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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.
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.

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How can educators, students, schools, and communities go green? Find additional resources about sustainability, conservation, and other earth-friendly practices and curricula on Edutopia's Environment Education page.

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

Yasmin Bailey-Stewart's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I appreciate all the comments so far. To add to what's already there, Id say that I'm as exited as Sue Holland who authored the article. I think that students of the "twitter, facebook, and my space" age need technology-supported instruction to remain engaged and interested in learning. I can't wait to receive an interactive whiteboard in my classroom. I've done considerable training in the new technology and await an opportunity to apply them in the classroom. I'm inspired by Sue Holland!

Debbie Potts's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Many of the interactives and learning activities that are available free on the Verizon Thinkfinity website work extremely well for individual, group or for whole class instruction using a interactive whiteboard. Check it out at www.thinkfinity.org.

Linda's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Oh my. Am I the only person who does not get it? Only 5 hours training for my smart board and I am totally overwhelmed. Sure, maybe it is great, but I do not see how. I have to redo every single lesson since my chalkboard is gone, the overhead is under a desk and gets pulled out when something goes wrong with the S Board.

My writing looks terrible on the board. I spend much too much time just typing up things that used to take half the time. Interactive? How do you all have time to create all that stuff? Find all that stuff? I feel like an idiot and have a pain in my chest every day worrying about making this thing work.

Any advice?

Kerrie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It doesn't matter what type of board you have. Smart, Promethean, Polyvision, etc. Each says theirs is the best. You could have the best board, but if you don't have good lessons with a strong design, the students are not interested. Design and content IS what is needed to make the technology successful. The software that goes with the board is limited. Most don't know that you can open a Flash file and it works the same. For a good example go to www.aartpack.com/interactive. They have been developing for education for 15 years and listen to what teachers are looking for.

tarfford's picture

Far from the basic idea of the chalkboard, an interactive whiteboard is the 21st century version that enables the teacher to connect with the pupils in ways they could only have thought about previously. I think it is a good idea to use Interactive Whiteboards

tarfford's picture

Far from the basic idea of the chalkboard, an interactive whiteboard is the 21st century version that enables the teacher to connect with the pupils in ways they could only have thought about previously. I think it is a good idea to use Interactive Whiteboards

Tammy's picture

To enhance lessons that I taught I go on Brainpopjr.com. This allows the students to interactivly listen to a move and answer questions based on the information they learned.

Tammy's picture

I use the SMART board to enchance lessons previosuly taught. I go on Brainpopjr.com and the students listen to a short video clip and answer questions to see how much they learned.

Anita's picture

I created a chart which shows each child when they receive a check for good behavior and participating in the lesson. Since my children are autistic, they can visually see the results of thier good work and they are starting to compete against each other for more checks.

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