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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Could Have Had More Whiteboards

A Clean Slate: Interactive Whiteboard Makes Lessons Snazzy
There's no reason to be bored with this new kind of board.
by Douglas Cruickshank
published 10/3/2007
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

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Copyright 2007 The George Lucas Educational Foundation | Privacy Policy
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
published 10/2/2007
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, 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 2-3 hours.

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Copyright 2007 The George Lucas Educational Foundation | Privacy Policy

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