How to make your Interactive Whiteboard interactive

Let me, first, rephrase the title of this post, and call it not "How to make your Interactive Whiteboard interactive" but "How to make your students interactive".

In my talk at the annual IH Barcelona ELT Conference, I suggested that we should do the following if we're using an interactive whiteboard (IWB):

  • Stop calling it an interactive whiteboard: it isn't interactive!
  • Start the class with only minimum materials
  • Generate the maximum (interaction) from the minimum (material)
  • Don't waste hours looking for and downloading "materials"
  • Don't see it as a clever sort of PowerPoint (or photocopier)
  • Use it only a little (and use it less than your learners)
  • Reduce teacher talk time and student wait time to a minimum
  • Have your learners use it to create things
  • Use other technology/-ies (blog? wiki? email…?) to do things with what you have created
  • Move quickly from the interactive whiteboard to interactive students and an inactive (sic) whiteboard

IWBs are, of course, interactive in the sense that when you use the tools they come with, they respond — there's an action and response, which is "interaction" in a technological sense; but what we really want as teachers is interaction with and between our learners.

Call it digital whiteboard instead, and I think there's less risk that we're going to kid ourselves that, of its own accord, an IWB is going to lead to proper interaction — the sort that we want, between engaged and active learners.

Student wait time
I'll post the tasks I suggested in my talk separately but, for the moment, let me just take one of the other points suggested above, what I call "student wait time".

One of the things you want to avoid is having your learners simply sitting there watching someone else (you, or one of the learners) "interact" with the board. People don't learn languages by sitting passively in classrooms watching other people type, they need to be actively engaged in doing things — and with the tasks I post over the next few days I'll try to illustrate how that can be achieved.

See also Dictogloss: Interactive students, inactive whiteboard

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