This chapter summarizes the work underway to chart, critically evaluate, and systematize the introduction of interactive whiteboards (IWB) into modern foreign language classrooms in England. It is suggested that there is a developmental cycle whereby teachers take some time to understand the technology and become competent in its use. They then look to its advantages in presentation and the motivation of students before becoming aware of its pedagogical value and develop a changed classroom practice. This cycle is based upon enhanced teacher understanding of the nature of interactivity and the potential offered by the IWB in meeting a variety of learning needs. The relationship between IWB use and Web 2.0 arises from the potential of both to add impetus for teachers to structure lesson development and enhance activity. It is supported by teacher understanding of questioning techniques, and increasingly, by consideration of the use of gestures at the IWB. While IWBs are not a solution to all learning problems, it is suggested that they offers scope for greater student involvement and understanding in the learning process.
The interactive whiteboard (IWB) is part of the growing variety of equipment used in conjunction with a computer and data projector to incorporate software, Internet links and data equipment for whole class use. Increasingly schools are equipping each subject area, and in many cases every classroom, with an interactive whiteboard to supplement or replace traditional white or blackboards. This is happening in many parts of the world, for example in Mexico there has been a focus on IWB installation and use, wherever possible, to ensure that the full potential of the equipment and associated software can underpin quality lessons to be taught on the widest possible scale. This shows a fundamental belief that IWB technology and pedagogy can make a difference across a range of subjects (Hennessey, Wishart & Whitelock, 2007; Belli, 2005; McFarlane, 2005). Research shows that this may be true for certain young people and for a period of time but that fundamental changes promoting continued educational achievement are only possible where teachers recognize the significance of the word “interactive” and develop their approaches to teaching to promote this. Such approaches are concerned with driving student involvement and increasing understanding. They are based on the recognition of students’ differing learning needs in order to ensure conceptual understanding and cognitive development (Armstrong et al., 2005; Hall & Higgins, 2005; Kent, 2006; Smith et al., 2005; Sturcke, 2004; Jones, 2004).
Glover and Miller (2003) have traced the pattern of increasing use in terms of the influence of “missioners, tentatives and luddites” within schools. More importantly they have demonstrated that teachers need to be helped through a three-stage development process so that they can move from traditional to increasingly more interactive approaches, specified as:
Supported didactic, where the teacher makes some use of the IWB but only as a visual support to the lesson and not as integral to conceptual development.
Interactive, where the teacher makes some use of the potential of the IWB to stimulate student responses from time to time in the lesson and to demonstrate some concepts.
Enhanced interactivity, where the teacher develops the materials so that the students focus upon the IWB as a means of prompting, explaining, developing and testing concepts for most of the lesson.
It is only at the third stage that the potential of the board as the focus of learning based upon a new understanding of the learning process, is recognized and realized by the teacher (Miller & Glover, 2004; Ziolkowski, 2004; Watson, 2006). The capacity to use the equipment in this way is dependent upon both technical fluency in the use of the equipment and associated software, and pedagogic understanding and flexibility to exploit the possibility of interactivity between teacher and student, and student and student. To achieve this has much in common with the educational development of all ICT and reflects a move, whether recognized or not, to the use of the Web 2.0 platform (Belshaw, 2007). Web 2.0 is here understood to be related to a focus on learning through concentration on multimedia use, age and ability linked group and individualized learning, and an awareness of variations in personal learning styles (Xhakli, 2008). This brings with it a change of emphasis from the teacher centered transmissive approach to learning to one characterized by interactivity, collaboration, user-generated content and immediacy of feedback. This is based on short attention switches from the teacher to the IWB as a mediating agency allowing access to other ICT technology within the classroom.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Social Constructivist Approaches: These are based upon the complex interaction between teacher and learner, or between learners, and relate to the way in which we learn from each other with greater facility once the social network of the context is known and when the culture of the learning group has been developed.
Interactivity: Interactivity is an approach to learning in which teacher and learner interact to ensure understanding, enhance conceptual development and stimulate debate. Learning is stimulated through participation rather than through rote or passive learning which characterises didactic approaches.
Interactive Whiteboard (IWB): An interactive whiteboard consists of a computer linked to a data projector and to a touch sensitive large electronic screen usually fixed to a wall. Images from the computer are then displayed onto the whiteboard by means of the data projector. These images can be manipulated at the electronic screen usually by means of a special pen or a finger (this depends on the properties of the electronic screen). The term interactive whiteboard often refers only to the electronic screen.
Artifact (BE Artefact): Artifact is an object or item. However it can also be the on screen representation of an object or an item.
Motivation: In this context, is an outcome of presentation because of the greater interest offered to learners and the reinforcing of concepts through learner engagement.
Gesture: This is a term encompassing human actions here associated with the use of the interactive whiteboard e.g. hand and body movements and facial expressions. There is evidence that users develop consistent hand and facial gestures e.g. in seeking responses, rejecting wrong responses and that learners assimilate these as part of the teaching package offered by individual teachers.