Teaching languages with technology: 2 reviews

9781623569334Two reviews of our edited volume on communicative language teaching with the interactive whiteboard (IWB):

Davidson Devall, K. (2015). Review of the book Teaching Languages with Technology: Communicative Approaches to Whiteboard Use. The Modern Language Journal, 99(4).

Guichon, N., & Merlet, E. (2016). Critique : Teaching Languages with Technology: Communicative Approaches to Whiteboard Use. Canadian Modern Language Review / Revue Canadienne des Langues Vivantes, 72, 1, 284–286 doi:10.3138/cmlr.72.1.284

Preview on Google Books

These reviews focus on different aspects of this collection of case studies from the iTILT project on the integration of the IWB in classroom foreign language teaching. Both pick up on Colpaert’s reminder in his foreword to the book that technology is only one aspect of the learning environment, and go on to highlight the pedagogical dimension of technology integration, and from there to teacher education concerns. Davidson Devall sees the potential of the volume to inform action research in IWB-supported language teaching, and for language teacher education with technologies other than the IWB, while Guichon and Merlet underline the importance of progressive appropriation of the technological and pedagogical affordances of digital tools.

This post offers some short quotations from each review, followed by a summary of some of our recommendations for teacher development given in the final chapter of the book.

Davidson Devall (2015)

This review in the Modern Language Journal considers its implications for teacher education “even in contexts different from those in the book,” that is, beyond the primary school classroom which is the focus of several chapters, and beyond the IWB itself.

As Colpaert states in his Foreword, “What makes IWBs [interactive whiteboards] very interesting is their unique position in the technological spectrum: on the one hand they feature a specific set of limitations and affordances, but on the other hand they easily fit within many learning environments as one piece of the puzzle” (p. xii). The editors of this volume seek to encourage further research and material development efforts for the interactive whiteboard by presenting specific applications and opening a dialogue for discovery learning amongst instructors and students.
As evident from the title, the book is intended for teacher education and development. The overview of the development of technology- enhanced language learning as well as pre- and post-reading reflective questions for each chapter provide excellent support for implementation in a pedagogical methods course.
the criteria for designing materials structured by Cutrim Schmid and Whyte could be helpful for use with other interactive technologies as they touch on “methodological principles,” “pedagogical activities,” “learner engagement,” “tools and features,” and practical considerations” (pp. 245–248).


Guichon & Merlet (2016)

This review is in French and appears in the Canadian Modern Language Review. It notes that the book aims to suggest avenues for pedagogical exploitation of the IWB based on research rather than simply promote this tool, and that one of the most interesting aspects of the volume lies in the recommendations in the final chapter for the training of teacher educators.

D’emblée, que ce soit par le biais de l’avant-propos de Jozef Colpaert qui déclare que « no technology, not even the [Interactive Whiteboard] , carries an inherent, direct, measurable and generalizable effect » (p. xii) ou dans l’introduction de Shona Whyte qui prend le soin d’ancrer la réflexion dans l’approche par tâches, le lecteur est assuré que l’objectif de cet ouvrage n’est pas de faire la promotion d’un outil, mais de proposer des pistes d’exploitation pédagogique d’une manière critique et informée par la recherche et les données empiriques.
L’un des aspects les plus intéressants de cet ouvrage est qu’il fournit des axes pour guider la formation de formateurs à l’utilisation du TNI dans la classe de langue (c’est d’ailleurs l’orientation du dernier chapitre). L’enseignant, dont le rôle primordial est rappelé, est invité à s’engager dans une réflexion pédagogique, cherchant à impliquer réellement ses apprenants dans les interactions. Est ainsi souligné avec acuité l’importance du processus de l’appropriation de l’outil qui ne peut se faire qu’en se donnant le temps de l’expérience et en mettant en place des projets de formation par étapes. Le processus de formation gagne à inclure des phases de réflexion, personnelle ou collective, à partir de pratiques de classe contextualisées et répondant aux besoins et à la réalité des enseignants désireux de s’approprier le TNI comme un nouvel élément de leur environnement et de leur répertoire pédagogiques.

Supporting teacher education for technology integration

In Chapter 8, our conclusion to this edited collection, we propose the following principles for teacher education.

Principles and guidelines for IWB-supported language teaching practice

In work on teacher professional development elsewhere, we suggest a number of principles for the design and implementation of IWB training (Cutrim Schmid & Schimmack, 2009; Cutrim Schmid & Whyte, 2012; Whyte et al., 2013). This section will review these recommendations in light of the findings presented in this book. The present volume includes studies of IWB teacher training courses in Belgium and Turkey, which revealed interesting aspects of the challenges and complexities involved in such endeavors. Other chapters have also dealt with this topic indirectly, since all studies contained an element of reflective practice, a component of continuing professional development in both informal and institutional settings.

Although most of these principles apply to the majority of technology professional development contexts, the examples given to exemplify the guidelines are drawn from IWB-based studies. This will help readers understand how these principles can be applied to their specific context. We suggest five key principles to inform the design and implementation of IWB training programmes.

4.1 Pedagogical framework based on theoretical foundation

IWB training programmes should have a sound theoretical basis and a clear pedagogical framework.

All chapters have emphasized the value of IWB professional development rooted in established language learning theory. From this perspective, the affordances of the technology with respect to teaching goals constitute the best starting point for an attempt to understand the potential of the IWB. The first question teachers should ask is not “What can I do with an IWB in my language lesson?” but rather “How can I use the IWB to support language learning?”

4.2 Contextually embedded professional development

IWB training programmes should focus on teachers’ immediate pedagogical needs and be embedded in the work teachers actually do.

In most chapters, the participating teachers reflected on IWB use that was embedded in their own practice. The pre-service teachers in chapters 3 (Kegenhof) and 4 (Sailer) worked in tandem with practicing teachers, but their reflection is based on the materials they developed and the lessons they designed and implemented in this collaborative context. This approach allowed teachers to experiment with ways the IWB could support and enhance teaching, thereby gaining a better understanding of the strengths and limitations of this technology.


4.3 Reflective practice

IWB training courses should create opportunities for teachers to reflect on their practice.

All studies presented in this book include an element of reflective practice, since participating teachers and teacher researchers were involved in critical reflection
through various means. The insightful discussions and recommendations provided by the participating teachers and teacher researchers in this volume underline the value of reflective practice as a powerful impetus for professional development, confirming much earlier work in this area (e.g. Mcniff, 1988; Bartlett, 1990; Wallace, 1998; Allwright &
Lenzuen, 1997).

4.4 Professional collaboration

IWB training courses should create opportunities to establish professional contacts and undertake collaborative projects.

Several chapters in this volume have dealt with the relationship between collaboration and professional development. Chapters 3 and 4 report on research projects within a larger professional development program for pre-service EFL teachers involving school-based research projects where pre-service teachers design, implement, and evaluate technology-enhanced EFL lessons in collaboration with in-service teachers (Cutrim Schmid & Hegelheimer, 2014). This type of professional collaboration has been widely recommended in the CALL literature to encourage the all-important integration of theoretical with procedural knowledge (e.g., Meskill et al., 2006).

4.5 Ongoing support for professional development

IWB teacher training courses should provide teachers with enough opportunities for gradual accumulation of knowledge and experience within their constraints of time and energy.

Although the majority of studies described in this volume do not have a longitudinal design, several authors emphasize the importance of providing teachers with the opportunity to construct knowledge gradually with the support of peers or trainers. In the area of materials design, we propose a list of 38 criteria for IWB-mediated teaching resources, organized in five main areas, which may be useful for teachers and trainers in developing and evaluating their own teaching materials.

Regarding classroom interaction, we suggest and illustrate a four-level interaction/interactivity framework which can inform the analysis of IWB-supported language teaching.

We believe that the language teacher plays a primordial role in effectively integrating IWB use in the language classroom, hence the priority given to high quality teacher education. Similarly, without attention to interactional opportunities both as these arise in instruction and through the careful planning of teaching materials, much effort devoted to IWB integration simply goes to waste. As Colpaert notes in his foreword,

“IWBs cannot generate a learning effect on their own, but they are indispensable cornerstones for creating powerful learning environments.”

We hope our contributions in this final chapter, together with the rich and varied classroom case studies in this volume, can inform and inspire language teachers throughout the world to make the most of this potential.



Allwright, D. and Lenzuen, R. (1997), ‘Exploratory practice: Work at the cultura inglesa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’, Language Teaching Research, 1, 73-79.

Bartlett, L. (1990), ‘Teacher development through reflective teaching’, in J.C. Richards and D. Nunan (eds.), Second Language Teacher Education. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cutrim Schmid, E. and Hegelheimer, V. (2014), ‘Collaborative research projects in the technology-enhanced language classroom: Pre-service and in-service teachers exchange knowledge about technology’. ReCALL, 26(03), 315-332

Cutrim Schmid, E. and Schimmack, E. (2010), ‘First Steps towards a model of interactive whiteboard training for language teachers’, in Thomas, M. and Cutrim Schmid, E. (eds.), Interactive Whiteboards: Theory, Research and Practice. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, pp. 197-214.

Cutrim Schmid, E., and Whyte, S. (2012), ‘Interactive whiteboards in state school settings: Teacher responses to socio-constructivist hegemonies’, Language Learning and Technology, 16, (2), 65-86.

McNiff, J. (1988), Action Research: Principles and Practice. London: Routledge.

Meskill, C., Anthony, N., Hilliker, S., Tseng, C. and You, J. (2006), ‘Expert-novice teacher mentoring in language learning technology’, in P. Hubbard and M. Levy (eds.), Teacher Education in CALL. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 283-298.

Whyte, S., Cutrim Schmid, E., van Hazebrouck Thompson, S. and Oberhofer, M. (2013), ‘Open educational resources for CALL teacher education: the iTILT interactive whiteboard project’, Computer Assisted Language Learning, (ahead-of-print), 1-27.

Wallace, M. (1998), Action Research for Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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