In this talk, Paul Braddock summarised some of the recent research he has been involved in concerning IWBs (Interactive Whiteboards). He has been working on the EU-funded ITiLT project (Interactive Technologies in Language Teaching) which has been looking at how teachers can better utilise IWBs in schools.
Many of us have heard of IWBs or even seen them in classrooms but I am yet to visit a school that actually uses them. They have been around for a long time but thanks to this project we may now have the right ideas and confidence to use them properly.
Paul rightly points out that there are countless teachers who have IWBs at their disposal but don’t actually know what to do with them. This is what Paul’s project is aimed at solving and I think it has taken a decent step in that direction.
Paul sees IWBs as highly beneficial as they can help to:
1)Integrate new media into our classes.
2)Enhance learner interactivity and engagement.
3)Support the development of digital literacy.
4)Meet diverse learner needs using multiple types of media.
During his talk, Paul underlined that we, as teachers in a communicative language teaching environment, need the confidence to develop our own IWB resources and to experiment with them. He believes that IWBs are a great tool to remove teacher dominance and shift towards learner autonomy. However, they have to be approached with caution as some teachers may overload students with too much tech. He even goes so far as to say that we shouldn’t use them all the time, just when appropriate. This is probably true for any tool or piece of tech but the initial novelty value makes it hard to resist.
Paul’s team has actually created a handbook for primary, secondary, CLIL and FE incorporating mixed skills flipbooks, notebooks, vocab and grammar work. In fact, he’s already delivered workshops to many groups of teachers. What made these different is that they then went away, experimented and came back with their reflections. The resulting lesson plans and teaching ideas and materials are all being added to a website which will be further updated by the project participants. The continuing goal of Paul’s project is to create a community of teachers working together to create lessons with IWB and sharing resources online. This pretty impressive and may just succeed where expensive and often complicated IWB software has failed.
He has also recorded students and teachers giving FB. Anyone who has ever taught difficult teens will be happy to hear about one of his teacher’s successes with using their uploaded photos for visually making groupings, doing the register, behaviour marks and even funny dialogues. This could become a lifesaver for teachers in these tough teaching situations. As most of us teach techie-minded kids who have mobile phones and laptops, it’s not surprising to see them uninterested in paper books. Therefore, IWBs may appeal to them and provide an excellent tool for delivering lessons and re-engaging these types of students.
So, what can we learn from Paul’s talk? Well, I now feel more confident about using an IWB when I know that teachers are already making and developing resources and plans which I can use. I would also feel better about having a go myself using the guidelines from this project. I do think this could be the key to finally getting whiteboards dusted off or replaced and also to making them into a real teaching and not just something to show off or have in 1 room. Furthermore, I think the structure of the project should also be applied to working with iPads, mobile phones and other tech. We teachers learn best together and I for one would feel better about using some software or an App that has been tried and tested by other teachers than one fresh off the shelf of a shop.