How To: Use an Interactive Whiteboard

Interactive whiteboards are desirable peripherals these days. When hooked up to a computer, the whiteboard's screen becomes a "live" computer desktop, which can be tapped to pull down menus, highlight, and move or open files. Users can also circle relevant sections on the projected image, draw geometric figures, and underline. Then they can save the screen — complete with annotations — which can then be e-mailed, made available on a shared server, or printed out.

Most interactive whiteboards connect to computers via USB cables, but some recent models communicate wirelessly using Bluetooth technology. Many interactive whiteboards need LCD projectors in order to project a computer image onto the screen, but some models have an integrated projector behind the screen. These models are more convenient and have fewer wires but are much more expensive.

Wondering how to use an interactive whiteboard in the classroom? Consider these ideas.

Presentations and Projects. Students can present multimedia projects with the whiteboard, controlling the entire presentation without touching a computer keyboard.

Web Streaming and Video. Teachers can show streamed or downloaded video clips using programs like Windows Media Player and QuickTime. Clips embedded into multimedia presentation programs can easily be shown as well. The interactive features of the whiteboard allow users to pause, circle, annotate, highlight, and more. Of course, a DVD or VHS player can be connected to the projector, too.

Printing and Saving Notes. Interactive whiteboards let users print or save anything they've written. Teachers can put notes in a file on a shared server for students to download or post notes on a Web page or blog. Notes can also be printed out and distributed, allowing students to participate in the presentation instead of simply copying from the board.

Encouraging Critical Thinking. Interactive whiteboards encourage critical thinking. Imagine using the whiteboard with concept-mapping software like Inspiration or Kidspiration, for example. Students' ideas could be written directly on the whiteboard; if the teachers switches to outline view, the class can brainstorm together in an organized fashion.

For Students with Special Needs. Interactive whiteboards may be beneficial to students with special educational needs. The large fonts and bright colors might be helpful for both visually impaired students and those who have trouble staying on task, while students who respond well to kinesthetic learning will benefit from touching the board.

Jeffrey Branzburg is a contributing editor and regular columnist for Technology & Learning.

Interactive Whiteboard Terms

Blog. An online journal of periodic articles (posts), usually presented in reverse chronological order, with one or many contributors.

Bluetooth. A way to connect and exchange information between devices like PDAs, mobile phones, laptops, PCs, printers, and digital cameras via a secure, low-cost, globally available short-range radio frequency.

Whiteboard. Whiteboards operate analogously to blackboards — they allow markings that can easily be removed to temporarily adhere to the surface of the board.

Interactive Whiteboard. A dry-erase whiteboard writing surface that can capture writing electronically. Interactive whiteboards require a computer. Some interactive whiteboards also allow interaction with a projected computer image.

Many of these definitions were culled from