Don Soyinthisane, Executive Director of IT for Fresno Unified School District, says teacher excitement helped drive the demand for modern digital whiteboards across the district.

Apr 16 2024

High-Touch Learning for the Modern Classroom

Modern digital whiteboards help K–12 schools liven up classroom instruction with interactive multimedia lessons.

When Fresno Unified School District purchased new digital whiteboards, district leaders strategically placed them on mobile stands in the middle of each classroom.

“We purposefully put the interactive displays in the middle so teachers would know they were mobile and easy to move,” Soyinthisane says. “Otherwise, if we put them in front, teachers could assume they were supposed to be there, and they might have stayed there forever.”

The strategy worked. While some teachers still put the whiteboards in front, some redesigned their classroom layouts, parking the whiteboard on a corner or a side wall or pushing it around the room for different classroom activities.

Click the banner to see how one district uses technology to support learning.


The new digital touch-screen displays are part of the district’s ongoing five-year effort to improve classroom instruction and use technology to facilitate a more personalized, blended learning approach that includes small-group and whole-class instruction, independent online learning and collaborative project work. The digital whiteboards fit right in with the laptops that the district provides for every student.

They also make teaching and learning more interactive and engaging.

Today, high school students can use the boards to wirelessly share their laptop screens so they can collaborate on a small group project or show their work to the entire class. Elementary school students can learn math, the alphabet and other subjects through educational apps and games that allow them to write, draw, or drag and drop items on the board.

Special education students with fine-motor challenges can use a tennis ball to write on the interactive displays to help with their motor skills. Some teachers show videos or take students on virtual field trips.

“Teachers are seeing more interaction and in-class collaboration. Students pay more attention,” Soyinthisane says. “Our kindergarten and first graders all want to come to the board, so they raise their hands and go up there to play educational games.”

RELATED: These classroom flat-panel trends are reshaping how kids learn.

How Interactive Whiteboards Support Student-Centered Learning

Many districts are modernizing their classrooms with the latest digital whiteboards because it enables educators to reimagine education, liven up their classes with multimedia activities and improve student engagement through active learning. This allows students to learn essential skills for their future, such as critical thinking and presentation skills, says Gregg Burcham, a member of the Consortium for School Networking’s Network and Systems Design Advisory Committee.

“We still have a lot of classrooms that are very teacher-centric,” says Burcham, a former teacher and instructional technologist who is now director for network and technology services at Little Elm Independent School District in Texas. “With interactive panels, you can move toward student-centered learning and flip the classroom.”

Digital whiteboards have come a long way since they first debuted in the early 1990s. Early versions, which many districts still have, require a projector, forcing teachers to dim lights or close the blinds so students can see the screen. By contrast, today’s 4K, Full HD and Ultra HD digital whiteboards boast bright screens and sharp images, allowing students to see clearly in daylight or with the lights on, Burcham says.

“Having interactive panels offers teachers the opportunity to reinvent the classroom, but it’s up to their creativity and imagination,” Burcham says. “The most powerful thing is that it gives them flexibility.”

Don adjusts a promethean panel


Fresno Unified Shares Lessons Learned on Digital Whiteboards

Although Fresno Unified purchased 1,000 new projectors about eight years ago and recently bought some noninteractive displays, the district recognized it desperately needed to modernize its whiteboards. As the third largest district in California with 74,000 students, Fresno Unified had either antiquated projectors or nearly 20-year-old interactive whiteboards that were being used as glorified projectors in its classrooms.

So, with help from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, the district began modernizing its 4,000 classrooms with new audiovisual equipment and other technology.

The IT department purchased new 75-inch Promethean ActivPanel digital whiteboards, then successfully deployed the Prometheans by taking a phased approach that began with a 2021 pilot involving 25 teachers. The teachers raved about the technology, and soon other teachers wanted it in their classrooms. The district then expanded the pilot to 300 teachers in spring 2022, providing at least two displays in each school.

“The response was amazing,” Soyinthisane says. “Teachers loved it. The most common feedback we got was that students were more engaged.”

DIG DEEPER: Collaboration between educators and IT can transform classroom tech.

“We let this grow organically and built momentum,” he added.

Fresno Unified bought the devices from CDW, which assisted with project management, and brought in a third-party installer to deploy the technology over the course of about 14 months, from summer 2022 to summer 2023.

The Prometheans come with a Windows PC attached, so teachers can pull up educational content without having to connect their own laptops. The whiteboards have wireless keyboards and mice, which allow teachers to easily roam around the classroom while they teach. They can also save their screens or record their lessons and post them online, so students can review class sessions later.

“The tool isn’t just a shiny TV in the classroom. This is a teaching tool that enables high-quality instruction,” Soyinthisane says.

Gregg Burcham
We still have a lot of classrooms that are very teacher-centric. With interactive panels, you can move toward student-centered learning and flip the classroom.”

Gregg Burcham CoSN Network and Systems Design Advisory Committee Member

New Digital Whiteboards Give Students Great Visibility from Anywhere

In 2023, Lakewood City Schools in Ohio used ESSER funds to purchase 140 new 75-inch Promethean ActivPanel displays for the district’s seven elementary schools. In doing so, it replaced 15-year-old Prometheans that required projectors.

“The picture is clearer and crisper,” says IT Director Brent Kallay. “Now, with the new boards, students have great visibility from anywhere in their classrooms.”

The district chose Prometheans again because teachers liked the company’s ActivInspire lesson delivery software. Eight IT staffers deployed the devices last summer over two months. The boards were hardwired to the network and mounted in the front of each room, but IT staff accommodated teachers who wanted the boards elsewhere, Kallay says.

WATCH: Technology can free teachers from their desks.

Before, teachers were tethered to their desks because they needed to connect their laptops to the old interactive whiteboards. Now, they are free to use the computer for other tasks.

For example, they can sign on to Google Drive on the new Prometheans and pull up class materials, then walk around with their laptops to work with small groups of students.

“Now, teachers can use the Prometheans and their laptops as primary and secondary devices, and that gives them more flexibility,” Kallay says.


The number of school districts that spent the last of their ESSER funds to buy smart panels or digital whiteboards

Source:, Esser III District Detail, Feb. 12, 2024

Remote Digital Whiteboard Management Is a Plus for Tech Teams

In Illinois, Kankakee School District 111 bought more than 220 BenQ interactive displays for its nine schools during the 2019-2020 school year.

After getting feedback from teachers and students, the district standardized on BenQ because of its ease of use, antimicrobial screen, fast boot time and remote management capabilities, says Technology Integration Specialist Melissa Fierro.

Previously, each classroom was outfitted with an antiquated, first-generation digital whiteboard that required a projector and could take as long as 30 minutes to start up. The 75-inch BenQ displays, which run on the Android OS, boot up in less than half a minute and wake up instantly when in sleep mode, a feature that has thrilled teachers, Fierro says.

“All you have to do is touch the board, and boom! It’s back on again,” she says.

Teachers also liked having direct access to their lessons and other educational content on Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive while using the whiteboards. The IT department preferred BenQ because its remote management tool allows IT staff to centrally manage and update the devices without manually having to touch each one.

“They can troubleshoot and push approved apps remotely,” Fierro says.  

Some teachers use the BenQ panels to prerecord video lessons so students can access lectures from home on Google Workspace for Education. Teachers also use the displays to record sessions on the board so students can access teacher-created content from home.

Overall, digital whiteboards are worth the investment, Fierro says. The district purchased them before the pandemic, so it used its own funds to pay for the devices.

“They’re not a minor expenditure, but they’re worth every penny,” she says. “The ROI is amazing.”

Photography by Trevor Paulhus

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