Interactive whiteboards

According to the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, an interactive whiteboard is "an electronic tool that combines with a computer and projector to become a large, touch-sensitive display that allows teachers and students to write and erase notes, control computer applications, and save information." These devices are widely used in business and higher education today, and are becoming more popular in K-12 school environments. Interactive whiteboards allow teachers to modify content on the computer screen without being at the computer; instead, when the instructor contacts the whiteboard his or her selections or annotations are transmitted electronically to the host computer. These modifications can be saved or discarded at the end of the teaching session.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) notes that there are numerous benefits for utilizing electronic whiteboards across all age groups:
  • They allow more varied, creative and seamless use of teaching materials.
  • They encourage learner participation, through the ability to interact with materials on the board.
  • Learners do not need to use a keyboard to interact with the technology, increasing access for learners with disabilities.
  • They allow tutors to share and re-use materials, through the save and/or print features of the whiteboard, thereby reducing workloads.

Educational Uses, Benefits, and Issues

According to the ACT Department of Education and Training Final Report 2005, there are several key uses, benefits, and issues:

Educational uses and Benefits


Enable the inclusion of notes from class to be included in files for later distribution and use.
Current need to have data project, computer and whiteboard reduces portability and increases cost and complexity of use.
Pre-class preparation enables focus on teaching rather than writing lessons on a board.
Need to train and support teachers in the use of the device in order to achieve full utilisation of its features.
Enables the shared viewing of rich media during class, and the ability to swap from one resource to another, one software program to another without changing devices.
Improves the class dynamic, with more contributions from class members. This may require changes in teaching practice.
Enables contributions and participation by students with disabilities.

Shifts the focus of the education process to student participation and collaborative learning.

In an article published in the British Journal of Educational Technology, Wall, Higgins, and Smith said that one of the most common complaints regarding the use of interactive whiteboards was instructor's unfamiliarity with the technology. Students and instructors alike complained when the class was slowed by technology problems. For this reason teacher practice and learning to use the boards before utilizing them in the classroom is important.

In other research reported on "they found that children became distracted by the technology and the pace of some classes slowed as teachers sought to give each child "turns" at using the board...Academics said there were 'drawbacks' to the ways in which the technology was used. They said boards had vastly increased the amount and complexity of work that teachers could put in front of children, confusing some pupils and reducing others to a 'spectator role'. Some teachers focused more on the new technology than on what pupils should be learning, the report suggested. 'For instance, the focus on interactivity as a technical process can lead to some relatively mundane activities being over-valued,' it said. 'In lower ability groups it could actually slow the pace of whole-class learning as individual pupils took turns at the board.' It said many teachers struggled to design whiteboard displays that were easy for pupils to read independently. But Jim Knight, the schools minister, said the report reflected 'the early days' before electronic whiteboards had settled into classroom life. 'Only when teachers have the skills to use it properly can we expect them to use the technology to support and transform traditional teaching methods,' he said."

Here is a video demonstrating the MIT Oxygen lab whiteboard application for simulations.

Here is an additional video that demonstrates how Electronic Whiteboards can help in learning. It's the best video I've seen all day.

Missed Opportunity

Several sites reference saving lessons for absent students and for general inclusion in student notes while on the same page mentioning information overload as teachers develop more information ahead of time, or are able to reuse previous classes even more completely than before. While any student that has experienced an instructor that "writes with one hand and erases with the other" sees immediate value in this technology even if it does mean more information they are accountable for, there are clearly pacing issues that must be addressed. New technology frequently struggles to find its appropriate use, and detractors, but gains of 20%-25% in teaching time are hard to ignore.


Interactive whiteboard Resources

[Source: Interactive whiteboards UK]

Wall, K., Higgins, S., Smith, H., ‘The visual helps me understand the complicated things’: pupil views of teaching and learning with interactive whiteboards. British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 36 (Iss 5) p851-867