Tuesday, December 29, 2009


In this age of accountability, it is more important than ever to be able to justify the tools and techniques we use in our classrooms with solid research. There are many research studies into the effects of teaching with interactive whiteboards, and I will discuss those studies in a later post. 

Whether utilized in conjunction with an interactive whiteboard or a projector and a wireless mouse, there are also a growing number of research studies on the effects of teaching with interactive content.   For years, I was an advocate in my school of teaching with online interactive content because I saw the positive effects the instructional technique had in my classroom. My students were motivated to actively participate and exhibited learning gains when I instructed with interactive content.  Those experiences with my students were the greatest catalysts for my founding of StarrMatica. 

I am also an advocate for instructing with interactive content because it is a research based teaching technique that is supported by a myriad of research studies. Here is a small sampling of that research:

Research by Middleton & Murray shows:

• Students whose teachers were high level users of technology in the classroom scored significantly better than did students whose teachers were low level users of technology in the classroom. (Teachers who were high level users were differentiated from teachers who were low level users in terms of frequency and extent of use of computers with students, instructional methods used with technology, attitude toward the value of technology for learning, variety of uses of technology, and perception of influence of technology on student learning and behavior.)1

Research by Cotton shows:

• The use of technology, specifically computer-assisted instruction, also results in increased student motivation and the improvement of student attitudes toward learning, toward themselves as learners, toward the use of computers, toward the quality of instruction, and toward school in general. Studies have even indicated that “computer-assisted learning results in higher levels of self-efficacy, higher school attendance rates, increased time on-task, and increased pro-social behavior.” 2
Research by Bridgforth and Cradler shows that teachers also benefit greatly from the use of technology:

• Technology improves teacher quality by creating time for them to be engaged in advising students, by requiring rethinking and revision of curriculum and instructional methods, and by acting as a catalyst for increased teacher and administrative communication with parents.
• Teachers have even shown increased interest in teaching with the ability to use technology in the classroom. 3

However, and I cannot stress this enough, according to the research and my own classroom observations, HOW technology is used the classroom is very important. It is not enough to simply have technology present in the classroom or school. The manner in which technology is utilized is a major determining factor in its ability to influence student achievement.

Technology, specifically instructional software, has been proven most effective when integrated into classroom instruction. Students who experienced teacher-led standards-based instruction with technology showed higher overall gains than students who experienced the same curricula and technology in an isolated lab setting. Teachers have the ability to match computer instruction with the children’s development, the curriculum sequence, and the needs of particular groups of students. Teachers must be involved, “orchestrators” of technology, rather than quiet observers of students in learning isolation. 4

Furthermore, the instructional techniques teachers use to integrate technology in the classroom is of equal importance. Marzano performed a meta-analysis of the summarized findings of over 100 research studies involving 4,000+ experimental versus control group comparisons to identify instructional techniques that significantly impact student achievement. Three of those techniques include: having students represent new knowledge in graphic/nonlinguistic formats, using computer-based manipulatives to explore and practice using new knowledge, and teaching new knowledge to students directly through demonstration and explanation then having them apply it on their own. 5

Developing teacher-led lessons that include interactive online content around these instructional techniques is a winning combination for both you and your students.

Has technology increased your interest in teaching?  How do you incorporate interactive content into your instruction?  What evidence have you seen of the effects of instructing with interactive content in your classroom?

1. Middleton, B.M. & Murray, R.K. “The impact of instructional technology on student academic achievement in reading and mathematics.” International Journal of Instructional Media, 26(1), 109 (1999)

2. Cotton, K. Computer-assisted instruction. Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.
http://www.nwrel.org/scpd/sire/5/cu10.html (1992)

3. Bridgforth, Elizabeth and Cradler, John. Recent Research on the Effect of Technology on Teaching and Learning. http://www.wested.org/techpolicy/research.html

4. Mann, D., Shakeshaft, C. Becker, J. & Kottkamp, R. (1998) “West Virginia Story: Achievement gains from a statewide comprehensive instructional technology program.” Santa Monica, CA: Milken Exchange on Educational Technology

5. Marzano, Robert.J. (1998). A theory-based meta-analysis of research on instruction. Aurora, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Interactive Teaching: Techniques for Engaging Students

With interactive teaching, often you may want students to respond to a question you have displayed with your LCD projector or on your interactive whiteboard. However, only one student at a time can use the interactive whiteboard to respond to a question. In my classroom, it was a concern of mine that the other 24 students would not be engaged and actively thinking about an answer to a question if they were not selected to use the whiteboard.

Student response systems are excellent interactive teaching technology tools that allow all students to respond to a question instantaneously and that allow teachers to gather data about their responses, but it is often unrealistic for every classroom in a school to have their own set of response systems or “clickers.”

There are several easy and inexpensive interactive teaching techniques to keep all students involved when posing a question on your interactive whiteboard. The first technique is to give each student a red square and a green square made out of construction paper. When a student answers a question on the interactive whiteboard, have the rest of the class hold up a green square if they agree with the answer or a red square if they do not agree. Then, have a discussion about their responses. (Sometimes it helps to have students hold their squares up on the count of three or to cover their eyes before holding up a square to prevent them from checking out their neighbor’s square before answering.)

Another interactive teaching technique is to provide each student with a small wipe off marker board and marker. In my classroom, I expected all students to answer the question presented on the interactive whiteboard by using their own wipe off boards. This allowed me to walk around the room and see which students understood a concept and which needed my assistance.

Individual wipe off boards were very motivating for my students because they knew if they participated they may have the opportunity to answer on the interactive whiteboard. It was also helpful for students who were afraid to answer incorrectly in front of the class because they knew I would only choose them to use the interactive whiteboard if they had written the correct answer in advance. Those students gained confidence in their answers and in sharing their knowledge with their peers in a safe atmosphere.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Welcome to Interactive Whiteboard Insights

Welcome to the Interactive Whiteboard Insights: A blog created by Emily Starr, CEO of StarrMatica Learning Systems, an education publishing company specializing in digital content.

My personal journey with technology began five years ago while teaching fourth grade when I received an LCD projector for my classroom. I was so excited I stayed late (not that staying late didn’t occur regularly—I know many of you keep pillows under your desk “just in case”) and practiced until I had the hardware operation down pat. I could connect the projector to my computer, adjust the height to match my screen, turn it on, focus the image, and access my computer–but then what was I supposed to do? How did I use this equipment to benefit my students?

I started small in my classroom. I thought if I could just find one interactive activity to use with the LCD projector during math every day that would be a good start. I spent hours scouring the internet to find activities that fit my lesson plans and weren’t filled with distracting advertisements. As you know, there are never enough hours in the day when you are teaching, so I was struggling to keep up with everything I had already been doing before the LCD projector arrived, while also spending hours trying to find just one single math resource to use each day.--And this was even before my school purchased interactive whiteboards!

It was time struggle all the way, but once I had made the transition from overhead and worksheet activities to teaching with interactive content, there was no turning back. My students were excited about the technology portion of math class, and I found myself looking forward to that part of the day. Technology re-energized my teaching and led to the life changing decision to leave my classroom.

It was difficult to walk away from my home away from home--my colleages, my class full of students.  But, I left with the belief, a belief I have found to be true a long five years later, that through StarrMatica's work, I have the ability to help more students and teachers than I could have within the walls of my single classroom.

I founded StarrMatica to help teachers and adminstrators answer the “Now what?” of teaching with technology. Our mission is to make technology integration easy and effective for all teachers through quality, standards-aligned interactive content and professional development.  At StarrMatica, we strive to help all teachers bridge the gap between knowing how to operate hardware and actually integrating technology into daily instruction in exciting effective ways that motivate students.

I’ll be posting once a week about with my insights on interactive content and interactive whiteboards in education.  I hope you’ll join me for the journey and please feel free to ask questions, make comments, post ideas, and share experiences.