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
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
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.