Interactive whiteboard, if put in simple words, “are a sophisticated replacement of the traditional overhead projector” as well as the traditional blackboard, may it be a SMART Board or an ActivBoard. Instead of writing with chalk on a blackboard and using many different tools to project something in front of the class, the teacher can now use special pens to write on the interactive board and project activity sheets, games, videos, etc. on this one and only device, which is directly linked with a computer.
One of the main benefits of having an interactive whiteboard in the classroom is that it can compose with the different learnings styles of the students. Indeed, “tactical learners can use the screen and learn by touching and marking at the board, audio learners can have a discussion and visual learners can observe the teaching on the board.” This way, every student can benefit from the integration of a SMART Board or an ActivBoard in the classroom.
Other positive elements that an interactive whiteboard brings to the classroom follows:
- It allows flexibility. Teachers can use many kinds of medias to support their teaching, such as videos, images, etc.
- It is a low maintenance device and it is neat. There are no chalks and brushes anymore, so it is easier to keep the board clean.
- It provides access to information and tools that are online since it is directly connected to a computer.
- It is environmentally friendly. The interactive board allows the teacher to present their lessons and activities in different ways which can eliminate the need for many photocopies of the activity.
- It integrates technology in the classroom, which is part of the MELS curriculum in the province of Quebec.
- It can also allow “for connectivity in different locations; making ideal collaboration and distance learning environments.”
- Since we now live in a technological world, students may have more facilities to relate to an interactive board than to the traditional chalkboard. Furthermore, Lisa Buyer stated in her article that students find it easier to grasp a more complex concept when the interactive board is used.
However, there are also some negative points to interactive whiteboards, which are:
- The difficulty to set up and keep the board and the projector aligned if it is not mounted permanently.
- The teacher has to follow a special training to be able to use it.
- The “lesson plan preparation is increased” when you are developing activities on the interactive whiteboard.
There are many ways that an ESL teacher could use an interactive whiteboard in the classroom. First of all, it could be used as a traditional blackboard would be used, which is by writing, for example, the grammar points on the board and have the students copy them in their notes. The teacher could also use it to link new words or instructions to visual clues, such as images, which would help the students to have a better understanding of want the teacher expect or means. A SMART Board or ActivBoard could also be used to play interactive games that are online or on a CD-ROM, where the teacher could pick students to come up front and do the action that has to be done in the game. This way, online games can become activities for the whole class instead of individual activities during a computer class.