The first interactive whiteboard was released in 1991, and over the years whiteboards have become a must-have tool in K-12 classrooms. Emphasis on developing 21st century skills for students, the requirement for educator proficiency in technology, and research documenting increased learning with the use of interactive whiteboards spurred its adoption.
Fundamentally, an interactive whiteboard combines a dry erase whiteboard with an LCD projector and is usually mounted on a wall or floor stand. Powered by easy-to-use software, the whiteboard becomes a computer screen viewable by an entire classroom. The projector projects the content from a computer onto the surface of the board while the teacher controls the content either with a pointer or a touch of the hand instead of a keyboard and mouse. The combination of software with the projector results in much more than simply a projected image.
Anything that can be done on a computer monitor, can be replicated on the interactive white board. A teacher can create engaging lessons that focus on one task such as a matching activity where students use either their fingers or a pen to match items. Another teacher might integrate multiple items into a lesson plan such as websites, photos, and music that students can interact with, respond to verbally or even write comments on the board itself. Image size and placement can change with a simple touch to the screen. This technology makes the one-computer classroom a workable instructional model. Imagine taking a class on a photo safari to Africa complete with embedded videos, animal sounds and mapping software.
Research has repeatedly demonstrated that students learn better when they are fully engaged and that multisensory, hands-on learning is the best way to engage them. Interactive whiteboards facilitate multisensory learning whether it is a collaboration exercise for math problem solving or a Google Earth tour of the Amazon rainforest.
Classroom applications for using interactive whiteboards include:
- Multimedia lessons and presentations including audio and video
- Collaborative problem solving
- Showcasing student projects and presentations
- Virtual field trips
- Recorded lessons that can be used by substitute teachers
- Documentation of student achievement
There are many interactive whiteboard companies to choose from, and most feature video, image, and lesson libraries. Here are a few of the leading brands:
- SMART introduced the first interactive whiteboard in 1991 and it is the world’s best-selling interactive whiteboard. A leader in introducing touch technology into the classroom, SMART boards allow teachers to access 6,600 learning objects and customizable lesson plans.
- Promethean offers an integrated system that packages the interactive white board, Learner Response System, lesson design and delivery software and online support and professional development.
- Mimio is a system that can be used on multiple types of whiteboards and devices.
NEA member Chad Lehman of Horace Mann Elementary School in West Allis, Wisconsin, has seen a marked increase in student attentiveness and engagement since his district began integrating interactive white boards into elementary classrooms. As his school’s media specialist and technology coordinator, Lehman reviewed the district’s technology plan which recommended both SMART and Mimio. Although SMART had a much larger user community, he chose Mimio because it was more affordable and portable whereas SMART boards are mounted on walls.
There are interactive whiteboards that meet every school and district budget. Teachers report that increased student engagement is the number one benefit to teaching with this tool. The technology allows teachers to integrate multiple information streams into a coherent lesson individualized for their students. Interactive white boards provide an extraordinary opportunity to create classroom environments where students with different learning styles can engage and learn from each other. This easy-to-learn technology ensures that both students and teachers are developing 21st century skills.