[Offtopic] An interactive whiteboard ... What next?

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Tue Nov 17 17:10:01 EST 2009

Spring 2009: Classrooms of the future


 (and, especially good:) http://www.teachingchallenges.blogspot.com

An interactive whiteboard ... What next?

Interactive whiteboards open the door to many new learning possibilities.
Penny Ryder tackles the initial fear factor head on and shares ten tips 
for starting out with interactive whiteboards.

I’d been hearing about these things called 'interactive whiteboards' for 
quite some time. I’d had a chance to explore the features of one that was 
on approval at my school, and even used it to play a game with my class. 
To begin with it seemed like a waste of money—an over-glorified 
whiteboard. The following year, I got to share the use of one with two 
other classes, but I used it only for 'special' lessons. Finally, a 
couple of years later, I had access to my very own board. And I found 
myself asking—what next? 

I’ve now been using my board for two years, and it has become a tool I 
wouldn’t want to teach without. I have seen many ways that it can be used 
to enhance teaching and learning, and I still continue to learn new 
strategies to improve its implementation in my classroom. I’ve put 
together this list to help all those who are getting started, need 
encouragement, or want to take things a bit further.

Ten tips for starting out with interactive whiteboards:

1.Turn it on at the start of the day.

If it’s not on, you won’t use it. To save the life of the globe, you can 
turn the projector off when it’s not being used, but I recommend turning 
the computer on early in the day. While you are doing that, orient the 
board to ensure your touches will be accurate. Once you’ve got it on, you 
know you can turn to it at any time during the day just as you would to a 
traditional whiteboard. Even better, you can use it to ‘Google’ topics 
relevant to your content, or reward early finishers with a game. Why not 
start out the day by typing in a message for your students, giving them a 
brain teaser or displaying a great artwork. They can be learning from 
this while you attend to a myriad of administrative duties. Think of how 
much extra learning you could cycle through in all that downtime between 
2.Explore with your class. 

Don’t be intimidated by ‘the board’. Its capacity is only limited by its 
user; it’s not smarter than you. Feel free to play and learn alongside 
your students. While it’s always nice to be a couple of steps ahead of 
them, a lot of great learning moments also happen when you discover 
things together. Your students will most probably laugh when you 
accidentally write while holding the eraser and thus don’t write at all, 
but laugh along with them and keep on going. When things go wrong and you 
need to troubleshoot, ask for their suggestions one at a time and try 
them out. This teaches them how to solve the problems they face. Also be 
prepared to go with Plan B when you’ve exhausted all your ideas.
3.Be prepared. 

It doesn’t have to be pretty—but it can be! You can invest a lot of time 
into designing pages with your interactive whiteboard, or once you are 
aware of what’s there, you can use it on the go. I’m of the opinion that 
I shouldn’t spend more time creating the lesson than teaching the lesson, 
particularly if I’m unlikely to use the lesson again. If, on the other 
hand, there are some core activities that you would like students to do 
or access as part of their weekly routines, it’s probably worth investing 
some time into making these look attractive.
4.Select the tool for the job. 

Keep in mind that your interactive whiteboard is linked to a computer 
that probably has a bunch of new and exciting software on it. Spend time 
getting to know the available software. Learn what it does and what it 
could be used for. Your goal, over time, is going to be to model how to 
use this software as you go about teaching your content. For example, if 
you need to create a graph, you don’t want to draw the graph from 
scratch. Instead, type the data into a Microsoft Excel document and show 
students how to create a graph in this way. With the same data you can 
explore and demonstrate different ways to present data using alternative 
graphing functions to determine which is best for presenting specific 
5.Think out loud. 

Just as we model our reading and writing so that students can see how 
readers and writers solve problems with their work, it is important to 
model your use of information and communications technology (ICT). Talk 
through the steps you take when using a program. Students then have the 
opportunity to both see and hear the process. Inform them of the short 
cuts you use, for example Control +C for copy and Control +V for paste. 
The more you model these options for them, the more proficient they will 
become when using their computers.
6.Be playful. 

Using computer games in the classroom can be a strategy to ‘get started’, 
particularly when beginning a new topic, but be selective about the games 
you choose. Be mindful of what students are learning through them. If you 
are using them only to engage your students in the topic you are 
covering, then only use them for five to ten minutes. Most games are for 
one or two players, so in order to keep everyone focused, I select a 
variety of students to take turns. For those students not having a turn, 
I get students to write the answers with their finger on the carpet in 
front of them or on individual whiteboards. Another solution is to use 
the interactive whiteboard as a group activity so that students explore 
the game in smaller groups. This strategy can be used as a reward and 
also for consolidating a concept.
7.Display different media. 

Make the most of online media to bring the world into your classroom. 
Spend some time finding photographs, audio files, videos, websites and 
interactive activities related to your topic. The edna website 
(www.edna.edu.au), and The Le at rning Federation 
(www.thelearningfederation.edu.au) are great places to start for 
educational resources, but don’t forget to check out other public spaces 
like YouTube (www.youtube.com), TeacherTube (www.teachertube.com) and 
Flickr (www.flickr.com) for additional resources shared by the public. 
You will need to test whether these sites are blocked in your school.

Your interactive whiteboard is going to be a big part of your day. Spend 
some time personalising it to suit your needs. Think about what you are 
already doing with your teaching and consider how the interactive 
whiteboard can help you to do this more effectively. If you need software 
that isn’t available, speak to your technical administrator to see what 
can be done. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Be sure to put 
photos of your students up on the board too—they love to see themselves 
on the big screen and it helps to build that positive classroom 
9.Increase student touches. 

Consider ways to involve students in what is happening at the board. Yes, 
the interactive whiteboard is costly, and yes, it will probably get dirty 
if students use it, but it’s not truly interactive if the teacher is the 
only one to use it! Encourage students to be creative and to share their 
ideas using this tool.
10.Plug in some extras. 

Use your USB ports. There are many tools you can attach to your 
interactive whiteboard computer to upload information. Take photos with a 
digital camera and use these to reflect on learning moments. Use a webcam 
set up on a lamp stand or with a science clamp to function as a document 
camera. Scan a student’s writing (with permission) and use it as a 
discussion piece for modelling a skill or understanding.
Using an interactive whiteboard may be new to you, but it doesn’t need to 
be hard. Remember to set goals for yourself and take small steps to 
achieve these. Before long, you will become so familiar with it that you 
will wonder how you ever taught without it. Experiment. Explore. Enjoy!

Penny Ryder is a primary school teacher in the ACT. She maintains the 
Teaching Challenges blog at www.teachingchallenges.blogspot.com


Cheers people
Stephen Loosley
Member, Victorian
Institute of Teaching

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