Exploring possibilities of using interactive board software in language teaching

In the last few years, the number of teachers using computers has increased. Computers and language teaching have walked hand to hand for a long time and contributed as teaching tools in the second language classroom. A lot of books and articles have been written about the role of computers in education in the 21st century. There are many advantages and disadvantages of these technologies and the authors’ options are very inconsistent.

The large amount of articles is devoted to global changing of an education system. Some changes that occur in the world of education are the result of a reflection on the inevitable development of pedagogical and didactic theories. Others are due to requests by society about new generations’ education. In the current landscape, there is an indisputable need for new generations to master different communication channels. The school, as the main educational institution, cannot be imper-

vious to changes, but should try to work best to adapt to them. Therefore, the school system is called to suggest how to use and integrate new technologies in its daily actions, considering them as potential new strategies and teaching methodologies. Teaching with technology means to support the use of technological equipment to encourage learning. The new technical tools can be a great way to characterize the learning proposal in an innovative education system as it makes a significant contribution to the effectiveness of the teaching and learning process. They should be introduced through a valid educational mediation, so it becomes necessary that the use of new information technologies is well planned. As Schwartz [1] stated: "A pedagogy, that uses multimedia, is formed by the scientifically organized combination of materials and media, in which the teacher becomes an element of mediation between students, understanding, skills and media".

In many articles authors discuss some of the ways that computers can be used in English language teaching, with a view to helping teachers make the most of the opportunities they offer to students. It is helpful to think of the computer as having the following main roles in the language classroom: teacher the computer teaches students new language testerthe computer tests students on language already learned tool the computer assists students to do certain tasks data source the computer provides students with the information they need to perform a particular task communication facilitator the computer allows students to communicate with others in different locations

Computer as a teacher. In the early days of computers and programmed learning, some students sat at a terminal for extended periods following different learning programs. In such programs, students can listen to dialogues or watch video clips. They can click on pictures to call up the names of the objects they see. They can speak into the microphone and immediately hear a recording of what they have said. The program can keep a record of their progress, e.g. the vocabulary learned, and offer remedial help if necessary. Many of these CD ROM programs are offered as complete language courses. They require students to spend hours in front of the computer screen, usually attached to a microphone headset. Another of their serious drawbacks is the fact that in many cases the course content and sequence is fixed. The teacher has no chance to include materials that are of interest and importance to the particular students in his or her class.

Computer as a tester. The computer is very good at what is known as drill and practice; it will present the learner with questions and announce if the answer is right or wrong. In its primitive manifestations in this particular role in language teaching, it has been rightly criticized. The main reason for the criticism is simple: many early drill and practice programs were too easy; either multiplechoice or demanding a single word answer. They were not programmed to accept varying input and the only feedback they gave was Right or Wrong. So for example, if the computer expected the answer "does not" and the student typed, "doesn't", it would have been told she was wrong without any further comment. It is not surprising that such programs gave computers a bad name with many language teachers. Unfortunately, there are now very many of these primitive drill and kill programs flooding the Internet.

Despite their disadvantages, such programs are popular with many students. This is probably because the student is in full control; the computer is extremely patient and gives private, unthreatening feedback. Most programs also keep the score and have animations and sounds, which many students like. There are some programs which do offer more useful feedback than right or wrong, or that can accept varying input. Such programs can be recommended to students who enjoy learning grammar or vocabulary in this way. If two or more students sit at the same computer, then they can generate a fair amount of authentic communication while discussing the answers together.

Computer as a tool. It is in this area that the authors think the computer has been a great success in language teaching. Spreadsheets, presentation slide generators, concordances and web page producers all have their place in the language classroom, particularly in one where the main curricular focus is taskbased or project-work. The most important role of the computer in the language classroom is its use as a writing tool. It has played a significant part in the introduction of the writing process, by allowing students easily to produce multiple drafts of the same piece of work. Students with a bad handwriting can now do a piece of work to be proud of, and those with poor spelling skills can, after sufficient training in using the spell check, produce a piece of writing largely free of spelling mistakes.

Computer as a data source. I'm sure we don't need to say much about the Internet as a provider of information. Anyone who has done a search on the World Wide Web will know that there is already more information out there than an individual could process in hundred lifetimes, and the amount is growing by the second. This huge source of information is an indispensable resource for much project work, but there are serious negative implications. We shudder to think of how much time has been wasted and will continue to be wasted by students who aimlessly wander the Web with no particular aim in mind and with little or no guidance.

Computer as a communication facilitator. The Internet is the principal medium by which students can communicate with others at a distance, (e.g. by e-mail or by participating in discussion forums). Some teachers have set up joint projects with a school in another location and others encourage students to take part in discussion groups. There is no doubt that such activities are motivating for students and allow them to participate in many authentic language tasks. However, teachers may wish to closely supervise their students' messages. Recent research has shown up the extremely primitive quality of much of the language used in electronic exchanges! [2]

Nowadays many classrooms are equipped by the computer with an interactive board and we can find a lot of articles devoted to using of this equipment and the software to it.

Language learning depends very much on emotion and attention. Therefore, it is important that the mode of communication of contents creates genuine interest, as in the case of multimedia. The adoption of multimedia directly affects cognitive processes and thus also teaching and learning. On a practical level, in a multimedia environment, the language input (words and structure) can be made substantial being contextualized by images and sounds, in order to be recognized and easily understood. The fact that the input is presented in different ways seems to facilitate learning, not only because it helps the inference and the ability to infer meaning using the context, but also due to the memorization of the input language and its reproduction. Mediation input through graphics and sound requires less energy at the level of cognitive linguistic decoding, allowing time to spend those energies on the input elaboration. With the development of new technologies, there has been a steady increase of possibilities of action and interaction thanks to the transition from a "received" multimedia to an "interacted" multimedia (video games, simulation, virtual reality) up to a "constructed" multimedia (creating environments of personal expression, multimedia desks).

An example of new media technology, recently introduced in the classroom is the Interactive Board (IB). Interactivity is the central innovation for this board, as the contents that are displayed can be dragged, clicked, edited and processed directly on its surface, as it is normally done on a computer. Every object on the IB can also be “catches”, or photographed using software supplied with the board and every action can be recorded in video format. The IB is a multimedia tool, because it allows the simultaneous use of different channels. According to Beeland [3] with the IB it is possible to integrate three different types of access to knowledge: visual, auditory and tactile. Bonaiuti [4] stated that "is the coexistence within the same tool of a plurality of communication channels to make a difference: they are made available, within the same interactive work environment, different contents (text, audio and visual), and also different modes of manipulation and control". In the international scene for several years, research is under way aimed at identifying its potential and specific characteristics. Here are some of the highlighted potentials discovered so far [5]:

  • allows the visualization of concepts through pictures, maps, photos, movies, etc.;
  • allows an integrated use of ICT in teaching and different teaching methods;
  • the materials produced can be stored, allowing a reflection on the metacognitive process and product carried out;
  • leads to a development of digital competences;
  • helps students to practice their cognitive skills, promoting learning;
  • improves the focus and motivation because it increases the pace of lessons;
  • helps teachers to structure and plan their lessons in advance;
  • increases student participation.

The IB provides the opportunity to begin to experience directly in the classroom a continuum of languages and signs. Maragliano

[6] states that “the effort of educators and designers of training should be geared to making the school one of the privileged field where is processed an «interpretation of signs»”.

With Activstudio (software to IB) we can make our Activboard speak any language.

For this reason, the ability to use sounds in Activstudio makes it an excellent, flexible tool for teachers of modern foreign languages. What’s more, teachers no longer have to worry about getting their tape recorder or CD stuck in the wrong place. Now, sound clips can easily be placed in a flipchart and can be activated at the click of an Activpen. This flexibility means that various people can be used saying the same phrases. As well as playing sounds, Activstudio offers us the ability to record them. If we have a microphone connected to our computer, we can record our students’ speaking exercises and then play them back. Our students could take charge of the process of recording and listening to their own sentences.

If our students groan at the thought of grammar, Activstudio offers a huge range of techniques to make grammar as serious or as simple as we want. Using a simple drag and drop techniques, get our students up to the board to drag answers to questions. Using the Pen tool, alternatively, we could get students to draw lines connecting questions to answers. Matching, sorting and ordering exercises can quickly be created on the board to help back up students’ language skills and to get them involved in the lesson. Another simple advantage of Activstudio is that mistakes can quickly be deleted. Using the Restart button we can reset the whole exercise if we need to start again.

A number of special interactive tools are available in Activstudio to help vary the way in which lessons are taught. The Spotlight tool is useful for ‘odd one out’ exercises, while the Reveal tool is a perfect way of presenting a list of bullet points to a class. Other presentation tools can add pace and an element of chance to lessons. With the Clock tool we can put a time limit on an activity. The Dice tool can, of course, be used for a huge range of grammar games. It can also be used at any time to add an element of chance to a task– who goes next? Who replies to the question?

Activstudio gives foreign language teachers the chance to focus precisely on the vocabulary that is being learned. Text can be copied between a number of pages. We can play with those words; put them in different contexts, make students work with them in different ways. To make the most of Ac-

tivboards we can use colors to highlight verbs and nouns, or the masculine or feminine parts of a word. The pace of the class can be varied thanks to the ability to have as many pages as you want in a flipchart.

Class preparation is easier and more productive with Activstudio. All our preparation can be tied together in one flipchart. Exercises can be printed out so that what our students see on the board is tied in with the pages they use at their desks. It is worth finding that fantastic image or honing an excellent exercise because none of your ideas are ever wasted. Flipcharts can be saved, copied and reused. You can share them with colleagues and colleagues can share their/flipcharts with you.

Images can also play an important part in helping students to remember what they are learning. With the help of the internet, you have a bottomless pit of information and images in the target language at your disposal. Gone are the days when we had to bring suitcases full of magazines, newspapers and other products back from vacation to help with our teaching. It is all available on the internet. Text and images can be dragged straight from Activstudio’s web browser onto the flipchart page. Clips from today’s news can be shown to students in the target language. Language students often respond to a language when it is placed in context. With your Activboard there are more opportunities to do this than ever.

Finally, once we’ve created a perfect flipchart, with a variety of interactive exercises including sounds, video, color and a range of presentation techniques – we have the ability to create links to other websites for further ideas and materials. Links are another important tool in Activstudio. You can create menu pages within a flipchart, letting your students choose from a selection of topics, or you can link to other resources you have available on your computer.

With the vast range of resources and the variety of interaction techniques available in Activstudio, the teaching of foreign languages has moved up a gear. Now languages can be brought to life in the classroom with the help of your Activboard and Activstudio [7].

Many articles represent results of researches in revealing of advantages and disadvantages of using computers in language teaching. The authors describe projects that was implemented in the area of researches. One of the IT projects that were implemented was the Smart School project. Among its objectives was to prepare citizens for the information age through an innovative education delivery process. This study specifically investigates teachers’ use of computers in teaching English as a second language (ESL) in a public school. It examines teachers’ attitudes, the challenges that they faced in using computers in teaching English, and their suggestions in order to overcome these challenges. Feedback gathered from questionnaires show that they faced many challenges that demotivate them from using computers in the classroom. The results of the study suggest that there must be strong support of both the instructional and administrative aspects of IT in the school so that teachers will be able to embrace IT fully in teaching English in their classroom [8].

In conclusion, we would like to mention that on one hand schools must be able to keep up to date with technological innovations and with the inevitable changes in society, trying to adapt its methodologies, and on the second hand keep coherence of action with its functions and its mode of operation and changing gradually. During these stages of change, the school system should see it necessary to stop and think over the value of innovation and the potential of the technological tools.

In language teaching, technologies should not be included in order to play a predominant role, but with an instrumental function, that help pupils with their training and education. In this way, technologies such as the IB become a valuable tool to promote teaching as individualized as possible and give teachers the opportunity to diversify their teaching enabling students to learn in different ways.



  1. 1. Schwarz, B. (1985) L’informatica e l’educazione.Rapportodella CEE. Roma: Armando Editore.
  2. 2 Paul Shoebottom/ Using computers in language teaching http://www.eslcafe.com.
  3. Beeland, W.D. (2002). Student Engagement, visual learning and technology: can interactive whiteboards help?, Annual conference of the association of Information Technology for teaching education. Dublino: Trinity College. http:// chiron.valdosta.edu/are/ Artmanscrpt/ vol1no1/ beeland_am.pf.
  4. Bonaiuti, G. (2009). Didattica attiva con la LIM. Metodologie, strumenti e materiali per la Lavagna Interattiva Multimediale. Trento: Erickson.
  5. Gage, G. (2006). How to use an interactive whiteboard really effectively in your secondary classroom. London: David Fulton Publishers.
  6. Maragliano, R. (2008). «Parlare le immagini. Punti di vista. Milano: Apogeo»
  7. Simon Green (2006). Promethean Technologies Group
  8. Darus S. (2007) Investigating Teachers’ use of computers in Teaching English
Year: 2012
City: Oskemen
Category: Philology