboards at the primary and secondary school levels (Higgins et al., 2007; Morgan, 2010). Interactive whiteboards have been hailed as a functional tool from a pedagogical standpoint (Higgins et al., 2007; Hsu, 2010).

For young children and lower graders especially, interactive whiteboards have demonstrated qualities that facilitate the development of number of relevant functions for the classroom (Higgins et al., 2007; Morgan, 2010). One function is enhancing interactivity. In this context, interactive whiteboard facilitate active learning rather than passive reception of information (Morgan, 2010). Moreover, other key educational values that interactive whiteboards support is collaborative group working.

The interactive whiteboards enhance collaborative group working because of its size and accessibility. Hence, young children and individuals with a visual or physical impairment find it convenient in using it (Morgan, 2010). In addition, interactive whiteboards improve storage of information for re-use and further analysis and “recordability” (Morgan, 2010, p. 96).

Interactive whiteboards are widely viewed as one of the most innovative instructional technologies suitable for a number of educational levels and purposes (Baran, 2010; Bell, 2002; Brown, 2003; Glover & Miller, 2001; Glover et al., 2007; Johnson & Turel, 2012; Turel & Demirli, 2010). Additionally, interactive whiteboards provide teachers with expanded teaching strategies and options for problem-based kindergarten through grade eight learning.

This technology was designed to facilitate more effective teaching through the use of interactive whiteboards, with the goal of integrating technology into the teaching curriculum and applying a number of learning styles at the same time, including visual learning, auditory learning and kinesthetic learning (Levy, 2002).

Since its inception in the early part of this century, a number of researchers have investigated the use of the interactive whiteboard in the classroom setting, and the various uses for this technology in education continues to grow as more schools and educational institutions adopt the technology (Baran, 2010; Bell, 2002; Brown, 2003; Glover & Miller, 2001; Glover et al., 2007; Johnson & Turel, 2012; Turel & Demirli, 2010).

Effective and expanded teaching and educational instruction appears to go hand in hand with the technology, according to a number of studies (Baran, 2010; Bell, 2002; Brown, 2003; Glover & Miller, 2001; Glover et al., 2007; Johnson & Turel, 2012; Turel & Demirli, 2010).

In addition, the multiple features of the interactive whiteboards support classroom instruction in a number of ways, and educators have the opportunity to implement a wide range teaching strategies and techniques into practice using interactive whiteboards. Interactive whiteboards allow educators to specialise and tailor their curriculum to the individual needs of students.

Besides, they encourage innovation, capture and share a child’s learning ‘moment’ and promote early childhood learning (Baran, 2010; Bell, 2002; Brown, 2003; Glover & Miller, 2001; Glover et al., 2007; Johnson & Turel, 2012; Turel & Demirli, 2010). The particular context in which students learn can also be enhanced by the interactive whiteboard technology and by “considering the characteristics of the learning context, including students’ needs and interests, and technical facilities” (Johnson & Turel, 2012, p. 381).

Enhanced learning may also be a result of the combination of the interactive whiteboard technology with accompanying teaching strategies that take full advantage of the capabilities of the technology (Baran, 2010; Bell, 2002; Brown, 2003; Glover & Miller, 2001; Glover et al., 2007; Johnson & Turel, 2012; Turel & Demirli, 2010).

Young children may benefit from the interactive whiteboard in a number of different subjects, including science and languages, and the technology may also facilitate the development of communication and collaboration skills (Kuehn, 2010; Simons, Kushner, Jones & James, 2003).

However, a number of researchers caution that an all or nothing finding in regard to the use of interactive whiteboards in guided inquiry learning, particularly among young children and lowers graders, may not be available, due to the sheer number of variables that affect this area of study (Higgins et al., 2007; Kuehn, 2010; Ray & Smith, 2010).

A number of studies included in this literature review, for example, underscore the need for educational researchers to “look at the complex interrelated systems of social interaction, communication, and cognition in classroom learning, as orchestrated by the teacher” (Kuehn, 2010. p. 381; Simons et al; 2003). The study of the impact of any technology on the learning environment must take into consideration the larger contextual framework (Ju-Ling, Chien-Wen, & Gwo-Jen, 2010).

Interactive whiteboard technology offers one way to integrate information and communications technology into the classroom environment and the use of interactive whiteboards are becoming more and more prevalent in both the primary and secondary educational institutions in the UK (Levy, 2002).

Levy (2002) asserts that in addition to its other benefits, the interactive whiteboard “enables enhanced presentation of content, allows students to absorb information more easily and to participate in classroom discussions by freeing them from copious note taking” (p. 4). This function of the interactive whiteboard saves teachers valuable preparation time (Levy, 2002, p. 4).

Levy (2002) also notes that due to the fact that the interactive whiteboard encourages “front-of-class delivery” the interactive whiteboard may give confidence to teachers less inclined to integrate technology in their classrooms to adopt information and communications technology in their instructional environments (Levy, 2002, p. 3).

However, since there has not been extensive research devoted to the impact of information and communications technology, specifically interactive whiteboard technology, on instructional styles and learning outcomes amongst lower graders (Kuehn, 2010; Levy, 2002; Simons et al., 2003).

In addition, little research exists that investigates the impact of information and communications technology, specifically interactive whiteboard technology, on teaching staff and on learning and developmental problems that may be solved via the adoption of interactive whiteboard technology for lower graders (Kuehn, 2010; Levy, 2002; Morgan, 2010)

Conceptual Framework

Socio-cultural theory provides the conceptual framework for this research.

Socio-cultural theory pertains directly to the current study because it acknowledges the cultural assumptions, values and beliefs that are instrumental in the development of the education system (Edwards, Hartnell & Martin, 2002). Where the early childhood education system is concerned, socio-cultural theory will help the research contextualise some of the culturally determined assumptions that have led to increased adoption of the interactive whiteboard technology (Edwards, 2003; Cooper, 2003).

Bell et al (2010) note that the social interaction that occurs between a teacher students and their peers as well as other results in experiences teach lessons either intentionally or not.

Hence, these interactions in a social context have a significant effect on belief systems in relation to the students and the world around them. Students gain positive skills and knowledge when social and emotional aspects of social and cultural theory are incorporated in learning such positive aspects include compassions for others, communication skills and empathy.

Interactive white- boards and child’s learning and development processes: guided inquiry-based learning

Grabe and Grabe (2000) have categorised guided inquiry based learning as a form of teaching that functions simultaneously as both a philosophical approach to teaching and a formal methodology by which to encourage learning and retention in students. In inquiry based learning, the students choose a topic of research that is of interest to them as individuals (Grabe & Grabe, 2000; Wang, Kinzie, McGuire, & Pan, 2010).

They then ponder the topic and put together a series of questions that concern the topic – often this resembles a list of issues the students would like to know about the topic (Ellis et al., 2005; Wang et al. 2010). The next stage is to assemble information and categorise it (Ellis et al., 2005; Wang et al. 2010).

Students then integrate the information and decide what they want to accomplish with it. That is, how the information gleaned gets put into use often marks the most difficult phase of any guided inquiry based learning project (Ellis et al., 2005; Wang et al. 2010).

However, this phase of guided inquiry based learning is the most important aspect of the method, because it is this phase that marks the distinction between inquiry based projects and the standard, traditional research projects found in most school curriculums (Hester, Owens & Teale, 2002; Solvie, 2001).

Inquiry itself – because it emanates from authentic interest within the individual student and not from an imposed and often arbitrary curriculum – provides greater incentive for reading, writing and learning as well as the thirst for reading and writing instruction and learning and advancement (Grabe & Grabe, 2000; Hester et al., 2002).

Placing literacy, learning and instruction activities in the framework of things that have a significant effect on students themselves and encourages them to seek answers to their own personal questions improves the likelihood of educational success (Grabe & Grabe, 2000; Hester et al., 2002). This suggests that students are able to explore their personal inquiry using the interactive whiteboards as opposed to having to consult outside authority. This, ultimately, has a positive contribution towards a child’s learning and development processes.

Not surprisingly then, the most effective inquiry based learning ventures grow out of topics that are of genuine interest to the children. Inquiry based learning is also distinct from thematic teaching (Short, Harste & Burke, 1996).

Certainly, the thematic foundations of guided inquiry based learning topics can come from or relate to the themes that the educator is working on with his or her class, but as Hester et al. (2002) note, if the educator chooses to link the inquiry learning modules to existing thematic teaching modules, “it is imperative that students have a choice of topics about which they truly wonder and care” (p. 617).

In essence, the concentration on inquiry enhances student involvement (Grabe & Grabe, 2000; Hester et al., 2002; Short et al., 1996). Thus, guided inquiry based learning facilitates ownership of the educational experience and self-directed learning especially among the early school learners since it enhances visual art learning experiences in the early learners (Higgins et al., 2007; Morgan, 2010).

There is a very strong link between children’s interest and technology owing to their being able to offer the learners with new experiences (Jones, Kervin, & McIntosh, 2011; Mouza, 2005). For example, the interactive whiteboards provide the learners with great interactivity experience. Here the students are able to manipulate outcomes that come with sounds and convenience of use. Technology has been known to capture the learners’ attention (McPherson, 2009).

Once the students have chosen a topic that is of interest to them through guided inquiry, the interactive whiteboard comes in handy since through it the students can always get to find out more about the same topic (Marsh, Brooks, Hughes, Ritchie, Roberts & Wright, 2005; Rapp, 2005). Several different types of software are integrated into the interactive white- boards (Levin & Wadmany, 2006). This information is loaded with lots of information that can be of great use to the topic the learners are inquiring about.

Several research projects have revealed learners’ lack of interest in classroom tasks that are rendered through traditional means (Marsh et al., 2005; Rapp, 2005). However, with the introduction of the technology, especially the interactive white -boards, the scores obtained from learning experiences rendered through this technology, it has been established that the scores have been on the rise.

The area of metacognition is significant in this study. Metacognition majorly concerns itself with learning to learn (Levin & Wadmany, 2006; Malone, 2008b). There are various metacognitive approaches that are quite relevant to the learning models that are used. For example in UK the approach concerns itself with finding flexible resourcing and approaches to effective learning (Rapp, 2005).

The interactive white- boards are therefore critical here since inquiry based learning has been found to be desired by the learners. This means that learners can handle a given task they desire with ease because the interactive white- boards serve as the right medium; it can be manipulated besides having features that make learning experience quite interactive (Levin & Wadmany, 2006; Malone, 2008b).

Interactive white- boards; present landscape UK and US

The present landscapes for using interactive whiteboards in UK and US are similar. In most schools in the UK, interactive whiteboard is among the media used to enhance inquiry based learning (Marsh et al., 2005; Higgins et al., 2007; Hsu, 2010; Rapp, 2005). In the last few years to present, the government has been supportive in improving the technology through methods such as; funding and teacher training, which, according to Morgan (2010) is to ensure the technology is efficiently used in the learning process.

Although, the technology has been influential in improving learning activities across all school levels – primary and secondary, the UK educators and the government is constantly assessing and monitoring challenges connected with the technology such as eye health, 3-D, physiological effects and other side effects linked to interactive whiteboards and associated tools (Higgins et al., 2007; Morgan, 2010).

US shares similar landscape with the UK in the use of interactive whiteboards in inquiry based learning (Cuban, Kirkpatrick & Beck, 2001). Interactive whiteboards has become a common medium of instruction in most US schools. Rideout, Vandewater and Wartella (2003) cite the technology as ingrained not only in the early childhood learning process, but also in high schools, and, it has been significant in improving interaction and communication between a teacher and a student.

Rideout et al (2003) also notes that more US children are increasingly using technologies as a form of gaining knowledge as they grow. Perhaps, due to the nature of the US as a technology intensive country, the use of interactive whiteboards in early childhood learning is viewed as a method of exposing a child to technology enough so it can influence his/her learning processes later in life (Cunningham, Kerr, McEune, Smith, & Harris, 2003; Marsh et al., 2005; Rapp, 2005).

The UK has been involved in integrating technology in the country’s education system. Thus, the interactive whiteboard technology has been popular across the country. In 2010, UK had the greatest interactive whiteboard rate of usage from a global perspective, with a 73 percent rate of penetration in classrooms (Conole, Scanlon, Littleton, Kerawalla & Mulholland, 2010; Johnson and Turel, 2012; Kennewell & Higgins, 2007; Wang et al., 2010.

The UK government view the use of interactive white-board technology in learning allows a child control and check his/her own learning process (Conole et al., 2010). As an emerging trend in inquiry based learning, the UK has invested many resources in the purchase of interactive white- boards (Hall and Higgins, 2005; Somekh, 2007). This assertion is strengthened by a survey released in 2008 which showed that 100 percent of UK primary schools had interactive whiteboards in 2007 (Becta, 2008; Somekh, 2007).

The use of interactive whiteboard technology in the UK has continued to increase. However, educators and stakeholders involved in early childhood education have established guidelines for its efficient use (Conole et al., 2010; Hsu, 2010; Wang et al., 2010). Guernsey (2010) contends that a child health factor has been a major concern while influencing the use of this technology in learning process.

Similarly, Guernsey (2010) also draws that the emotional, social, physical and cognitive growth of a child is significant while contemplating using this interactive whiteboard technology for learning. Schools embracing the technology in UK have to ensure the access to technology and its connected devices does not interfere, exclude or reduce a child healthy communication, play, social interaction and other growth activities with teachers, peers and the family (Wang et al., 2010).

The UK educators have undertaken a practice of integrating technology programs in early childhood. This practice has proved significant in enhancing the use of interactive white- boards in the UK education system (Guernsey, 2010).

However, despite positive trends in using interactive whiteboard in the UK Guernsey (2010) cite that the educators should not try to replace the conventional activities of a child with technology as they are likely to interfere with a child’s real life exploration, development and social interaction. The technology should remain as a support assisting a child in learning and as a tool for expanding a child’s access to new knowledge.

Sound judgement has been a major aim in using interactive white board technology in early childhood education in the UK. Jamerson (2002) explains that early childhood educators in UK understand a child development and learning, social and cultural interaction trend. They have been significant in assessing the technology which is friendly to child learning, hence, they have tailored interactive whiteboard technology that is friendly to the teacher and a child (Jamerson, 2002).

Thus, a teacher is left with the task of being responsive, reflective and providing intentional judgement in assessing its suitability in the learning process of each child. Educators in the UK were the first pioneers to demonstrate interactive white- boards as an effective tool for collaboration and improving learning outcome and streamlining lesson planning (Becta, 2008; Hall, & Higgins, 2005). Thus, they continue to form the largest percentage in embracing this technology in inquiry based learning.

A survey in the UK showed the performance of the interactive boards and its associated software has played a key role in developing classroom activities (Becta, 2008). These activities have been proved to engage, promote participation, foster greater focus and interaction and raise a child’s learning as a result (Hall, & Higgins, 2005; Cunningham et al., 2003). Reed (2001) studied preliminary children responses in using Interactive whiteboards during class sessions.

He noted interactive whiteboards can effectively be used in a group related activities, thus, offering a child universal communication platform. It allows a child an opportunity to ask and hear others interpretations, questions and reactions before starting their tasks individually (Reed, 2001). A number of UK researchers have found correlations between interactive whiteboards and student engagement (Edwards, Hartnell, & Martin, 2002; Gerard & Widener, 2004; Rideout et al., 2003).

Ball (2003) illustrates that interactive whiteboards augmented the budding for teachers to concentrate on children responses during lessons where Interactive whiteboards is used. Consequently, Cunningham et al. (2003) draw the advantage of engaging, fast paced interactive whiteboards.

Also Edward et al (2002) underlined the in-class opportunities that flexibility of interactive whiteboards increases a child and teacher effectiveness and Latham (2002) explains interactive whiteboards offers better strategies for teachers to create interactive learning environment.

Cox, Webb, Abbott, Blakeley, Beauchamp & Rhodes (2003) also noted that interactive whiteboards allowed teachers to have a better understanding of their children’s needs, and children were better placed to learn through collaboration with each other (Cogill, 2003).

Interactive whiteboards have also played a significant role in early childhood learning in the US. According to Gerard and Widener (1999) interactive white- boards have been critical in simplifying a conversation and interaction among teachers and children in the inquiry based learning. It simplifies presenting new linguistic and cultural elements.

Solvie (2001) while researching on the correlation between the interactive whiteboard as a delivery tool for literacy teaching in the first grade classroom, and a child concentration to involvement in a literacy class found out that interactive whiteboard stimulated enthusiasm for learning on a child’s part.

This was shown by comments made during a learning activity using an interactive white board. Also, Davis (2007) pointed out that interactive whiteboards engaged children because they could interact with each other’s, model and explain what was being presented on the board by touch. The use of pictures, diagrams, colors, shapes to highlight texts and pictures compelled engagement (Davis, 2007: Kennewell & Higgins, 2007; Conole et al., 2010; Wang et al., 2010).

For over two decades, the US literature had a narrow view of information and communication technology. They illustrated that it comprises mainly of desktop computers (Chung & Walsh, 2006).

However, Rideout et al. (2003) recently, in a survey consisting of more than one thousands parents indicated that a larger number of young US children aged from birth to six years were widely using a wide variety of digital media. Many parents viewed it as significant tools useful for their children’s intellectual growth and development (Conole et al., 2010; Wang et al., 2010).

The use of interactive whiteboards in US and UK shows some likenesses. According Jennings School District (2005) in Missouri, Dr. Terry Stewart, a former superintendent believed that student’s performance should not be determined by motivation, behaviour and attendance level alone. Thus, after effectively putting technology in use, Jennings school noticed improvement in each of the mentioned areas (Jennings School District, 2005). Significant classroom motivation and enjoyment encouraged children to remain focussed on a task.

The observation in the UK has fixed similar findings. Bush, Priest & Coe (2004) noted that interactive whiteboards made learning more interactive and visual thus encouraging greater participation from children, improving their concentration and motivation. Similarly, Jennings School District (2005) cites that interactive whiteboard keeps a child focussed on a task and makes everyone in the class attentive.

Consequently, observations in the US indicate that interactive whiteboards aid with multisensory learning needs of a greater number of children (Jamerson, 2002). A third grade pupil with a short-term memory challenge found colour coding words and underlining phonetic values as important in recalling and repeating materials, hence, a teacher noted that interactive whiteboards can simplify learning process on children’s with short term memory problems (Jamerson, 2002).

Children with attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can control impulsive and disruptive outbursts when an interactive whiteboard is used as a behavioural control mechanism (Jamerson, 2002; Wheeler, 2001). Additionally, a visually challenged child can benefit from the size of the interactive whiteboard (Marsh et al., 2005).

Cooper and Clarke (2003) highlight that when a teacher uses a video on an interactive white-board; a child who would able to see the image can see and interact with the image which is a sign of learning process. The study in the UK shows similarities of having children communicate and interact with the interactive whiteboards whether aurally, visually or physically. There is a wide range of uses of interactive whiteboards for various learners (Cunningham et al., 2003; Latham, 2002).

Wheeler (2001) shows that by allowing pupils interact with the interactive whiteboard assist in meeting the needs of a tactile learner. In a study of deaf children Carter (2002) noted that presentations on interactive whiteboards promoted developing pride and self-esteem. The study further illustrated that having a projector and a whiteboard encouraged many positives such as improving a learner’s attention and focus (Bush et al., 2004).

Since the introduction of interactive whiteboards into early childhood learning, their use has grown in popularity. Davis (2007) illustrates that US had about 68 percent schools installed with interactive whiteboards in 2011. Among these schools, about 35 percent of learning centres with children aged six to nine years had interactive whiteboard (Davis, 2007).

Thus, the future of interactive whiteboards in learning will entail various factors in ensuring its applicability to learning process of a child. Reardon (2002) and Lau, Higgins, Gelfer and Miller (2005) note that to ensure teachers effectively use the interactive whiteboards as a teaching aid in early childhood; more resources such as websites will need to be provided and dedicated in supporting teachers in using the interactive whiteboards.

Also, new technologies improving interactive whiteboards as learning aid in early childhood are likely to emerge (Lau et al., 2005). Salintri, Smith & Clovis (2002) note that currently, Smart technologies have already emerged incorporating 3D technologies in the new generation of interactive whiteboards. This technology has had far-reaching implication to a child. One implication is that it allows a child a child to experience games and simulations using practical graphics, thus, this adds value to learning (Lau et al., 2005; Kuehn, 2010).

Salintri et al (2002) draw the rapid shift in the Information technology embraced by young children will reflect on a broader array of technological, economic and social factors.

Kress, Jewitt, Ogborn and Tsatsarelis (2010) demonstrates there is a shift in writing to increased dominance of images, and a move from dominance of a book to the medium of the screen. Thus, these shifts indicate a revolution in the uses and effects of interactive whiteboards and connected means of communicating and representing a child with information in every domain.

A shift from book and page to screen, and from print based media to interactive whiteboard will allow multiplicity of learning modes to be embraced, in particular, the image and other modes such as sound and music. Hence, this will likely shape the future of interactive white- boards as a technology in early childhood learning. Another significant shift in the use of interactive whiteboards will lie in the potential for communicating and representing modes to involve a child.

Interactive Whiteboards; enablers and constraints

The enablers to the use of interactive whiteboards in inquiry based learning in early childhood education constitute both the teacher attributes and student attributes (Jones et al., 2011; Mouza, 2005).

A teacher who shows interest towards a student’s accomplishment does make the use of the Interactive whiteboards successful. This is because they are motivated in achieving a student learning objectives. Thus, such a teacher finds minimal challenge in using interactive whiteboard during the lesson as learners in lower grades are left to self discover solutions to their tasks of inquiry (Malone, 2008b; Reardon, 2002).

However, a teacher should be available to interact; guide and lead the student when help is needed. There is also need for the teacher to exhibit adequate knowledge and use of interactive whiteboards. The interactive whiteboards have varied software, thus the teacher should exhibit ease of use since any discomfort with then may lead to their ineffective integration. Passion and commitment towards aiming for higher order student outcomes should be what the teacher always strives achieve (Levin & Wadmany, 2006; Malone, 2008b).

This calls for proper planning and research into how best to achieve these outcomes. Hence, the use of interactive whiteboards in classroom usually elicits dialogue within the lesson (Ju-Ling et al., 2010; Preston & Mowbray, 2010). It is therefore important for the teacher to develop a positive relationship with a child. This will assist in developing a bond with a child. With this the teacher can guide the learners to achieve their desired learning outcomes (Levin & Wadmany, 2006).

A teacher will need adequate training to effectively use interactive whiteboards. This is because technology keeps on changing consistently, hence, a need for constant training on the use of interactive white- boards and other technologies that may be used in the classroom (Jones et al., 2011). Sufficient training and technical know-how will assist the teachers comfortably use the technology in enhancing student learning.

Student attributes greatly serve as enabler to the use of interactive whiteboards in inquiry based learning (Keengwe & Onchwari, 2009; Spronken-Smith, Walker, Batchelor, O’Steen & Angelo, 2011). The students should have the capacity to brainstorm ideas on their own and come up with solutions. This actually calls for active engagement and self directed predispositions to the learning process (Kanuka, 2006).

By this also, the student will be in a great position to generate solutions that are in alignment with the desired learning outcomes (Ju-Ling et al., 2006; McPherson, 2009). They should be ones who are comfortable with the Interactive whiteboards and other technologies. Thus, they should be supported to exchange and connect with other learners either locally or even globally with the sole view of sharing learning experiences (Malone, 2008a).

Because of the technology involved, interactive whiteboards are expensive and this is a challenge in enhancing inquiry based learning (Jones et al., 2011; Mouza, 2005). One reason for lack of workable knowledge in this area is due to the fact that there is little to no communication between educational academics, educational software developers and teachers who are actually in the trenches of early childhood education (Trundle & Saqkes, 2012; Wang et al., 2010).

Educational researchers have found that it is still largely unclear whether educational assistive technology helps young children learn (Trundle & Saqkes, 2012; Wang et al., 2010). Studies remain mixed or tainted by poor organisation and questionable data (McCrummen, 2010).

The dearth of solid empirical data that can be shared amongst the pool of stakeholders – educators, hardware and software developers, and academics – means “It is still unknown whether technology-enhanced inquiry learning is effective for young children’s learning, nor the required characteristics to ensure effectiveness” (Wang et al., 2010; Terreni, 2010).

Wang et al (2010) examined the relationship between inquiry based learning in the context of early childhood education and computer technologies such as the interactive whiteboard. The researcher likened the computer assisted educational technologies to the natural capacity that young children have to “explore and learn about their environments through inquiry(Wang et al., 2010, p. 381).

He noted that not only do “computer technologies offer an accessible vehicle for extending the domain and range of this inquiry,” the researcher posits that inquiry based learning and computer assisted educational technologies such as the interactive whiteboard can be implemented across disciplines and applied to teaching subjects such as social science, math, the hard sciences, vocabulary and reading, and the study of languages in the context of young children (Wang et al., 2010; Ju-Ling et al., 2010; Preston & Mowbray, 2010).

Wang et al (2010) acknowledge that a larger body of interactive games and educational software suites are now available within the early childhood education context. Many of them have been successfully applied in various areas of early childhood education and proven useful and effective.

Hence, they have complemented teaching subjects, such as math, science, vocabulary, language, and the social sciences – the majority of “software packages have yet to integrate technology into inquiry-based learning for early childhood contexts” (Wang et al., 2010). This will serve as a constraint in embracing the interactive technology in early childhood education.

Wang et al. (2010) examined the existing theoretical frameworks surrounding early childhood education and computer technology and developed a series of suggestions on how instructional technologies such as the interactive whiteboard might be applied in the context of early childhood inquiry education, including to “enrich and provide structure for problem contexts, simplify resource use, and support cognitive and meta cognitive processes” (p. 381).

One of the key conclusions drawn by Wang et al. (2010) is the correlation between a teacher’s level of comfort with technology and the application of technology in guided inquiry based instruction. This is also true of the level of comfort a teacher may have with the non-traditional instruction methods such as guided inquiry learning (Wang et al., 2010).

One of the most important issues that early childhood education professionals face is to create a body of shared professional knowledge of and skill in educational technology tools. Wang et al. (2010) found in several cases that the low level of comfort that many educators had with technology had a negative impact on the application and willingness to embrace technology in the early childhood education context and beyond (p. 361).

Using interactive white board for inquiry based learning needs basic technical support and training. Thus, lack of effective training for teachers in relating the technology in early childhood learning by teachers serves as a constraint in effecting its use in inquiry based learning.

According to Jones et al (2011) training for the use of interactive whiteboard should factor the teacher’s needs as well as those of a child. However, Kennewell and Higgins (2007) illustrates that technical training is not sufficient, professional development should address the basic pedagogical approaches perhaps focussing on an interactive approach.

Somekh (2007) cite that in the Sweep project when interactive whiteboards were installed, teacher’s collaborative approach and skills improved faster. This illustrates that when training is not embraced, gaps are created in using the interactive whiteboard technology in inquiry based learning (Kanuka, 2006).

Further, the element of the necessity for ongoing educator training has been demonstrated as a newer element of educational discourse. Johnson & Turel, (2012) cite that “teachers need training particularly on using effective instructional strategies for interactive whiteboard-assisted courses in order to transform their pedagogical effective use of any technology” (Johnson & Turel, 2012, p. 386; Malone, 2008a).

However, there are several challenges that arise as a result of this realisation, mainly in the area of time allotted to ongoing training, initial proficiency, and individual teacher attitudes and interests. Thus, in adopting interactive white- boards in guided inquiry learning context, challenges such as acquiring appropriate skills and knowledge, perceived efficiency, and usage frequency of the technology should adequately addressed (Johnson & Turel, 2012, p. 386).

In essence, a transformation is required for the individual educator to understand that technology constantly changes (Johnson & Turel, 2012). Ongoing support and instruction for educators then become a key component of the discussion (Wang et al., 2010).

Educational professionals must be encouraged to view technology training as part of their ongoing professional development, see it as the lifelong learning principle that it is, and then “systematically integrate the use of that technology in the early childhood curriculum” based on their continued growth and expanding comfort level (Johnson & Turel, 2012, p. 361).

Finally, Wang et al. (2010) point to the lack of cohesion and dialogue between various stakeholders involved in the discussion, and acknowledge this factor as one of the key reasons why the technology has been slow to appear in guided inquiry based learning contexts. These stakeholders tend to operate in isolation; thus, what works in the software development realm often does not work in the educational realm, and vice versa.

Similarly, Wang et al. (2010) note, not enough academic attention has been given to this topic in the literature, which means that empirical data remains lacking and poorly structured, industry backed studies proliferate. This has served as a factor in limiting the use of interactive whiteboards in inquiry based learning.

Social and cultural barriers have played a critical role in restricting effective use of interactive whiteboards in inquiry based learning. Thus, a challenge that affects educators and researchers is that the growth of a child’s ability and understanding in the initial years of development is influenced by the context in which technology tools are used (Cooper, 2003).

Thus, the environment in which technology is developed is indispensable in influencing a child either positively or negatively in the early years of growth. For example, child behavior such as social interaction, attitude and knowledge acquisitions are shaped by early exposure to technology.

Very little research exists into the nature of young children’s learning itself, let alone the intersection between young children’s learning and assistive educational technologies such as the interactive whiteboards (Trundle and Saqkes, 2012; Wang et al., 2010). In the technological adaption process, a key initial step needs to examine how young children investigate their environment, because not enough is known about the ways in which young children actually acquire knowledge (Trundle & Saqkes, 2012; Wang et al., 2010).

With this knowledge in place, technology assisted inquiry learning can be targeted to the specific needs of children in the lower grades. This will be important because using interactive whiteboards in the early years of a child growth will contribute to developing cohesion for a child future success (Bell, Urhaline, Schanze & Ploetzner, 2010; Jamerson, 2002; Solvie, 2001).

Lack of adequate philosophical insight in relation to the use of interactive whiteboard technology in inquiry based learning has also served as a constraint in effecting its use in early childhood learning. Johnson and Turel (2012) examined the perceptions of 174 teacher subjects in the US who reported using the interactive whiteboard regularly with their students (Johnson and Turel, 2012).

These participants came from a number of different grade levels and their numbers were spread evenly across grades six to twelve (Johnson and Turel, 2012). The chief aim of this study was to evaluate and investigate the real usage associated with interactive whiteboard and evaluate the attitudes and behaviors associated with the interactive whiteboard in the classroom setting, with a special emphasis on “teacher perceptions” (Johnson and Turel, 2012, p. 382).

The researchers used a questionnaire that was created from a comprehensive literature review that the researchers developed, as well as relevant educational theories and applicable teaching models (Johnson and Turel, 2012). The questionnaire contained questions related to classroom demographics, interactive whiteboard use, and the teachers’ attitudes as they pertained to the interactive whiteboard usage in the classroom environment.

The findings indicated that among the 174 teachers reported to be using interactive white-boards; about 147 teachers had a positive perception of interactive white board use in classroom. This was demonstrated by their aptness in directing and guiding their students during learning process. While 27 subject teachers did not show much enthusiasm on the use of interactive board. This was evident when one of the teachers said ‘the use of white- boards requires a technology savvy person’ (Johnson and Turel, 2012, p.57).

These findings demonstrate a strong correlation between teachers’ acceptance and positive attitudes about the use of technology (Johnson & Turel, 2012, p. 386). Not surprisingly, educators who reported a more positive attitude toward assistive interactive, information and communication technologies such as the interactive whiteboard were more likely to utilize the technologies in their own work.

However, teachers who did not show much enthusiasm needs time to develop their technological fluency, apply pedagogic principles to the available materials or to the development of materials, and then to incorporate the Interactive whiteboard seamlessly into their teaching (Glover et al., 2007). Thus, effective understanding of the technology provides a better way of using it, however, failure to use it illustrate a major constraint in aiding guided inquiry learning (Spronken-Smith et al., 2011).

Cuban et al (2001) and other researchers have targeted flaws in the research studies backed by the interactive whiteboard industry in the US (McCrummen, 2010).

These studies, according to Cuban et al (2001), fail to demonstrate a correlation between the interactive whiteboards and improved test scores – they also contain a whiff of suspicion, since many academics argue that the industry-backed studies are a thinly veiled means to profit from the obvious desperation of the public school system to reform, and point to the contentious fact that educational technology firms often encourage “school officials to market their products, underwriting major education conferences and sponsoring professional associations” (McCrummen, 2010, p. 12).

Where the interactive whiteboard is concerned, reception from the educational academic community has been mixed, as some critics view the technology as actually regressive rather than pushing the education of youngsters forward (McCrummen, 2010; Terreni, 2010).

Regardless of its ability to cross-link images and integrate multimedia formats into the classroom environment, interactive whiteboards, nonetheless, perpetuate “an age-old teaching method – teacher speaks, students listen” (McCrummen, 2010, p. 10). Lee and Boyle (2003) contend that this reality fails to accelerate learning in the elementary environment and beyond and rather points to the need for a shift in the lecture style teaching model to inquiry based learning and other small group teaching models. These examples, illustrate constraints in using interactive white- boards in early childhood.

Conclusion and opportunities for future research

The use of interactive whiteboards in schools has been viewed by various educators as a milestone in enhancing learning by exposing technology to young children at an early stage. Despite their wide acceptance across learning institutions, gaps still exist on their effective use. Lee and Boyle (2003) indicate that existing research into this topic has focused largely on the application of learning enhancing computer technologies for older grades, thus, neglecting young children.

This has widened the gap of using this technology among young children. Consequently, a gap existing between teachers and the technology has created a void in which interactive whiteboards can be effectively used in supporting learning in early childhood.

Most teachers are not well trained or lack enough skills in using this technology in classroom (Johnson and Turel, 2012). Hence, the implication is that they fail to utilise it effectively to encourage learning. Future research should be carried out with an aim of determining ways in which these gaps would be narrowed.

According to Rideout et al (2003) a tacit understanding exists among a number of educational professionals that inquiry based learning is too advanced for younger children who require the structure and discipline for traditional lecture based instruction in order to develop the core concepts that underpin subjects such as mathematics, languages and sciences.

A great gap of inconsistency has been noted with regard to how children in higher grades utilise technology tools in the learning context; however, as yet relatively little is understood about the blueprint that guides young children’s application of technology tools (Wang et al., 2010).

In depth study of the differences between the two age groups in their approach to technology tools will allow all stakeholders – educators, researchers and educational technology hardware and software designers and developers – to target the learning requirements of young children in the lower grades (Hall and Higgins, 2005).

Within the early childhood education context, design and development of technology applications must be grounded in research and developmentally appropriate, otherwise they will fail to achieve their desired ends of enhancing the guided inquiry learning experience. In fact, wrongly applied, these same tools could easily be detrimental to a young child overall development (Bell, 2002; Brown, 2003).

Also, the actual models used to measure learning outcomes must be phrased and developed in a manner that is in harmony with the aims, theoretical principles and practical realities of guided inquiry based learning in the early childhood education context.

Too often, new technologies are applied in the traditional lecture style of instruction (Edwards et al., 2002), while this demonstrates some elements of improvement in academic achievement at the higher grades, still perpetuates an orientation between teachers and students that will not support student inquiry and so will undermine the effectiveness of guided inquiry learning, regardless of the technological support (Hall & Higgins, 2005; Somekh, 2007).

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