Interactive Whiteboards

About Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive whiteboards are large writable display screens (usually in white color) that can be connected to a computer, allowing its screen to be displayed on the board through a projector. They are also sometimes referred to as electronic interactive whiteboards. These interactive whiteboards are typically mounted on a floor stand or hung on the wall. The main idea of using interactive boards is to deliver visual presentations on various subjects by actively engaging a group of people or learners. The advanced technology used in interactive whiteboards offers a better replacement for the existing traditional whiteboards or conventional flip charts. Today, a variety of branded interactive whiteboards are available. Some of the popular brands include SMART Board, ActivBoard, eBeam, Mimio, and Webster. To control the computer while writing on an interactive whiteboard, the board must be first calibrated with a writing device, usually a stylus. Apart from this key device, there are a host of peripherals associated with interactive whiteboard usage.

Calibration and Associated Devices

The touch screen surface of interactive whiteboards needs to be aligned with the image to be displayed. This alignment or calibration involves displaying a range of dots on the surface of the touch screen. The user is allowed to select the dots by using a stylus or finger.

A wide range of accessories are available for use with interactive whiteboards, such as projectors, tracks, mobile stands, printers, tablets, personal response systems, wireless units, and remote controls. Some interactive whiteboards facilitate direct integration with leaner response systems, which allow students to take part in tests or examinations after a session or solve puzzles or problems directly. Classroom response software is available for use with interactive whiteboards in order to arrange and develop such activities and tests based on different standards.

Principle of Operation

An interactive whiteboard, when combined with the computer, writing device, other peripherals, and software, becomes a complete interactive whiteboard system that can be used to conduct a learning session. The interactive whiteboard system consists of four major components: projector, computer, software, and the display screen. The interactive whiteboard is linked to a data projector, which is in turn, connected to a personal computer (PC) or laptop. The connection is achieved by using a wired medium, which could be a serial port cable or a universal serial bus (USB). Wireless interactive whiteboards can also be connected to peripherals wirelessly, using Bluetooth or infrared waves. The data projector projects the information (diagrams or pictures, statistics, numbers, characters, symbols, etc.) displayed on the computer screen onto the surface of whiteboard. The operating software is used to manipulate the projected images and reflect the changes in the data stored in the computer. Some advanced interactive systems use plasma screens in place of the projectors. However, plasma screens are very expensive.

A presentation delivered via an interactive whiteboard may comprise video clips, color visuals or content from the Internet. Interactive display screens are touch-sensitive. Hence, the host or the user who is delivering the presentation makes use of a pointing device such as a pen, stylus or a finger, which acts like a mouse and controls the computing device programs from the whiteboard. The user can make additions, modifications or deletions to the information projected on the interactive whiteboard and the corrections thus made are transferred and saved onto the PC or the laptop for future retrieval.

There are different kinds of interactive whiteboard software packages available, with various functions. A user has to select the software depending on the functionalities desired, as described below:

·Writing or drawing on the board surface by using fingers or colored pens

·Saving the data to the computer along with corrections and option for printing

·Converting handwritten text into an editable text format by using advanced letter recognition technique

·Supporting feedback or remote voting

·Customizing the appearance of the whiteboard screen

·Controlling computer applications or programs through the whiteboard screen interface

·Storing the sequential cycle of display screens for playback preference

Technologies and Types

Interactive whiteboard technology involves the drawings or writings on the surface of the whiteboard screen to be printed or saved to the computer or distributed over a network system. The different sensing technologies used to track the interaction on the whiteboard screen are discussed below:

·Resistive membrane whiteboard - This consists of a flexible soft surface panel having two sheets of resistive coated materials separated by a small gap to produce a touch-sensitive membrane. Resistive membrane whiteboards can be touched by fingers or using a stylus like pen or marker to make changes to data. The drawing movement of the finger or pen is tracked by sensing the pressure of the object over the display screen surface

·Electromagnetic whiteboard – This is similar to conventional whiteboards. It has a hard surface and features an arrangement of grid wires or electric cables rooted behind the surface of the board. The embedded wires come in contact with a coil available in the stylus tip to identify the X and Y coordinates of the stylus. Electromagnetic whiteboards can be written or drawn on using normal pens. Special battery-operated pens or magnetic pens are also used for writing on the whiteboards for better interactive performance. These whiteboards incorporate magnetic sensing devices to detect the signals generated by magnetic pens, which are then sent back to the computers.

·Laser scanner whiteboard - This type of interactive whiteboard has a hard writing surface. It engages infrared laser scanners to detect the movement of the pen on the board surface. These laser scanners are mounted on the top edge of the whiteboard. A special felt pen with an encoded reflective collar is used for writing. This arrangement makes the lasers register the color and the position of the pen, thus making the interaction very effective.

·Infrared optical whiteboard - It uses infrared optical technology to track the movement of the finger or stylus on the whiteboard screen while the screen can be composed of any material. When pressed on the whiteboard surface, the finger or marker perceives the infrared light. The information is then manipulated by the software to locate the movements of the marker or finger.

·Capacitive whiteboard - It uses technology similar to that of electromagnetic whiteboards. In this type, wires are arranged behind the board. The X and Y coordinates of the fingers are calculated from the pattern of interaction between the wires and the finger tips.

·Ultrasonic whiteboard – It engages two ultrasonic transmitters and two receivers at the four corners of the whiteboard. The ultrasonic signals are transmitted by the surface of the board. Minute markings on the board edges generate reflecting ultrasonic waves that are sensed by transmitters at various recognizable distances. These ultrasonic waves are suppressed when a pen or finger is pressed on the surface of the whiteboard. The receivers then communicate this information to the controller.

·Ultrasonic and infrared type whiteboard - It produces both ultrasonic sound and infrared light when the board is pressed using a marker or stylus. This technology requires a special active-dry stylus or marker for effective interaction.

·Digital whiteboard - It uses digital pens to press the board surface. Infrared cameras are embedded in the pen, which track even a minute dot pattern accurately.

·Wii Remote whiteboard - It uses open source software and an infrared pen that consists of a power source, momentary switch and infrared light emitting diode. A Wii Remote that has an IR light tracking camera is connected to a computer via Bluetooth connection. The camera detects the movement of the infrared pen over the whiteboard screen.

Interactive whiteboards are usually available in two different forms namely front projection interactive whiteboards and rear projection interactive whiteboards, as explained below:

·Front projection interactive whiteboards use a video projector in front of the board. This arrangement causes the body shadow to fall on the display screen when the presenter or the tutor stands in front of the screen. To avoid this, presenters have to move away from the whiteboard and present by extending their arms by using the stylus or marker. A special kind of projector such as the Ultra-Short-Throw (UST) projector can be engaged to reduce the intensity of the shadow by casting a beam from above the whiteboard, thereby keeping the tutor away from the path of the beam even when they stand in front of the screen.

·Rear projection interactive whiteboards place the projector or emissive display behind the sensing surface of the whiteboard. This arrangement enables a shadow-free display to the audience as the tutor need not face the projector light while addressing the audience. These types of whiteboards are more expensive than front projection whiteboards.


Interactive whiteboards are ideal for use in teaching applications and hence, they are also referred to as educational whiteboards. Many schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions use these whiteboards to provide interactive presentations to students. Interactive whiteboards are also used to record the tutor’s instructions and post the material for review at a later stage. The use of interactive whiteboards in classrooms help tutors to save notes or lessons and present them to students who were absent for sessions; create video tutorials to educate students on using a software application (such as how to generate a graphical diagram using an MS Excel spreadsheet; accessing the Internet and using applications such as email, searching data using various search engines, and voice chatting. Interactive whiteboards are also used for brainstorming sessions, digital storytelling, educating or training students in keyboarding or imparting computer skills. They help them to create e-folios and work samples, advance creation of lessons at school or home by engaging the interwrite software, assist in sharing project information during a conference among teachers, parents and students, and improve teaching vocabulary.

There are different kinds of softwarefor use with interactive whiteboards during classroom activities. The major interactive whiteboard programs are discussed below:

·Math software - The math software is a content and tool-based program specially designed for coaching mathematical concepts. The software includes programs for teaching fractions, probability lessons, number systems, measuring lessons, shapes and solving problems to students from kindergarten to high school grades. The software is licensed and compatible for use with any type of computer.

·Science software - The science software is typically designed for teaching physics concepts, chemistry lessons, biology and general science concepts. The software includes schematic drawing programs of scientific apparatus or experiments. The physics software suite includes electricity and electronics lessons, light and color concepts, energy resources, and electromagnetism concepts, amongst others. The biology software suite includes genetics, digestion, circulation, nervous system, respiration, living beings, and other environment concepts. The other feature of the science software is the periodic table tutorial. The virtual series science software helps to run experiments, make predictions, provide laboratory examples and show the results immediately to teachers and students.


Use of interactive whiteboards offers enormous benefits, some of which are given below:

·Enables effective interaction between users

·Integrates into the virtual learning environment (VLE)

·Improves learning and teaching by accelerating the understanding of new concepts and the preparation and delivery of lessons

·Increases pupil involvement and motivation towards learning

·Assists technophobic tutors to present lessons in front of an audience

·Aids in the wide usage of e-learning technologies

·Integrates materials such as pictures, graphs, and spreadsheets easily into lessons and thereby enhances the presentation delivered by tutors

·Integrates multiple content and resources and adapts them to real-time learning needs

·Allows learners to grasp information easily

·Helps learners to actively participate in group discussions without carrying hand-written notes

Health and Safety Recommendations

The user or presenter must be aware of health and safety implications while using the interactive whiteboards. Some of the important guidelines for ensuring safety are given below:

·Misusing projectors will lead to the damage of human eyes

·Users should avoid direct contact with the beam generated from the projector

·Users should avoid increasing the brightness of the projector and instead use window blinds

·Children should not be encouraged to come in contact with the projector

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