One of the questions posed by several delegates at the E-Help Conference in Toulouse is what is the role of ICT in the classroom? The main thrust of my seminar was that teachers need to move away from seeing IWBs and ICT as a teaching or presentation tool to using it as learning tool to engage learners through interactive teaching styles.
Variety is the spice of life and every good teacher knows that you have to use a range of teaching and learning styles that appeal to the different learning strengths of your class. Interactive Whiteboards are an excellent medium for appealing to the visual, kinaesthetic and auditory learners to create memorable lessons that stick in their minds.
One of the first ideas that I showcased at the E-Help Conference was a simple snowballing starter exercise where the teacher uses the IWB to display the key words for the lessons. I asked the delegates to study the key words for two minutes and then use the curtain feature of SmartNotes to cover up the words. They then had to write down as many words as they could remember in two minutes. Once the time was up I then asked them to share their answers with their neighbour and try and add to their list of key words. This is a really nice warm up exercise to get a class discussing and sharing answers. I then again used the curtain feature to reveal the key words and ask them to either self assess or peer assess their answers - a nice opportunity for AFL!
This sort of activity appeals to the visual and auditory learner, but can then be extended by Kinaesthetic learners by asking them to either link the key words or classify them depending upon the topic. I often use similar activities using the spot light tool on a series of hidden pictures and then ask students or groups of students to try and identify the historical character or a historical artefact.
A picture can paint a thousand words and I often use a variety of images on my IWB and ask students to go for 5 bullet points in the back of their books and then during the feedback session to get out of their chairs and annotate on the board. At this stage of my seminar I was able to showcase how you could get a class of students all out of their places in rotation to annotate a diagram with historical inaccuracies to illustrate the simplicity of this idea.
You may be thinking at this stage that none of this is rocket science, but the beauty of these types of starters is that they make very effective low maintence starters and plenaries that help to hook and engage students. ICT does not need to be clever and sophisticated in order to get students enjoying what they are doing. However, as we all know from our own experiences if you over use PowePoints, Drag and Drop or even textbooks and worksheets, they can soon lose their appeal. Variety is critical to a successful lesson.
Once I had completed this stage of my seminar, I then moved onto how to use IWB to develop critical historical thinking skills and accelerated learning styles through the use of graphic organizers.
Visual thinking can be expressed in many ways. Graphic organizers are one way for visual thinkers to arrange their ideas. There are unlimited ways to express these visual ideas. Graphic organizers have many names including visual maps, mind mapping, brainstorms (idea showers) and visual organizers, or whatever other name you wish to give them...but graphic organizers are basically visual ways to represent information. I have a number of different organisers, which I annotate as simple diagrams or for more complex drag and drop activities in SmartNotes.
There are literally dozens upon dozens of versions of graphic organizers; there are almost as many books, manuals, and guides, not to mention websites that can give you a whole range of examples. For our purposes I use thinking skill triangles, venn diagrams, chain of events, simple KWL tables, reliability squares, pie charts and many others including zones of tolerance.
How Do They Work?
Since you know that some of your students are visual learners, and that a picture is worth a thousand words, then you should have in your toolbox some ways to organize ideas, facts, and concepts graphically.
Using boxes, circles, ovals, rectangles, and other shapes, not to mention lines for connecting, students can show information according to its level (main ideas, subtopics, details or elaboration, and so on). They can show how two ideas compare to one another (as in a Venn Diagram) or comparison alley. They can trace the order, sequence, or stages of a process in a cause and consequence diagram. They can be used to show how characters in a historical situation or story work with and relate to one another.
Graphic organizers can be used in all phases of learning from brainstorming ideas as a starter, to presenting findings in a plenary. They can be used individually, or in large groups. For example, some teachers like to create a class concept map as a large group to review at the end of a unit or develop a cause & consequence map while introducing a topic to a whole class. These tools are particularly useful in activities that require critical thinking skills such as source analysis.
My preferred style is to have students working on their own or in groups completing their graphic organisers and then feedback either in a class discussion or kinaesthetically on the whiteboard. The key is to question their choices and get them to explain the reasons behind their arguments or classification on the IWB in order to encourage the auditory learner and develop those critical thinking skills.
Through this phase of my seminar I demonstrated a range of drag and drop activities using graphic organisers as well as a number of downloaded flash files that I had captured from www.schoolhistory.co.uk. Unfortunately, half way through this demonstration my file corrupted and I was unable to recover it, demonstrating that you should always have a plan B when using any form of ICT in the classroom!
Amway, after a massive heart attack, I then moved on to showcase how you can use SmartNotes on an IWB to do literacy-modelling exercises with students. Normally after a snowballing session I will move on and read a passage from a textbook or worksheet on a topic like the causes of the First World War. I will then get my students to classify a series of statements into a thinking skills triangle on the IWB, which they will use either later in the lesson or for homework to produce an extended answer. Once they have drafted and written their answers I will scan a selection of class work and get them to peer assess and annotate the answers with the pens on the IWB to highlight effective use of persuasive language, analysis, good use of language, key words, historical facts and even where they would insert additional punctuation and full stops. Once this phase of the AFL exercise is over is over I will then sit down and then begin typing a answer into Smart Notes asking the students to provide the ideas and phrases I will need to construct a model answer. This is highly effective use of ICT on an IWB and is great for developing the literacy and critical thinking skills of students.
For those of you who are wondering what Smart Notes is, it’s a software package that normally bundled with a Smart board. However, you can use this software with any IWB so long as you delete the start-up file from your program files. We have three different IWBs in our department so it makes sense for us all to use the same software package to that it is easier to share resources and ideas. You can download this software from www. And you can also use it on a tablet pc, which can be passed around the classroom,
For my plenary, I then moved onto how to use content generators like Gameshow Presenter to inject a bit of fun, pace, teamwork and good old-fashioned Kinaesthetic learning into the lesson for my plenary. For those of you who have not come across Gameshow Presenter it is a brilliant software package that can be downloaded from www.gameshowpresenter.com. I demonstrated to the delegates how the package could be easily customised to create a really cheesy plenary or starter. In some respects, it is very similar to packages like Fling the Teacher or Penalty Shoot out. The key difference is that the kids love the insults, jibes and over the top praise and congratulations when they get the their answers either right or wrong. The same was also true for the delegates and even John Simpkin appear to enjoy himself and cried foul at one stage!
To conclude, IWB are a great medium for developing interactive teaching styles through the use of graphic organisers, video clips, pictures, snowballing, drag and drop and fun games like gameshow presenter, but if you over use any medium for too long it can lose its impact. One of the mistakes that I made at my school whilst I was the e-learning coordinator was to train everyone how to use GameShow Presenter. Within a couple of weeks of being over exposed, the kids quickly grew bored. ICT is more than a presentational tool and however you engage your students; variety is the spice of life if you want to create high impact memorable lessons. IWB`s are a brilliant medium and if you haven't got one get one, but don't just use it to present ideas, get the kids out of their seats and have some fun!
If you are interested in attending a similar seminar I will be delivering two seminars on IWBs at the SHP Conference in Leeds in July. I've also just agreed to do two more day long seminars on developing interactive teaching styles using ICT for a company called Lighthouse Professional Development in the Autumn term 2006. Folks are always welcome to drop in at Mexborough School during the holidays or after school, by arrangement to swap ideas, resources and have some free hands on training. Why reinvent the wheel?
Edited by Roy Huggins, 17 June 2006 - 10:39 AM.