Francesco Zambotti is a research assistant at Bolzano Free University and Erickson Publishers of Trento. His area of specialisation is the pedagogically sound use of new technology in the classroom. as such, his talk at the Erickson “Schools in the Digital Era” was one that I’d been looking forward to all conference. And I’m pleased to say, he didn’t disappoint.

In my experience training teachers to use Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs), most teachers are really positive about the potential to bring interesting, stimulating and useful material to life their class’ IWB, but they often complain that it takes so very long to prepare materials that they are put off. Francesco had a simple, but effective solution to this: prepare less, present less, get the students to do all the work – then they’re using the IWB.

 

 

One of the examples that Francesco used that I really liked was of a history lesson on how the Romans built their roads. He demonstrated some of the traditional media used for teaching this (A cross section of a road, showing the gravel, rocks, the scree to fill it in… zzz. He then showed a really simple, but very clever example of using the camera tool that many IWB notepad software has built into it.

Basically, Francesco found a video on YouTube with a clever animation showing how a Roman road was actually built. The sort of thing that your can find really easily if you do a quick bit of Googling. He then gets his students to use the camera tool on the IWB notebook software to take still photos of each phase of the road being built. In other words, with very little preparation, the teacher can get the students using the board, constructing their own learning and thinking more carefully about what is being taught instead of just passively absorbing it.

I’ll admit I was a little sceptical at first about whether Francesco’s ideas would actually be practically applicable in a class full of 25 students. I thought I’d try my hand at his activity from the point of view of a student and actually it really is pretty simple to do. As you should be able to see from the attached SMART Notebook file, I’ve made sure that the instructions were clear to the students, I also linked to the exact section of the Youtube video that is relevant to the activity (especially important if your video is a long one.) Basically I think that the students would definitely be able to cope wiht the activity, but as always with the IWB, I’m not sure what the other 20-odd students would be doing while the 4 or 5 up at the IWB would be preparing the camera screengrabs etc. Perhaps they could be working in groups researching how another Roman technology was achieved, then each group could use the IWB to present their work to the rest of the class. Maybe I’ll ask Francesco to comment on this one?!

In summary, I couldn’t agree more with Francesco that the key to good IWB use is KISS (Keep It Sweet and Simple.) You don’t need to be up all night preparing IWB notebook files and if you are, you’re probably doing something wrong! Thanks Francesco, I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for more of your ideas!

 

Francesco is happy to add you to his PLN – so go ahead, connect with him on his Facebook page (find out what a PLN is here)