A couple of weeks ago in this very same class, I learned that there was indeed a term to refer to people like me: born in the pre-internet era, finding themselves in the need of figuring out what such a thing was and how it was used. My personal relation with information technologies has since then been ambiguous. I do not necessarily fear the use of gadgets or software applications, but I do not love them either, nor absolutely promote their use. And I believe that I could perfectly live without plenty of them. If I were to relate my feelings towards information technologies to the notions of safety, community, flow of ideas and sharing, which I usually associate with a classroom environment, I would say that I typically prefer content over form. Until two or three days ago, I tended to believe that interactive whiteboards encouraged form over content. Then, I had to remind myself that teaching is not about me.

Video tutorials from one of the leading players in the industry, are available on the web to get the dummies going. Right now, after having watched a dozen of these videos and having started the painful process of getting acquainted with the newly installed software in my computer, I perceive interactive whiteboards as a means to bring an all-in-one visual teaching tool: the class portal, my own teaching computer data, students’ personal informatized creations, continuous web access, an overhead projector, television and dvd set, the possibility of voice recording lectures to provide students with additional study materials, integrating course textbooks, and of course, the natural substitution of old-school whiteboards, with the fun added value of writing with my fingers, switching to an interactive pen, going back to my fingers, and erasing with my hands. An attractive gadget to enhance already good teaching.

In my opinion, interactive whiteboards do not encourage interactivity per se. It is within contemporary teaching conceptions of the development of students’ autonomy as a core learning strategy that interactivity may take place. A rather traditional teacher who finds it easy to lecture, having young energetic students sitting at the same place in silence at all times, will use this kind of board as a regular one, except maybe just a bit more plenty of colors. But as Brady Philips puts it, the best smart board is a sticky one, that is, the one that has kids hands stick all over it. It is autonomy-tolerant teachers who will let their kids put their hands on this tool: To tell the class about their last vacation using Google maps, smart ink and a photo slideshow. To put an airport jigsaw puzzle together while naming the customs, baggage claim area, shuttle bus, listening to a conversation between a passenger and an airline clerk, performing their own role-play on buying a plane ticket, recording it, listening to it at home, self-assessing and reporting to the class for a follow-up activity… And to my  mind, one of the most luring applications of this technology: the possibility of sharing with students THE visual aids used in the classroom, with the audio file recorded on them. To me, the fact of counting with a tool that allows this exchange is mind-blowing (I was impressed the first time that a teacher shared her power point presentation via e-mail, and the idea of having access to not just a power point slide, but to a full-class reconstruction at home, goes quite a step beyond).

In a nutshell, I am eager to use this tool.