Blog, Technology

Choosing the right interactive whiteboard for your class

I once feared interactive whiteboards. Yes me, the educational technology enthusiast. At every educational technology show I attend, I’m always asked to view a demonstration of a variety of whiteboards. I often agree, reluctantly.

My fear may be based on the fact that I will never be able to use these tools personally as a consumer product. Or perhaps I was too overwhelmed by the fast-talking demonstrators enthusiastically pointing out the multi-faceted, multimedia boards. Or simply, because I didn’t “get it”, I haven’t tried to learn about the distinctive features or discover the differences between the brands. I was afraid because my lack of understanding meant that I couldn’t recommend or even discuss this piece of technology.

At the recent ECOO 2010 conference and tradeshow last week, however, I got it. Finally. I participated in yet another whiteboard demonstration, but this time was handed a clicker a form of student response system. I was quite excited. The thrill of “buzzing in” my answer might have been because I could not afford the expensive, one-time use clicker in university and was jealous of happy-clicking classmates sitting nearby. Or that presently, I was fully engaged in immersive, interactive learning and thus, finally understood the premise of these once elusive boards.

I was then handed a second clicker, one that allowed me to type in my response. My immediate thoughts were, this would be difficult for a younger student to grasp, but no — those digital natives — they’ll learn quickly with some practice. And then it hit me, I understood something else; it doesn’t matter what type of board is chosen, as long as students learn consistently throughout the years using the same model. Don’t change the system once they finally become comfortable. It’s only when students are comfortable with the chosen system that they can take advantage of its uses and benefits.

Interactive whiteboards are great educational tools because they benefit different types of learners, from visual to kinesthetic. However, you still have to make a choice as to which board to select for your classroom or school board. Before you consider some of the whiteboard’s features, remember to keep learning in the 21st century and have students interact with the board. Allow students to take the lead and teach their peers instead.

As digital natives, students learn immersively and if they are not allowed to engage with the board and its accessories, they may be too lost or mesmerized by the actual technology and miss out on the content the technology is producing — like me at the trade shows. I had listened enough. All I needed was to try and I learned a lot.

Possible considerations for your interactive whiteboard:

Do you want to transform an existing dry-erase whiteboard or wall into an interactive board? Or, do you want a physically interactive whiteboard and its entire suite? All three types of systems are available.

How much space is available for the board? Some whiteboard companies have different size boards or for very small spaces, you may consider a system that transforms a regular wall into an interactive one.

Do you want to use additional software and lesson plans with your board? Some suites allow only specific while others, unlimited use of resources.

Will you be using student response systems, microphones, speakers, markers, or tablets with your whiteboard?

Stationary boards are available as well as ones where height can be adjusted and ones that can be moved from classroom to classroom.

Installation, Technical Support, and Training
Some interactive whiteboard companies sell to all markets, some only to schools. The level of technical support or training you receive from them may be influenced by this. All whiteboard companies have trained professionals to guide teachers through the setup; however, these services may not be within your school’s budget. Your school district may already have IT specialists to train teachers, but it is likely that they only specialize in one system. An alternative to technical support is to use a very simple model that requires less training than a sophisticated one.

Some Interactive Whiteboard Technology Companies:

Epson BrightLink

Which interactive whiteboard do you use? What are some of your favourite features and benefits?

2 comments on "Choosing the right interactive whiteboard for your class"

  1. Lisa Tran

    Thank you! I agree that with so much technology in the “real world” classrooms need to provide similar access for students in order to bridge the gap between digital natives and digital immigrants. I have yet to come across Hitachi Starboards, however. Will check it out!

  2. Mark

    Nice article Lisa… I was looking for an objective and well-rounded opinion of this technology, and was glad to come across your article.

    I think that the main reason that teachers are skeptical about getting into IWB’s is that they may feel a little intimidated by the demand of the technology.

    I think it’s cool that manufacturers like Promethean endeavor to make free support readily available for teachers using their products. I’ve seen a couple of good examples of these types of resources online actually… Another one I think you may have missed is Hitachi Starboards.

    They’ve also got a global support website for teacher’s using their products:

    It’d be great to see more interactive whiteboards getting used in the classroom. They’re starting to build in popularity in Australia, too. Particularly with kids becoming more and more exposed to touch-interactive technology at such a young age, I think it’s valuable that they learn to engage with the technology on an academic level.

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