Sunday, 2 September 2012

Book Review: '400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards' by Sharma, Barrett, Jones

400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards
Instant Activities using Technology
Pete Sharma, Barney Barrett, Francis Jones
MacMillan Education 2011
ISBN 9780230417649

Publisher's Website
From the blurb: 400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards provides a wealth of resources to help teachers integrate the digital board into their classrooms. It provides practical ideas for using regular programs and software, for teachers new to this area, as well as suggestions on how to create specifically-tailored resources for teachers with greater levels of expertise. The clear organisation means that activities are categorised according to skills focus, makng them easy to locate. It also contains suggestions for project work, 'learning to learn' activities, and 'the connected classroom'.

Having recently reviewed both 700 Classroom Activities and 500 Activities for the Primary Classroom from the same publisher, I'm getting fairly familiar with the format, as I imagine you are too.

Don't think that means I have nothing to say, however. I'm sure I'll find something!

Indeed, this book sent me scurrying for a book I reviewed two years earlier called Activities for Interactive Whiteboards from Helbling and the differences between the two titles are quite striking. You could almost say that the Macmillan title is a logical progression and complement to the Helbling work, with two more years of whiteboarded-up teachers and classes to call upon for inspiration.

The book's a fairly meaty beast and the best way I imagine using this is as a dipper-into recipe-server when you want something to spice up your standard course book. Having said that, whiteboard-ready course books are one of the topics covered in 400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

While the Helbling book was simply divided into three sections for image-based, sound and video-based, and text-based activities, Macmillan's latest offering is an altogether more complex beast.

There are four large chapters, covering Using Regular Programs, Using The Whiteboard Software, Using Published Materials (which I mentioned just above), and Creating and Adapting Your Own Materials. Each of these chapters is then subdivided into sections, including, in most cases, Grammar, Vocabulary, Speaking, Listening, Writing, Reading, Pronunciation and sometimes Games, Learning To Learn and Projects.

'Regular programs' refers to things 'already out there' such as Flickr, Google Maps, Wikipedia, You Tube, Audacity for recording and Word for word processing, to name but a handful of the best known.

The 'whiteboard software' involves exploiting some of the fancy features that come built in such as dragging and dropping, concealing parts of the board, highlighting, zooming or adding notes and links to other web-based content.

'Published materials' is where the course book publishers have created Interactive Whiteboard (IWB, as we say at the chalk..., err, pixelface) editions of their courses, often with neat features such as being able to immediately play recordings by hitting an icon next to the text. These can often be enriched with the aforementioned IWB features.

Finally, 'Creating and adapting materials' is about teachers taking it to the next level of personalisation by using the built-in IWB tools to design worksheets and interactive exercises of their own.

Needless to say, each of these sections contains a lot of suggested activities or 'ideas' - they've got 400 to fit in, after all. Most of these are stand-alone one-hit-wonder types, but because of their clear organisation it's easy to go directly to the section which interests you most and find something to enrich the lesson at hand.

Each item starts with notes on level, interaction pattern, aim, language focus and, importantly, the technology you need to actually do the activity at all.

Then follows what you need to prepare before the class, the procedure to follow, things to do afterwards to extend the activity, variations and comments. And all of this generally on around a page or less but everything you need is there, and as usual with these Macmillan books, the variety of ideas is extremely impressive.

As well as individual chapter introductions there's a useful general intro to the whole book covering the practicalities, features, benefits and even challenges in using an IWB.

One final thing well worth mentioning is the eight case studies we find at the end of the chapters. These allow us to understand how specific teachers in clear contexts have integrated IWBs into their teaching environments.

So 400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards proves itself to be an invaluable addition to the rather limited amount of teacher-friendly literature on the matter. Any motivated teacher serious about exploiting this technology to the full owes it to themself to get this book.


Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review' ~ Book Review: "400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards"
© 2012 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English

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