How not to see or use your IWB

We're in Week 2 now of the EVO sessions, in which I'm participating in the Smart Teaching with Interactive Whiteboards event and we're currently doing some background reading from some of the very interesting links provided.

Here's a fairly typical example of what an enthusiastic user of an IWBs says:

Our school has IWBs in every classroom. However, how it is used varies. Some use it as a glorified whiteboard. Others just use it as a projector. A IWB becomes truly useful when it is used a tool. It needs to be integrated into the curriculum. It helps me develop lesson plans and allows me to present my lessons seamlessly. I can have video, links and interactive work. It helps me eliminate props (I teach Spanish). The bells and whistles are nice but when I can have all my lesson plans and many of the materials all in one file to bring up and use on the board, it is priceless.

I'm a fairly enthusiastic user of IWBs myself but I think something fundamental is wrong with what is being said there. Analyse the subjects of the verbs. I make the count "School" (1); the IWB itself (9); the teacher/s (9); and the learners ZERO. What on earth are the learners doing, meanwhile?

If it's not the learners using the technology, perhaps the technology really shouldn't be being used at all…

Can what is described above possibly be good teaching, or good use of an IWB…???

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  1. Hmm… I see your point but I don't think the fact that the learners aren't mentioned necessarily means they aren't doing anything. However, I agree that there is a danger that the presentation side of things can take over. I'm also on the course and I was looking at Smartboard tools today. They are certainly quite wowwy, but a lot of them seemed more suited to self-study than classroom work. The ones I liked were the ones that gave me flexibility to teach (and for learners to LEARN) in ways that I think are better than how we can normally do it. The odd student coming up and clicking something on the board to show an answer doesn't do it for me (or my learners!) I'm afraid. Real interactivity in terms of genuine communication can't be done with an interactive whiteboard. The board can help to provide stimuli though and it's great for presenting and feedback. The off button is very important! That is often when real interactivity starts.

  2. Yes, you're right, Johanna — "the fact that the learners aren't mentioned necessarily means they aren't doing anything".

    But it does sound wrong…

    Describe what's happening in your classroom… The number of uses of the third person plural should surely way exceed that of the first person singular!

    But I also agree: in any case, "Real interactivity in terms of genuine communication can't be done with an interactive whiteboard".

  3. You have a point Tom, but I get increasing frustrated at International House/British Council type teachers critisicing state school teachers in Spain over bad classroom management and misuse of IWB. When the fact of the matter is 30 students in a class, lack of funds and problematic students stops the teacher from doing what they know best, teaching! It's funny that you don't see many natives in state schools, and it pays better than IH.

  4. Er, well…

    Do "IH/British Council type teachers" really criticise "bad classroom management and misuse of IWB", when and where?

    But I agree: when you're teaching classes of 30+, I'd say the IWB might well become just a fancy projector: you can't really have 30 kids all at once all come out to the front to use it.

    I think the maximum number of language learners I've ever used one with is 18; the maximum in training session for teachers, about 80. But it's my feeling that the fewer learners in the IWB-equipped room, the better.

    That said, as a teacher trainer, I'd say my job is not to criticise what we do as teachers but to suggest what we could and should be doing.

    BTW, think you don't "see many natives in state schools" as they're so hard to get into ,-)!

  5. Also none of them want to teach classes of 30 ,-)!!!! Un beso, K.

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