My first encounter with interactive whiteboards (IWBs) was almost 7 years ago

My first encounter with interactive whiteboards (IWBs) was almost 7
years ago. At the time I was working for the British Council in Morocco
and was part of a pilot group set up to evaluate them. I was one of
four trainers based in different countries asked to do this and I set
up a focus group of teachers working at the British Council in Morocco
to see how they could be introduced into the ELT classroom.

For
me this was a very enlightening experience, as I had a group of around
10 teachers all with very varying degrees of IT ability and IT
enthusiasm and with very different teaching styles, so watching their
different approaches was really an insight into how these IWBs could be
used.

Since this time, IWBs have become increasingly adopted
within both ELT and general classroom teaching, but perhaps with a
greater degree of controversy within the ELT classroom. They certainly
have a lot of fans and teachers who think they are terrific
transformative devices that greatly enhance their teaching, but they
have also come in for a lot of criticism some of which is justified and
much of which is not.

One criticism is that they are very
expensive and I'm not so sure that this is justified, especially if you
are in the positions of equipping a totally new school or classroom. To
do this with an interactive whiteboard you will need:

  • The IWB (on a stand or mounted on the wall)
  • A digital projector
  • A computer 
  • Speakers for your computer + internet connection can really add to what you can provide

If you have the above this can replace the need for:

  • A standard white board
  • Audio CD player and DVD player (your computer can play both of these)
  • The need to buy video or audio materials (you can get numerous Free ones from the internet)
  • Course books for students (you can get an infinite range of materials from the internet)
  • Photocopies (you can have worksheets / texts up on the board so
    that students don't need to have copies in front of them to read)

If you add all this up, then you might even find that your IWB is saving your school and perhaps your students some money. 

Of course a lot of the benefits above could be made possible without the actual IWB, just by using a computer and data projector, but when you look at the actual prices of an IWB compared to a normal whiteboard + projector screen, you start to realise that the IWB isn't such a big additional cost.

However, if you really want the functionality of the IWB and the ability to stand at the front of the class and control your computer, then it is possible to simply and very cheaply make your own using a simple Wii controller. There is a Youtube video her that shows you how: Low-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard using the Wiimote

You can also get many of the advantages of the IWB software using a free online tool such as Twiddla or Dabbleboard

So having an IWB in your classroom doesn't have to be hugely expensive.

In my next posting on IWB's I'd like to have a look at some of the pedagogical criticisms and see how justified these are.

Best

Nik Peachey | Learning Technology Consultant, Writer, Trainer
Teacher Development: http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/
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