Becoming Familiar with the Interactive WhiteBoard (for Unskilled People)

Hello again friends of the web! You have probably gotten an idea of the kind of attitude that I have regarding my profession. I definitely want to be straight-forward and honest about everything. I like to put myself in the place of the students who are listening to me.

Now, from a overall point of view, I can’t help but feel like a severe cripple every time I am faced with the reality of having to write on a blackboard. I can’t reach the spaces I want to reach for the life of me (Short people for the win!), my writing with chalk resembles pitiful gibberish, and it takes me so long to write what I want that I can’t help but feel like I’m wasting valuable class time. Knowing that the Interactive Whiteboard, or IWB, is making its way into our classrooms, slowly replacing the archaic traditional blackboards and whiteboards, sounds like really good news for teachers like me, with zero ability when it comes to using those infamous chalks.

FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE-COVERED RASPBERRIES, WHAT IS THIS THING ABOUT?

Praise the simple definitions of Wikipedia, the Interactive WhiteBoard is an electronic device that takes the place of the blackboard as it is generally mounted to a wall and replaces it with an interactive  platform that is linked to a computer which projects its desktop onto the board. Multiple tools can be used to control it. Whether it’s a pen, finger, stylus (basically a pen that reacts to touchscreens), or another tool, every person with an average IQ can do it.

Basically, it is meant to get students more involved in the learning process as it’s interactive platform is much more stimulating than an inert blackboard.

SO YOU PROJECT THE BOARD ON THE BOARD, AND THEN, YOU DRAW ON THE BOARD THAT’S PROJECTED ON ITSELF. I THINK THE CONFUSION HAS DONE DAMAGE TO MY BRAIN CELLS.

It’s not nearly as complicated as I would have thought. Every time I hear about how I’ll eventually have to work with some large electronic devices in my classroom, I always imagine  it implies that I’ll have to become some bionic teacher with the technological skills of a secret agent. It turns out to be different, certainly, but fairly simple and very convenient. As described on the lovely WhiteBoard Blog, the options are various and definitely more aesthetically pleasing than almost any teacher’s attempt at drawing on the board (We’ll come back to that later.):

      • First of all, as the website states it, just because you have a billion visual options with your IWB, it doesn’t mean that you have to use them all. The excitement arising from the use of a new technology tends to make us (I include myself here.) tempted to engage in a massive RAINBOW PARTY but it doesn’t have to. Convenience comes from the easy access to the tools in a short time-frame, not from the sheer quantity of them, in my opinion.
      • Yes, you still have to manage your (lack of, in my case) handwriting skills. What’s nice about it, however, is that it doesn’t matter if you mess up or if you write so big that you run out of space, because you can just open a new page. BOOM! It’s like a new board. Just like that. Plus, you can open as many as you want. Well, how awesome is that?
      • Here’s one thing that’s almost nearly as sweet as bacon.  Say you made this awesome illustrated story on the board and you want to change it up a bit to make it more interesting. Just use the selection tool to ”tap” on the object on your screen and move it around/rotate/enlarge/stretch. Quick, easy, and the students can participate.
      • Now, there’s one thing that rocked my world. You can make text boxes. Now, now. Don’t be confused. We’re not talking about an actual box that pops out of the screen. We’re not into holograms yet. Ok, I’m just kidding. The thing is, you can move those boxes around using the oh-so-fabulous selection tool without having to rewrite the whole thing. Thank you.
      • You get ready-made templates for venn diagrams, tables, graphs, anything! And yes, you can still move all of it around with the selection tool. You can even zoom on some parts, hide others, etc.

OH OK, PRETTY SWEET. WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THIS BABY? HOW DO I INTEGRATE THIS THING IN MY TEACHING?

If anything, it’s what you can do with it. Here are a few of my suggestions (and personal insight) for high school students, plus some which were brought to my attention in class by one of my teachers (Place ad for Computers Applications in ESL teaching here.):

  • Have the students use the whiteboard in preparation to a subsequent task. Say they’re about to write a text. Have them brainstorm on a mind mapping tool.
  • Have them list the elements of a text, story, legend, etc. on the board.
  • I’d use it to explain some foggy concepts and inner workings of the English Language. Sometimes, there are subtleties about English syntax and morphology that confuse students like hell broken open. What in the world is the difference between ”He takes three pills a day.” and ”He is taking three pills a day.”?? It might sound simple to us but to students, it’s not. A nice little illustration with text boxes and images from the oh-so-fabulous image bank that comes with many IWB softwares can go a long way.
  • Have them use a graphic organizer to better understand the structure of a specific kind of text. Deconstruct it to make them realize why failure to follow the structure leads to nonsense. Yes, you can learn by counter example.
  • If you’re really bad at transferring the ideas from your head onto the board, you can per-prepare templates for your lesson so they’re ready to fill in in class.
  • When class ends, save your lesson. Next class, start where you left. Students will have a easier time following along because it’s the exact same thing they saw the class before. It makes it easier for them to remember.
  • Use it to explain grammar points.
  • Have students create a vocabulary bank for an upcoming activity.
  • Write scrambled sentences on the board using text boxes and have the students unscramble them. I would definitely use this to explain grammar points.
  • And so much more… The Interactive WhiteBoard is basically a blackboard on steroids in an Armani suit, riding a Lamborghini, and hanging out with Isaac Newton’s ghost on weekends, who makes up for his lousy disabled cousin blackboard’s unfortunate limitations.

I JUST DIED OF SHEER AMAZEMENT.

That’ll happen.

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