The IWB for EFL in France

A Technological innovation framework

Shona Whyte, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis


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Much recent research in digital technologies for language learning and teaching involves virtual environments, often the investigation of informal digital practices (e.g., Gee, 2003) or the replication or amelioration of face-to-face classroom practices through digital media (Levy, 2009). The physical classroom environment may be neglected, particularly traditional school settings where many are first exposed to foreign languages.  Yet the language classroom is also a locus of ongoing technology-mediated transformation, driven by both new technologies and new constructivist models of learning.  This presentation focuses on the integration of one such technology, the interactive whiteboard (IWB), in communicative and task-based language teaching.

The IWB is a somewhat controversial technology (Digregorio & Sobel-Lojeski, 2009; Gray et al., 2007) whose detractors fear a reinforcement of teacher-centred practice and favour newer mobile technologies. However, IWB penetration is widespread in many English-speaking countries and rising across Europe* (Futuresource, 2012), and this tool can constitute both a stepping stone and a digital dashboard for the integration of other devices and media (Cutrim Schmid & van Hazebrouck, 2010; Whyte, 2013).  As is often the case, both teacher education and research are lagging behind the trend, leaving open questions concerning the IWB’s techno-pedagogical affordances with respect to language teaching and learning, and the best ways to support teachers in integrating this technology (Cutrim Schmid & Whyte, 2014; Hennessy & London, 2013).

This presentation reports on a case study of nine French teachers of primary, secondary, and university EFL and TEFL classes in a collaborative action research project aimed at developing technical and pedagogical competences for IWB-mediated teaching.  Drawing on research into teacher perspectives as well as IWB-supported interactivity (Gillen et al., 2007; Jewitt et al., 2007), this mixed methods empirical study combines analyses of video examples of IWB-mediated activities with participant commentary obtained via video-stimulated recall interview, focus group discussion, and contributions to an online community of practice.

The results reveal a range of teacher responses to IWB integration, supporting a “slow-burner” view of technology uptake and providing a new framework for language teacher development including technical, pedagogical and reflective dimensions which are of relevance to the wider CALL and digital literacies community.

* 85% of UK classrooms were equipped with IWBs in 2012, with a figure of 94% projected for 2016; for Australia the figures are 53% and 63%, the US, 47% and 60%. In Europe IWB use also continues to rise with the Netherlands and Denmark moving from one half to three quarters of classrooms equipped over the same period, and France from 10% to 16%.

Shona Whyte

maître de conférences, anglais (Associate Professor, English)
Université Nice Sophia Antipolis