It was only five years ago that I was teaching English in South Italy using a blackboard and chalk. I never used to wear black to school; to do so would mean to go home covered in patches of white powder.
It was quite a luxury to start teaching in London with a white-board and dry-erase pens; so you can imagine my amazement the first time I encountered an interactive whiteboard. As I sat watching the demonstration, the colours; the lights; the sounds; things whizzing around the board, I thought to myself, “I’ll never be able to do that”. On the contrary, after I had used an IWB a couple of times, I wondered how I had ever lived without it. The chalk days seemed like a hundred years ago.
Finally – no more need for my infantile, unrecognisable drawings of vegetables
Nowadays, in my classroom, the IWB is always switched on. That doesn’t mean it’s always the focus of the action, but it does mean I can use it any time I need to show a visual. Finally – no more need for my infantile, unrecognisable drawings of vegetables (have you any idea how hard it is to draw “aubergine” with chalk?), thanks to Google images.
I am also a big fan of the timer on teachitworld.com, the phonetic chart at teachingenglish.org.uk, and looking at new language in context at corpus.byu.edu. Is it too obvious to mention YouTube and the limitless language one short video clip can generate?
As Director of Studies at Twin English Language Centre in South East London, I set out on a mission to introduce IWBs into our classrooms. It wasn’t at all easy. Firstly, I had to persuade the Finance Director that this was an investment worth making. Secondly, there were choices to be made; interactive projectors or interactive whiteboards, Smart board; Promethean; Epson; or other, which classrooms to start with, which wall to put it on… the list goes on.
For our students, technology isn’t something to be evaluated and appraised; it’s the way they live their lives
Thirdly, the teachers had to be trained, and, in some cases, persuaded to incorporate the technology into their lessons. The variety of reactions to the IWBs was fascinating.
In a recent lesson on inventions, I asked students to identify in what ways the classroom would have been different ten years ago. They immediately identified the IWB as a recent addition.
I am increasingly realising that our students are “digital natives” while we, the older generation of EFL teachers and managers, are “digital immigrants”. For our students, technology isn’t something to be evaluated and appraised; it’s the way they live their lives, they don’t know any different. For us, it’s something we need to fast come to grips with if we want to continue to engage, motivate, and indeed, teach our students.
Sarah Morse is the Principal of Twin English Centres’ English school in London, UK.