Sharpening pencils in the digital age

International Seminar, 14th October 2013 – Venice (Italy)

This one-day event is organized by LaDiLS (Laboratory of Didactics of Foreign Languages), as part of the Language Teaching Centre at the Department of Linguistics and Comparative Studies of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

Education technologies & Language learner autonomy

The Seminar will reflect on how Technologies favour Language Learner Autonomy, considering relevant issues as:

  1. how technologies can make students more aware and responsible for their own learning process
  2. what technological applications better foster language learning autonomy at different age and school levels
  3. how technology can help build a bridge between formal and informal language learning.

Shona Whyte (University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis)
Sharpening pencils in the digital age: classroom integration of interactive technologies to support learner autonomy


Current models of foreign language teaching in state schools in Europe encourage the integration of interactive technologies to provide learners with opportunities for authentic input, collaboration and reflection within the broadly communicative and task-based framework of the CER. However, many recent studies of technology integration in state school contexts question the extent of the pedagogical transformations so far effected. This talk takes the issue of technology in teacher education as a prism through which current paradigms of foreign language teaching and learning can be investigated with the overall goal of showing how the effective integration of learning technologies in language classrooms can promote learner autonomy and support language development. The first part explores general pedagogical principles and their links to substantive research-based recommendations for second language teaching. Examples of teaching activities with the interactive whiteboard (IWB) illustrate the role of technology in creating opportunities and providing support for the type of independent learner contributions necessary to drive acquisition. In the next section of the paper, a number of obstacles to effective language teaching with technology are identified; suggestions are given for a variety of technology-supported learning activities which may help teachers value and so foster greater learner autonomy. The last part examines opportunities for change by drawing lessons from a number of recent teacher education initiatives using interactive technologies directly in the classroom or for the dissemination and exploitation of resources. In this way, the talk outlines a programme of pedagogical change which seems indispensable if the integration of interactive technologies in the language classroom is to fulfil its full potential for promoting learner autonomy and supporting language development.

Classroom practice examples [links]

Handout Digital Pencils handout


Alexander, J. (2013). The IWB in EFL, the IWB for EFL: using the IWB to teach EFL in French educational settings. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, Nice, France.

Beauchamp, G. (2004). Teacher use of the interactive whiteboard (IWB) in primary schools – Towards an effective transition framework, Technology, Pedagogy and Education13 (3): 327–348.

Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (2013). Interactive Whiteboards in the EFL Classroom: Findings of the European Project iTILT. Guest lecture. Institute of English Studies, Leuphana Universität Lüneberg, Lüneberg, Germany. 18 June.

Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (Eds.) (forthcoming). Interactive whiteboards for language teacher professional development. Bloomsbury, January 2014.

Cutrim Schmid, E. & Whyte, S. (2012). Interactive Whiteboards in School Settings: Teacher Responses to Socio-constructivist Hegemonies.  Language Learning and Technology 16 (2), 65-86.

Hillier, E., Beauchamp, G., & Whyte, S. (2013). A study of self-efficacy in the use of interactive whiteboards across educational settings: a European perspective from the iTILT project. Educational Futures, 5 (2)

Whyte, S. (2013). Interaction and interactivity in technology-rich second language classrooms: the iTILT project in France. WorldCALL, Glasgow, UK.13 July.

Whyte, S. (2011). Learning to teach with videoconferencing in primary foreign language classrooms. ReCALL 23(3): 271–293.

Whyte, S., & Alexander, J. (2013). Learning to Use Interactive Technologies for Language Teaching: Video Diaries for Teacher Support in the iTILT Project. Atelier didactique, SAES, Dijon, 18 May. [PDF]

Whyte, S., Beauchamp, G., & Hillier, E. (2012). Perceptions of the IWB for second language teaching and learning: the iTILT project. In L. Bradley & S. Thouësny (Eds.), CALL: Using, Learning, Knowing, EUROCALL Conference, Gothenburg, Sweden, 22-25 August 2012, Proceedings (pp. 320-6). © Dublin. [PDF]

Whyte, S., & Cutrim Schmid, E. (forthcoming). A task-based approach to video communication with the IWB: a French-German primary EFL class exchange. InCutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (Eds.). Interactive whiteboards and language teacher professional development. Advances in Digital Language Learning and Teaching (Series editors: Michael Thomas, Mark Warschauer & Mark Peterson). Continuum.

Whyte, S., Cutrim Schmid, E., & van Hazebrouck, S. (2011). Designing IWB Resources for Language Teaching: the iTILT Project. International Conference on ICT for Language Learning, 4th Edition. Simonelli Editore.

Whyte, S., Cutrim Schmid, E., van Hazebrouck, S., & Oberhofer, M. (in press). Open educational resources for CALL teacher education: the iTILT interactive whiteboard project.  Computer Assisted Language Learning.