- By Ellen Kollie
- January 1st, 2008
are using interactive whiteboards in numerous creative ways to improve
education delivery. Fortunately, manufacturers provide thorough training to get
teachers up and running in no time flat.
Gone are the days of chalkboards. Yep, no more squeaky
chalk, dirty erasers, and omnipresent chalk dust. They’ve been replaced by
technology — interactive whiteboards, to be specific.
An interactive whiteboard looks like a dry-erase board and
can even be used as one. But it’s so much more than that when in interactive
mode. To be sure, every manufacturer’s whiteboard boasts features that are
different from its competitors’, but here are some similarities to give an idea
of how powerful a teaching tool a whiteboard can be.
connected to a computer, Websites can be displayed on whiteboards. When
connected to a DVD player, or if a DVD is loaded into the computer, movies (or
just clips) can be shown on them. Lessons can be created in such applications
as Word and PowerPoint and projected onto the screen.
are equipped with intuitive and easy-to-use software. For example, the
Interwrite Board by Columbia, MD-based Interwrite Learning comes with
Interwrite Workspace, which includes thousands of images and resources to
create interactive lessons. The Intelliboard (I-Board) from Mongtomeryville,
PA-based Numonics uses Easiteach Studio, whole-class-teaching software that
provides a range of cross-curricular teaching tools. The SMART Board from
Calgary, Alberta-based SMART Technologies is equipped with software that allows
teachers to create interactive content with more than 6,600 learning objects or
add interactivity to lessons with customizable lesson activities.
addition, whiteboards are equipped with softkeys that can be programmed to
launch favorite Websites, applications, and files. Teachers can highlight or
make notes over any program. Then they can save and print lessons and notations
for review and even e-mail them to absent students.
- With all this power, it’s no wonder that teachers are
continually finding creative ways to use the whiteboards to not only deliver
lessons, but to truly change the way education is delivered in the classroom.
In all likelihood, what the teachers conceive is a dream-come-true for
Success for Students with Mild Learning Disabilities
“We have to have one of these,” thought teacher Rick Lay,
the first time he saw a demonstration of a Numonics interactive whiteboard. Get
one he did, and he now uses it daily in his classroom of students with learning
disabilities at John Marshall High School in Richmond, VA.
Lay desired to maximize the whiteboard’s effectiveness. He
found so many ways to incorporate the whiteboard that it is now the central
component for delivering instruction.
For example, the whiteboard is used for both large- and
small-group instruction. By connecting it to a document camera, it is used to
introduce the activities for each period of the day, which Lay says has greatly
improved classroom organization. Then the writing (annotation) tool is accessed
to deliver daily education in such areas as spelling, check writing, cardinal
numbers, and job applications. He saves the annotations he makes directly so
that he can play them back when needed to reinforce a specific concept. “It’s a
nice feature for recalling the activities we’ve done,” he stresses.
Another way Lay uses the whiteboard is to access specific
applications to deliver instruction, including Word, RM Easiteach, PowerPoint,
Sherston Art, and more. He explains: “Our students have trouble decoding words.
I type their spelling words into the computer, transfer them to Easiteach, and
review them on the whiteboard. From that, we can print study sheets for
A third way that Lay uses the whiteboard is to access
interactive Websites for both small- and large-group instruction. Some of the
specific subjects he’s covered in this area include math, time, money, cursive
writing, health, and maps. One he appreciates is Unitedstreaming, a digital
video-on-demand service from Discovery Education. “We call up videos on such
topics as job interviews, job applications, and checking,” he says. “Accessing
interactive Websites saves money that would be spent on curriculum, and there
are hundreds from which to choose.”
Success for Autistic Students
At Kettering Middle School in Ohio, Carol Flaherty, speech-language
pathologist, and Jennifer Wilcox, intervention specialist, have used the SMART
Board for a little more than a year to enhance special education for students
with autism or autism-like behaviors.
Wilcox has set up a program on the whiteboard that mocks up
the students’ daily planner. “We manipulate the words on it so they can put
order to their daily schedule,” she says. “It puts the order in their mind as
well as on the schedule, and it doesn’t require fine motor skills.”
Another way the whiteboard is used in Wilcox’s classroom is
to read an online newspaper designed for special education students. “The
students read it on the whiteboard,” she says. “They manipulate certain words
by circling and underlining them in different colors for comprehension.”
The newspaper lesson comes with games, which are completed
on the whiteboard so students don’t have to worry about cardboard game pieces
becoming lost or damaged. Even better is that non-comprehending students watch
and follow the lead of comprehending students, thus learning from social cues.
Once a week, Flaherty presents a half-hour speech lesson to
four of the students using the whiteboard. She likes the fact that the students
get out of their seats to approach and interact with the whiteboard, using body
language to communicate, which is important for autistic children. For example,
they give one another high fives on the way up and make eye contact on the way
Both teachers say that the students’ response to the
whiteboard has been impressive. Even students they didn’t believe would be
engageable are using it. “When students get a correct answer, you can see their
pride,” says Flaherty. “It’s shown in their posture, which you wouldn’t see if
they were seated, and in their faces as they make eye contact with one
Success for Students with Low Test Scores
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the
folks at eMINTS National Center must be blushing, because administrators at Granite School District
in Salt Lake City, UT, have copied the eMINTS professional development
program. Created by educators for educators, eMINTS stands for enhancing Missouri’s Instructional
Networked Teaching Strategies.
At Granite, teachers who join the program invest 200 hours
of training on their own time through two years, learning about technology
tools and “best teaching” practices. When done, each teacher receives a laptop,
projector, big screen, color laser printer, scanner, digital camera, one
computer for every two students, and two to three Interwrite school pads.
The Interwrite school pad includes Interwrite software and
gives the teacher the ability to teach interactive lessons from anywhere in the
classroom and may be passed to students. It can be used with the Interwrite
whiteboard or to project computer images on any surface to create an
The goal of the Granite program is to provide an interactive
learning environment that raises test scores, engages students in learning, and
helps them become life-long learners. In addition, the district wants teachers
to be technologically literate, notes Instructional Technology Specialist
With 60 elementary, 16 junior high and ten high schools, the
district has a huge challenge on its hands to get eMINTS into every school so,
for now, the program is limited to elementary schools. It is already up and
running in 11 schools having the lowest test scores. “We already show
improvement in all of our language arts, math, and science scores,” says
Jensen, who can’t imagine working without her Interwrite school pad. “The
difference is statistically significant in some grade levels in some subjects.”
Two benefits Jensen sees are behavior improvement and the
creation of a student-centered learning environment. “Classroom attendance
problems have diminished, and there are less referrals to the office,” she
observes. “The students take control of the presentation and the lesson. The
Interwrite school pad, specifically, is their favorite thing.”
How do teachers take this technology, new to them, and get
it up and running in the classroom? Through training. Just like a whiteboard’s
features vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so, too, does training. Still,
it’s plentiful, and manufacturers offer a number of options.
Real-time web-based training is common, and both Numonics
and Interwrite offer it free. In fact, Interwrite offers different types and
levels of web-based training, depending on the need, and it’s set up so the
trainer goes through a specific agenda, ending with a Q&A session.
After Lay completed Numonics’ web-based training, which
provided a better understanding of the whiteboard’s major features, his
students were also trained, as he wanted them to be able to control the
whiteboard. “The learning curve was no greater for them than it was for me or
the classroom aide,” he says.
In person training is also common. Flaherty and Wilcox
participated in a group training that included some of the district’s high
school teachers who had also received a SMART Board. “It was pretty much
communicating the flashier aspects of the whiteboard,” says Flaherty. “It gave
us targets to aim for because computer literacy is a constant struggle for all
A third type of training, professional development, is more
about how to effectively teach using the whiteboard and its tools. Interwrite
offers a half-day and full-day class. In addition, Interwrite offers a
train-the-trainer class, structured with beginner, intermediate, and advanced
Whiteboard manufacturers also offer online tutorials, which
provide immediate training and assistance because they’re available on demand.
“I probably spend half an hour per week online because there’s so much
information there,” says Flaherty.
Interactive whiteboards are transforming classroom education because the
technology engages students and allows teachers to be versatile and creative in
their delivery. The differences between the whiteboards are not substantial
enough to cause an administrator to lose sleep in making a purchasing decision.
Review several brands, and choose the manufacturer you believe will give the
best on-going customer service and the model with which your teachers feel most