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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Board of Education: A Wall-Mounted Computer Monitor for Your Classroom

A top teacher shares her enthusiasm for -- and tips about using -- interactive whiteboards.
By Douglas Cruickshank

Teacher Sue Holland and her beloved interactive whiteboard. Credit: Elena Dorfman

No doubt some twisted souls will miss the occasional nerve-fraying shriek of chalk on a blackboard. For the rest of us, the growing popularity of interactive whiteboards -- often mistakenly lumped under the label "smart boards," although Smart is a specific brand name -- are one of the best things to happen to classroom technology in the last twenty years.

An interactive whiteboard is essentially just a large, touch-sensitive screen. The board is connected, via a standard USB plug, to a computer and a digital projector, which displays the computer's screen image onto the whiteboard. Software enables the computer to be controlled from the whiteboard by a hand or by special pens. Work done on the board can be saved on the computer and emailed, which, over the course of the school year, can mean a significant reduction in paper handouts.

Not surprisingly, the business world quickly took a shine to interactive whiteboards when they were introduced in 1991. Now, educators are beginning to discover what the business community is raving about.

In a July posting on Edutopia.org, elementary school teacher Susan Parker wrote that her classroom's interactive whiteboard "brings the information alive" to the students. She noted that "each lesson becomes an interactive one, and students are very motivated to learn."

"The board is very useful to demonstrate and teach editing and rewriting," says Parker, who works in an inner city school with many bilingual students. "There are pens in different colors that allow you to write directly into the Word document you're using and save the editing marks, which is extremely helpful."

One of the board's benefits, Parker adds, is that all students can easily see the images, enabling the lesson to become an engaging group activity. "Instead of crowding around little monitors, the students take turns interacting with the computer," she says. "They also get support from each other. The teacher can use it to demonstrate, then the students can use it to practice, but without feeling like they're put on the spot." Parker uses the interactive whiteboard in class daily, often in conjunction with the Internet, she adds, "in all subjects: reading, literacy, math, writing, science, geography, and social studies."

The companies that make and install interactive whiteboards usually offer tutorials on their Web sites, or provide onsite training for a fee. But most educators agree that they're easy to learn, and simple to operate. Becoming tech savvy has rarely been this easy.


What It Requires

Cost: Typically, $600-$2,000. Manufacturers of interactive whiteboards include Hitachi, InterWrite, Mimio, Panasonic, Promethean, and Smart Technologies.

Time to Set Up: Installation of the whiteboard and related software is done by the manufacturer or your school's IT staff. It should take two to three hours.

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Comments (14)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Paul's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Remember that it took 10 years for overhead projectors to become common in classrooms. LCD projectors took almost 15 years to get to their current level of inclusion. Yes, interactive whiteboards are finally becoming more common in classroom. That is a GREAT thing! Muti-touch will find its way to educators in 10 or 15 years, too.

Christine Southard's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My co-teacher and I LOVE our SmartBoard! In our 5th grade inclusion class we use the board to differentiate instruction for all of our learners. We create interactive lessons for students using the Smartboard notebook tools. We also hyperlink pages to movies in BrainPop and United Streaming. Some of our favorite and most productive lessons involve playing games on various educational internet sites. Students love visiting sites such as mathplayground.com. Did you also know that you can upload the notebook files to your class website as pdfs? Another exciting function is the ability to record your actions on the SmartBoard and you can include voice-overs. We can upload these files to our website too. I think the possibilities are endless when it comes to utilizing interactive whiteboards. Teachers just need to recognize the potential and they can't be afraid to take their teaching to the next level.

Joel's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As educators, we need to stop reacting and start innovating. That may mean holding off on stop-gap technologies until something more effective surfaces (or until we develop our own technologies or lead students to develop those technologies for us). Save your budget dollars for now and investigate some of the great, free software available recently for educational use (Scratch, for instance - http://scratch.mit.edu/ or Edublogs - http://edublogs.org/).

Susan Parker's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Bell invented the telephone in 1876, but it wasn't until 2001 that I got a telephone in my classroom, which happened to be in a large urban public school system. At that rate, Hahn's cutting edge technology will appear in my classroom by the year 2132. So, in 2003, when my district put a 15-year-old technology in my classroom, i.e., Smartboard, I didn't reject the notion. In fact, I call that progress--it only took 15 years to catch up with interactive white boards, instead of the 125 years it took for our school to get telephones.

Public educators can't afford to be naysayers when it comes to technology. At the same time, we can't let the latest technology craze sweep our dollars out the door. A little test-of-time proves which technologies are cost-effective to bring to the masses and are truly worthwhile investmests.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hitachi has already made a multi-touch whiteboard its called the FX 77 Duo and is about the same price or cheaper than the board in this article.

Joel's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

From my blog:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s5EvhHy7eQ - The video details the set up and uses for an interactive whiteboard using a Nintendo Wii remote and an inexpensive LED light.

Public educators have a responsibility to embrace this kind of innovation and move it from the laboratory to the classroom. Why? First, it's way cheaper than some other interactive whiteboard solutions. Second (and more importantly), this kind of innovation serves as an example of what we hope our students will aspire to in the future. Why not involve them in research and development in the present?

Johnny Chung Lee has made the source code available online, which means testers and developers can work together to shape this technology to fit many different needs. Step right up to the future of educational technology.

Andrew Pass's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Now that smart boards are such a common place in American classrooms, we can begin asking how they are being used. Do we really want twenty students watching as two students interact with the computer? There should be some creative ways of getting all students thinking and interacting most of the time.

Kerrie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Board doesn't matter. It about content. Content that is lacking with this technology. The software is like using Windows when it first came out. Remember "Paint"???
The board is a great tool if you have vibrant, professionally developed lessons. See these free examples at www.aartpack.com/interactive. They also accept teachers ideas for lessons and they create them.
Don't bother with that outdated software that is limited and tends to crash, but use the board using Flash lessons. Students love them.

Teacher's picture
Teacher
4th grade teacher

Glenda Robertson is right on point about how students respond to anything delivered on the white board. They are engaged and focused without prompting. It is a wonderful tool.

Mike Smith's picture

Technology such as the Panasonic Panaboard is an invaluable tool in the classroom. Hopefully one day we will see them in every school!

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