Contemporary school has a task to prepare every student for life in the information society. Consequently, it is a task of a teacher to create a favourable environment and provide opportunities to learn and communicate. Communication is a substantial aspect in individuals’ lives and through it knowledge can be transferred easily between people. In recent years, communication methods have improved with the emergence and widespread use of technology. With the extensive contributions of technology in many fields, including global communication and research, the idea of integrating technology with education has materialized. Contemporary school has been implementing technology for decades (Firmin & Genesi, 2013).
At present, even detached schools have computers and the majority of school curricula have information technology as a subject. However, rapid development of IT demands the application of technology outside IT classes. Therefore, more and more teachers bring technology into every-day classroom and integrate it into teaching and learning process. It is considered that technology has many benefits for students on the whole and elementary students in particular (Almalki, Finger, & Zagami, 2013). Thus, it brings in a creative component, makes learning more interesting, enjoyable and engaging, which is crucial for elementary learners. Moreover, technology, if properly applied, can be beneficial for every subject in the curriculum. However, a teacher should be trained to use technology successfully and effectively.
The Role of Educational Technology
Educational technology plays a crucial role in enhancing outcomes of the teaching and learning process; in this regard, learning institutions embrace it because it enhances the learners’ experiences and enhances their outcomes (Almalki et al., 2013). Furthermore, successful teaching and learning process is based on the effective communication between teachers and students. For example, the research by Shan, Li, Shi, Wang, and Cai (2014) provides evidence of improved learning performance as a result of effective communication in addition to achievement sharing and positive classroom environments. The research proves that effective communication is stimulated through “opportunities, platforms, and adequate channels to conveniently communicate with teachers” (Shan et al., 2014, p. 479). Educational technologies, such as interactive whiteboard (IWB), are supposed to have the potential to provide these opportunities and platforms for communication during a class. At present, IBW are introduced in many schools and other educational institutions, but not all the schools have an opportunity to use them.
Personal Education Experience
My experience in education made me realize the importance of technology in a classroom. Moreover, technology is crucial for contemporary education. I have worked in some schools and I can make a conclusion that such technology as the interactive whiteboard is one of the most suitable for primary school learners. I have noticed that IWB can hold the attention of students and allows changing educational materials faster than the usual board. I consider it to be a powerful tool because it makes a classroom an interactive and collaborative space. I have studied the experience of IWB application in other countries and became interested in its potential for the benefits of primary schools in Saudi Arabia.
Education in Saudi Arabia
Education is one of the most critical indicators of economic, social, and cultural development in Saudi Arabia (Mohammed, 2017). Despite the global tendency to reducing education sector funding, Saudi Arabia considers education one of its priorities. Thus, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman advocates for a knowledge-based society, which also stimulates advancements in education (Mohammed, 2017). Moreover, Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman is determined to further upgrade educational opportunities in Saudi Arabia. He considers education in the Kingdom to be a significant basis for realization of desires of citizens aimed at advancement and progress in science and education. To achieve this, education sector is well-funded. For example, annual budget for education for 2018 was planned to be SR192 billion, which is more than $50 billion (Mohammad, 2017).
Much attention to the needs of education sector gives its results. Thus, while the average global level of literacy among people younger than 25 is 87.9 percent, in Saudi Arabia this indicator is higher and reaches 98 percent (Mohammed, 2017). The use of technology is central to the enhancement of the system of education in the country; one example of technology–education integration is interactive whiteboards. IWB is one of the effective tools for a classroom because it allows using a variety of activities. It has certain benefits for a primary classroom such as an increase in students’ motivation, more opportunities for collaboration, diverse ways of material presentation, support of teaching methods and techniques, etc. (Tertemiz, Sahin, Can, & Duzgun, 2015). However, the principles of work of IWB and their application in primary classrooms will be discussed in more detail in the literature review section.
Primary Education and Information Communication Technology
Primary education is considered to be the essential stage of education process providing background for further successful performance in secondary school and college or university (Carrol & McCulloch, 2014). Therefore, teachers’ styles must change to maintain the continuous development of the current era and prepare students to their future studies. As a result, securing the support of primary school teachers is vital if the country is to meet its educational goals. Teachers’ use of information and communication technology as a supplementary tool enhances students’ learning in primary school, and can improve their informational and communicational efficiency(Danče, 2010).
According to Celik (2012), the lack of competency among some teachers is the reason for their unenthusiastic and divided reception to the idea of using interactive technology such as IWBs within their teaching. The problem is that many teachers have only basic knowledge and limited experience of applying information communication technologies. Moreover, not all schools are properly equipped, which is another barrier on the way to successful implementation of technology in a primary classroom. Previous studies by Al-Rashed (2002), Al-Saif (2006), Al-Sadan (1997), Al-Ammari (2006) and others (as cited in Mulhim, 2014) reveal the existing problems in implementation of ICT in Saudi Arabia.
Mulhim (2014) also singles out such reasons for the lack of ICT in classrooms as lack of access to ICT and lack of teachers’ training to use it. Moreover, teachers frequently lack time to train and get enough experience to apply technology during classes. Apart from this point, the lack of time in the classroom us another cause of the problem. Thus, a class in Saudi Arabia lasts for 45 minutes, therefore, unless teachers learn to use ICT including IWB effectively, they would continue avoiding them and consider such innovations the waste of time (Mulhim, 2014). Consequently, there is a need for support of the use of interactive whiteboards by the government. Due to the increased budget of the education sector in Saudi Arabia, there is a chance that more and more schools will be provided with these devices. Moreover, there is a necessity for teachers’ education to allow them using ICT and interactive whiteboards as the effective tool in the primary classroom.
Implications for Research
Since IWB have a powerful potential for both teaching and learning and have already been introduced at some educational institutions, there is a need for a study to reveal their effectiveness. At present, there is no valid research about the use of IWB in primary schools of Saudi Arabia and their efficiency for the existing curriculum. Moreover, it is necessary to investigate the existing barriers and the reasons, if any, for teachers’ reluctance to use of IWB.
This study sets out to investigate how interactive whiteboards are used in primary schools in Saudi Arabia. The benefits and drawbacks of interactive whiteboard use will be explored through the perceptions and experiences of primary school teachers in Saudi Arabia. In addition, it aims to clarify several challenges that can prevent the implementation of IWBs in primary schools based on teachers’ experience. Finally, the research will provide recommendations for both policy and practice of the use of interactive whiteboards in primary schools of Saudi Arabia.
Almalki, G., Finger, G., & Zagami, J. (2013). Introducing SMART Table Technology in Saudi Arabia Education System. International Journal of Advanced Computer Science and Applications, 4(2), 46-51.
Carroll, M., & McCulloch, M. (2014). Understanding teaching and learning in primary education. London, UK: SAGE Publications.
Celik, S. (2012). Competency levels of teachers in using interactive whiteboards. Contemporary Educational Technology, 3(2), 115-129.
Danče, S. (2010). The influence of using the information and communications technology in primary education. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 4270–4273.
Firmin, M., & Genesi, D. (2013). History and implementation of classroom technology. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 93, 1603-1617.
Mohammed, I. (2017). Education remains a top priority for Kingdom. Saudi Gazette. Web.
Mulhim, E. A. (2014). The barriers to the use of ICT in teaching in Saudi Arabia: A review of literature. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 2(6), 487-493.
Shan, S., Li, C., Shi, J., Wang, L., & Cai, H. (2014). Impact of effective communication, achievement sharing and positive classroom environments on learning performance. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 31(3), 471-482.
Tertemiz, N., Sahin, D., Can, B., & Duzgun, S. (2015). Views of primary school teachers and students about the interactive whiteboard. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 186, 1289-1297.