Teaching With A WhiteboardInteractive whiteboards (IWB's) are fast becoming the next big thing in educational classroom technology.  When used in conjunction with a video projector and a computer system interactive whiteboards have shown time and time again that they can capture student attention and keep that attention longer than plain old ordinary whiteboards.  Still, the IWB system has to be adequate for the job at hand and has to be able to provide tools that the teacher can use effectively in the course of their classes.  Not every electronic whiteboard system is created equal.  Some are better for business installations while others are more appropriate for the classroom.  This article will talk a little about what interactive whiteboards are, list some major interactive whiteboard manufacturers, and discuss some of the more important things to consider when using an interactive whiteboard in a classroom environment.

What Are Interactive Whiteboards
Interactive whiteboards take several forms and come in many different price ranges.  The more high end devices ($700 and up) are complete whiteboards that mount on a wall and contain embedded circuitry that acts as a touch sensitive surface for the teacher or student to manipulate.  Lower cost options ($300-$700) include portable devices that attach to an existing whiteboard and convert it to work interactively with a computer.  The lowest cost option (less than $100) is one that true do-it-yourself types can use to create an ultra low cost interactive whiteboard using off the shelf components as easily accessible as a Nintendo Wii video game controller.

The price ranges of these products also speak to their utility in the classroom.  Higher priced products in general provide a better, more easily accessible user experience.  Lower cost models require more setup and do not ship with software that is as robust as their higher end counterparts.  At the lowest end of the scale no software is provided at all other than the drivers that help control the board.  Potential whiteboard buyers need to consider these things when planning an interactive whiteboard purchase and attempt to find adequate funding to purchase the right brand of interactive whiteboard that is correct for their situation.  For more information consult my article on How To Buy an Interactive Whiteboard.

What Are Some Problems To Consider When Teaching With Interactive Whiteboards?

For the teacher, the biggest hurdle to using an interactive whiteboard in class is not the price, it is the preparation.  Although companies such as Smart and Promethean have made great strides in producing high quality software for their systems, many teachers will still find themselves having to create their own presentations and activities from scratch.  Depending on the technical know how of the teacher this can be a significant time sink, and many teachers find themselves spending more time creating materials than they had to when not using the IWB.  

Other problems that some teachers run into when using interactive whiteboards relate more to the installation environment.  Depending on the IWB being used things such as electronic lighting controls in classrooms and ultrasonic security systems can play havoc with certain types of boards.  Likewise, IWB's are not recommended for use on mobile carts as any movement of the projected image on the board will require the teacher to recalibrate the entire board.

How To Be Successful When Teaching With Interactive Whiteboards
Training is of paramount importance when installing this kind of technology in a classroom.  Without adequate training it is akin to handing the keys to a 14 year old and telling him to take the car for a spin.  Any technology purchase of this magnitude must be balanced with adequate training of the teachers that will be using it.  Other ways to help ensure success include making use of the hundreds of premade IWB lesson plans that other teachers have already created on the individual interactive whiteboard manufacturer's web sites. 

The use of an interactive whiteboard in any classroom can improve the learning environment and increase student achievement, but only if it is used correctly and with the appropriate training and planning.  Ask around, consult with other teachers, and see just how useful interactive whiteboards can be to a classroom.


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