Materials design: criteria for IWB-supported language teaching

Criteria for IWB-supported language teaching

There appears to be a clear need for a design framework that focuses specifically on IWB materials for language teaching. In response to this need, we have developed a set of criteria for the design and evaluation of IWB-based language learning materials.


These criteria were developed during the teacher training and data collection phases of the iTILT EU project, and refined during the analysis and interpretation of the findings. These guidelines are intended to support teachers in their use of the IWB as an effective tool to integrate digital technology in the regular language classroom and in particular to
a) enable the visualization and apprehension of concepts
b) facilitate engagement with and understanding of complex notions, and
c) enhance interaction and collaboration among learners.

Our materials design criteria for effective IWB-supported language teaching are divided into five key areas: methodological principles, pedagogical activities, learner engagement, tools and features, and practical considerations.


1. Activities involve a communicative purpose, as opposed to decontextualised language practice
2. Materials promote learning by doing as opposed to lecture content
3. Grammar materials promote focus on form (learning in a communicative context) rather than abstract rules
4. Materials create opportunities for learners to assess their own performance without teacher intervention
5. Materials allow learners to demonstrate understanding and help teachers to evaluate learning
6. Materials include opportunities for teachers to provide feedback on learners’ production
7. Materials promote learner interaction and cooperative and/or collaborative learning activities



1. Activities have a clear language learning objective; they are not only designed for enjoyment
2. Activities are designed around genuine or potentially real-life contexts which have meaning for learners
3. Materials include task-like activities such as exchanging information or solving problems and have a clearly defined outcome.
4. Materials provide linguistic and/or cognitive support to help learners understand input
5. Materials provide linguistic and/or cognitive support to maximise learners’ language production
6. Materials include resources which offer rich input for language learning
7. Some activities may allow for learner differentiation and individual choice
8. Some activities create opportunities for negotiation of meaning (e.g., information gap)


1. Materials include topics and activities which are likely to motivate learners
2. Opportunities are provided for learners to make their own contributions to activities
3. Learners’ class contributions can have an impact on how the lesson unfolds
4. Materials allow adequate space for learner experimentation and discovery, or inductive learning
5. Some activities provide space for displaying and/or discussing learners’ work
6. Some activities include links to external learning resources or other ICT tools which learners can access outside class
7. Some activities model effective learning strategies which learners can use in other contexts
8. Activities are appropriate to the age and language proficiency of learners



1. The materials include audio, visual and/or tactile input to support teaching and learning
2. Pages and files are not overloaded with too much information or too many different stimuli which may overwhelm learners
3. IWB tools (e.g., spotlight) and features (e.g., drag and drop) are used to support physical interactivity with the IWB
4. IWB tools and features are used to support cognitive interactivity with learning content
5. IWB tools and features are used to support social interactivity between the teacher and learner(s) or between learners
6. IWB tool and feature use allows the teacher to make complex input comprehensible to learners
7. Fonts, images, colours and other elements are easily readable and esthetically pleasing
8. An appropriate balance between objects embedded in the file before class and actions required of learners during class is respected



1. The materials represent an efficient use of teacher time in terms of preparation versus classroom use
2. Instructions are included which allow other teachers to quickly understand the intended learner level, objectives, and implementation of activities
3. Only resources which are free from copyright restrictions are included in the materials
4. Files load correctly and all links and interactive elements work as intended
5. The level of technological sophistication of the materials is appropriate to the technology available in class (connectivity, equipment, software)
6. Materials include some low-tech alternatives for use in case of technical problems (e.g., connectivity)
7. The use of the IWB brings a clear added value to the activities proposed and all activities cannot easily be carried out without an IWB.

Adapted from Cutrim Schmid, E., & Whyte, S. (Eds.). (2014). Teaching Languages with Technology: Communicative Approaches to Interactive Whiteboard Use. London & New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. Chapter 8.

2 thoughts on “Materials design: criteria for IWB-supported language teaching

  1. Looking back at our criteria for materials development in IWB-supported language teaching based on classroom research conducted in the iTILT project (2011-13) and published in our edited volume with Bloomsbury. In iTILT 2 we are widening our net to consider other classroom technologies such as tablets, smartphones and video communication, and asking how well these IWB criteria fit other technologies.

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