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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

A Clean Slate: Interactive Whiteboard Makes Lessons Snazzy

There's no reason to be bored with this new kind of board.
By Douglas Cruickshank

Interactive-whiteboard aficionado Sue Holland.

Credit: Elena Dorfman

Do you fit one of these scenarios? You've acquired an interactive whiteboard for your classroom, or you're about to. It's been installed, or it soon will be. You've attended a workshop on using the board or gone through an online tutorial, or a colleague has shown you the basics. Now what? How do you and your students make the most of this grand gadget?

Recently, during a morning prep period, Sue Holland, an energetic seventh-grade science teacher at Miller Creek Middle School, in San Rafael, California, answered that question and several others. Holland, a semifinalist for the 2005 California Teacher of the Year award, has been teaching for thirty-four years. This is the third year she's used an interactive whiteboard in her classroom and her enthusiasm is unrestrained. "It's very powerful learning," she says, "very powerful learning!"

Several companies market interactive whiteboards, including Hitachi, Panasonic, Mimio, Interwrite, Promethean, and Smart Technologies, which makes Smart Board, the brand Holland uses.

"Just creating lessons is so fun," Holland says. "I used to sit with the old plan book and write, 'I'm going to do this and this.' But with the Smart Board, you get to design your lesson plans using their tools. You can be as creative as you want to be.”

Credit: Elena Dorfman

And Holland has done just that. “I can insert links to the Internet, or go right to a streaming video on the Web,” she explains. “During a lesson, if a student asks, 'What about this?' I can say, 'Let's take a look' and go online to view it, instead of just talking about it. Eighty percent of us are visual learners -- I do all my lessons now as Smart Board lessons, which is cool."

And Holland isn’t the only one who thinks it's cool. The students use the board in a variety of ways, too, individually and in groups. "I just stand back, and the kids are engaged,” she explains. "For example, we study diseases of the human body in seventh grade. The kids will research a disease, create a PowerPoint presentation, and then share it with the class. They can change their presentation while standing at the board, or write on the board if someone asks a question."

The board can be just as beneficial when applied to math, history, art, physical education, or any other subject. "The software comes with K-12 curriculum built into it," Holland says. "Any software you can put on your laptop can be used with your Smart Board."

Has she had any problems with the board?

"It's technology!" Holland says with a laugh. "Sometimes it will just do something strange. But I love technology, even when it doesn't work."

Accessing Web-based software (such as Google Earth) and other Web resources further expands the potential for using interactive whiteboards in class. Indeed, the list of possibilities is endless. Here are just a few:

  • Digital storytelling.
  • Creating, viewing, and annotating student PowerPoint and multimedia presentations in real time.
  • Showing streamed or downloaded videos.
  • Using online map and satellite imagery to teach geography.
  • Displaying artwork or online museum presentations.
  • Demonstrating moviemaking techniques.
  • Viewing and analyzing competitive sports and physical education activities.
  • Teaching students how to conduct research on the Internet.
  • Working collaboratively on writing and editing exercises, math lessons, and science experiments.
  • Instructing the class on the use of a software program, keyboarding techniques, and other computer skills.

"Anybody can use it -- it’s limitless," Holland says. "Unless the students are engaged in a project at their desks or they're taking a test, we use the board throughout the day, even if I just show them a short video. I use it all the time!"

Douglas Cruickshank is the former editor of Edutopia.org.

Comments (53)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Stacie Doss's picture

A great way to use the SMART board is by creating an interactive game for the students to play. One that I would like to create and do with my students is a review jeopardy game. I feel as though this would be a great review for test and quizzes. If you have the personal remotes for each students then they would all have a chance to punch in their answers. I believe that this would be a great engaging lesson for all the students and as the teacher you would be able to see who is ready for the test and who is not.

Margie Gouveia's picture

I love using the smart board in mathematics. I have the students create equations and graph them on the board and then using smart math notebook they can click on their original equation and have the smartboard graph it to compare how thier graph looks compared to the one created by math notebook.

Margie Gouveia's picture

I teach mathematics using the smartboard. I have the students create equations and then work as a team to create the graph of the equation on the smart board. After the students have created thier own graph they check to see how well they did by comparing it to the graph created by the math notebook software. Its a fast and easy way to check how well the students understand the realtionship between equations and graphs.

Carol Johnson's picture

We got SmartBoards last year and I love them! In just 1 year, I see the potential to help my students. This is a way to get all my learners (visual, auditory, kenisthetic) on board.

Steve M.'s picture

I try to use my board for everything. I havent gotten to the point where I do every lesson with the board, though. One great use I've found for my board is for math lessons. My school uses the Everyday Math system, which comes with a CD-ROM. The cd allows you to review homework, assessments, etc. I use the CD/IWB for daily math lessons, as well. It has been extremely helpful for those students who might want to drift off during math!

suzanne Fischer's picture

I LOVE my Smartboard- it is a great way to teach kids how to play phonics, math, music, and art games. They love watching and interacting- As a child of the 80's- it seems "The Wagon Trail" and "Math Munchers" on the old Apple computer was the closest I came to an "educational game," --- Nothing was remotely close to a Smartboard- Yet even then with our limited technology- I loved using the computer as a child. I use my Smartboard for whole group and small group instruction now. I am still learning and I enjoy watching the students help me troubleshoot sometimes all of that helps me remember what it is like to be a student in this generation....

suzanne Fischer's picture

I LOVE my Smartboard- it is a great way to teach kids how to play phonics, math, music, and art games. They love watching and interacting- As a child of the 80's- it seems "The Wagon Trail" and "Math Munchers" on the old Apple computer was the closest I came to an "educational game," --- Nothing was remotely close to a Smartboard- Yet even then with our limited technology- I loved using the computer as a child. I use my Smartboard for whole group and small group instruction now. I am still learning and I enjoy watching the students help me troubleshoot sometimes all of that helps me remember what it is like to be a student in this generation....

Trish Bacon's picture
Trish Bacon
Science Teacher in Delaware

I use the Smart Board for simple notes, videos, interactive games and so much more. I love the flexibility to stay on a topic as much or as little as the students need it. You can add to it while you are teaching. I love technology.

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Francis Murphy's picture
Francis Murphy
Grade 7 mathematics teacher

Promethean boards
For the last 5 years I have used a Promethean board with great success. It has improved my teaching and has motivated my students. I am able to have access to many teaching resources through Promethean World and can easily adapt these to suit my classes.
This year I moved to a school that is far behind on its technology development and I have struggled to teach without my Promethean. I feel like my teaching is stagnating or even going backwards.
I am currently writing proposal to pilot a smart board in my classroom. This article and the many comments have reaffirmed my belief that these boards enhance learning and teaching.
If anyone has had success in writing a proposal to pilot smart board I would welcome any advice.

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