Mar 20 2008

Using Interactive Whiteboards

One teacher describes how the technology helps her students learn.

I always thought technology integration would change the face of K-12 classrooms, but I never would have guessed that using interactive whiteboards in class would change from a curiosity to a near necessity in just eight years.

My first experience with an interactive whiteboard occurred when I was a student teacher in 1999, and it didn’t take long for me to see how this tool could stoke the imagination of students. When the students returned to school after a long weekend, many of them noticed the new tool in the classroom right away.

“What’s that?” they asked. “Is that a new kind of screen?” I explained that we would use the board to review our previously assigned work. I began manipulating a few of the yellow boxes on the screen with my hand, uncovering the word answers. Next, I started to take volunteers to use the board, and soon I was hearing cries of “I want to go next!” At that moment, I knew I would be diving into a new level of teaching.

At first, few teachers were willing to implement such an unusual tool. “How will we use it? How easy will it be for me to implement this tool in the classroom?” many teachers asked, looking on in wonder. Our campus librarian offered an introduction course, and the software could be directly downloaded from the manufacturer’s Web site or through the disk that was distributed with the board. I quickly grasped the concept of the board and began brainstorming the possibilities of its use. Our staff was able to obtain the use of the whiteboard through a checkout system.

When I transferred districts, I came across the same dilemma: one interactive whiteboard for the entire campus. Before my transfer, I had some experience writing grants to receive new technology. Whiteboards were still out of my price range at the time. But three years ago, I broke through and received money to buy a whiteboard specifically for my classroom. Last year, our school was able to add an interactive whiteboard at each grade level. In addition, some colleagues have followed my lead and received money to buy a classroom interactive whiteboard.

The software for these boards and the training available has also increased in the past few years. I have begun to support my campus and my district by conducting training opportunities. I now create my own whiteboard lessons and can download ready-made lessons. I can pull many elements together, from various applications, which allows me to flow from each lesson with great ease. I have also conducted training for my team, my campus and my school district.

Within the classroom itself, the whiteboard allows me to change roles, and it gives me the time and space to assess my students. The more I get them to play the role of teacher, the more I get them to think critically. In science, that is our biggest goal. There is not only a visual impact on the learning of my students, but equity of learning among them all.

I am currently responsible for teaching approximately 80 fifth-grade students. I primarily teach science, but have relied on my interactive whiteboard for all subjects. I can testify that I’ve seen my students testing at higher levels and retaining more content, year after year. In 2006, after only four months of daily use of this tool, I saw a 4 percent increase on our science and standard-achievement scores. We have improved in various areas in our standardized testing objectives, as well as our overall student performance. We are making strides. With more teachers implementing the whiteboards, I believe we have just touched the surface of what our students can achieve.