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.

For my first post on this space, I would like to share my very first use of technology in a classroom. This consisted of a forty-minute lesson in a high-school class of about thirty students during my first practicum, and I decided to use a three-minute video which I downloaded from youtube. This video-sharing website emerged in 2005, and today, it is broadly known and visited by millions of web surfers all around the world. Its once revolutionary concept of “anyone can upload anything so everyone can watch”, is today a standard in the internet-based entertainment industry and it can provide with an unlimited access to creative visual instructional resources. Any type of videos, going from Harlem Shake to interviews with prestigious scientists, can be found in this website. And any video can go viral. And it can make anyone famous.

The first challenge presented by my associated teacher was to present something related to my country of origin, Mexico. I decided not to prepare the usual show-and-tell about Mexican traditions, population, music, and so forth. Instead, I chose to base my lesson on the adventures of the California-based band Ginger Ninjas. Firstly, because they rode their bicycles from North California to South Mexico (5000 miles). Secondly, because they used their bikes as the source of energy for their amplifiers in all of their shows, and thirdly, because I had the opportunity to pedal in one of their gigs. This is in my opinion the kind of visual tool that may relate to teenage learners with a sense of excitement and curiosity. It contains real English and it presents a challenging while-watching classroom task.

As a warm-up activity we brainstormed different kinds of hobbies individually. After that, students interviewed each other in pairs about their hobbies. They reported their findings to the class. As an instructor, I monitored this activity providing feedback and vocabulary, and I also made sure that students came up with hobbies such as music and sports. Then I provided the class with the main task: a questionnaire which they had to fill out while watching the video. The questions were related to the interviews of the band members and to data presented about the tour. As a post-task, students had to make teams of four and share their answers. They reported to the class and I provided them with feedback and corrections. Finally, there was a follow-up activity consisting of creating a poster to announce a forthcoming Ginger Ninjas show. The class was delivered totally in English and students were not expected to understand all the words and expressions used by the band members. Instead, they were instructed to gather essential information, and express their opinions. The use of video in this class was successful and it took them by surprise. TED, which is one of my favorite websites, contains hundreds of talks on a number of topics going from the axioms of origami to the latest creations in tridimensional organic sculpture. These may as well provide with real English within diverse contexts to enhance conversation in the classroom. Of course there may be at least 47 different alternatives to youtube or TED to plan fun video supported lessons.