Using a new dog to teach an old trick. Can an interactive whiteboard enhance the teaching and learning of German?

Kelly, E (2009) Using a new dog to teach an old trick. Can an interactive whiteboard enhance the teaching and learning of German? In: EdTech 2009: 2020Vision, National College of Ireland Dublin.


Writing in 1880, Mark Twain described “the awful German language” as being slipshod, systemless andperplexing, its grammar confusing and its sentences sublime and impressive curiosities. Little seems to havechanged in students’ attitudes to learning German grammar since Twain’s time, yet teachers and lecturerscontinue to attempt to teach it and students continue to attempt to learn it. A goal for most teachers,however, is to make the process a little less painful for all concerned. Studies and experience have shown thattechnology enhanced instruction can facilitate this.This paper describes on-going small-scale action research on the integration of the interactive whiteboard[IWB] into the language classroom. With software that is largely intuitive and relatively easy to use, a range oftask-based activities was developed with a view to ascertaining whether the use of an IWB to present andpractise linguistic structures woulda) promote active, collaborative learning,b) enhance the learners’ experience, andc) have a positive impact on their output.It is too early to say whether using the interactive whiteboard has had a perceptible impact on the accuracy ofthe students’ implicit knowledge as measured by their performance in spontaneous language use. However,preliminary qualitative analysis of the data to date supports views reflected in recent publications that the useof technology in general can motivate and engage both students and lecturers, while the IWB in particular canenhance the lecturer’s capacity to reinforce concepts visually in a way that is more tangible, literally, thanmore traditional approaches. While the lecturer has to invest more time, at least initially, to plan and prepareclasses using the IWB, this is compensated for by the sense of satisfaction gained at the end of a successfulsession. Students who may previously have resisted attempts to involve them actively in the lesson nowvolunteer to participate in IWB-based activities. There is less isolated learning both because the students arenow part of a learning community, and also because they are completing real, communicative tasks whichhave a purpose so that the language structures are grounded in a context. Without overestimating thetransformative potential of technology, it is expected that further research will support the intuition that theIWB is a valuable addition to the language lecturer’s toolkit

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