May 21 2009

Make the Most of Your Interactive Whiteboard

Try these best practices to better engage students through technology.

An interactive whiteboard in the hands of a good teacher can have a significant impact on student engagement and achievement. Each interactive whiteboard has its own unique set of features, differing in both cost and design. Regardless of the brand your school has deployed, here are five practical tips you can use to get the most out of your interactive whiteboard.

1. Record notes or reviews with the "recording" feature and post the videos online. 
Imagine the following scenario: Mr. K is about to solve a difficult multi-step math problem on the board the day one of his students, Hannah, is absent. With an interactive whiteboard in place, Mr. K knows this lesson will be an important one to record for later playback, so just before he begins his lesson, he taps the "record" icon which captures every pen stroke and spoken word. He then saves it as a video and uploads it to the classroom blog. All Hannah has to do when she returns to school is watch the movie to catch up.

2. Use attention-grabbing tools. 
Tools such as the spotlight, screen shade and highlighter are valuable for directing students’ attention to the content you want them to see. Use the spotlight to “gray out” flashing banner ads when showing content from websites. The screen shade can be used to reveal your own writing samples, one line at a time, to keep the class in sync. With the highlighter, you can invite students to mark the main idea in green, transition sentences in yellow and support details in red. Then save the file as a PDF for later reference or upload it to the classroom blog.

3. Do more with video to address multiple learning modalities.
Chances are, you are already integrating video into your lessons, but with an interactive whiteboard, you can do even more. I recently showed a two-minute video clip of Amelia Earhart to point out who she was to my class. At just the right moment, I paused the video and invited one student to circle her face, another student to draw a big arrow pointing at her, and another to write “This is Amelia Earhart" in digital ink. Because I saved this image, I was able to easily show it again in a subsequent chapter review. Websites such as and offer a wide range of educational video clips.

4. Integrate peripherals into lessons. 
Student responders provide a means to poll the class and display the results. They also offer a great way to check students’ understanding and gather assessment data, which can be saved as an Excel spreadsheet. Use a wireless pad and tethered pen to control the whiteboard from any spot in the room. This supports classroom management because it addresses the issue of teacher proximity. Document cameras can capture almost anything, from an amoeba under a microscope to a page in a book, or even your pet gecko. With a stylus, anyone can label and write notes directly on the image in digital ink.

5. Borrow, create and share new lessons. 
I like to visit my colleagues’ classrooms and “borrow” (we never say steal) ideas for new lessons. Similarly, I have found a rich online community of contributors and "borrowers" like myself. Not sure where to start? Update one of your old lessons for use with the interactive whiteboard. All the major manufacturers have a strong online community, so ask your site rep for recommended websites specific to your brand. Then, get out there and share your creation.

Remember that content is king; the medium is not the message. Good teaching comes down to this: being able to leverage the possibilities that an interactive whiteboard brings to the classroom while being mindful that it's the lesson you want your students to remember, not the manner in which it was taught. Be eclectic; do what works.


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