What you should know about Interactive Whiteboards

written by Menelaos Aggatheris


A modern technological tool which is already available in some private and public schools in many countries (mostly in private ones!) is the interactive whiteboard. However, most of you do not know what an interactive whiteboard is and how it can be used in a classroom. I think it is high time for you to learn some things about an educational tool which, in my opinion, will be imported in most of the school in the next few years.

Let’s start our discussion by defining what an interactive whiteboard is, in general. It is a device that includes a large interactive screen/board sensitive to touch, that works via a computer and a projector. The projector projects the computer’s desktop on the sensitive surface of the screen/board. In this way, the whiteboard’s screen becomes a “live” computer desktop, which can be tapped to pull down menus, highlight, and move or open files by the users.

In order to make this device work you have to connect the interactive whiteboard with a computer through a wired medium such as a USB or a serial port cable, or via a wireless connection such as Bluetooth. A projector is connected to the computer’s video output and projects an image of the computer’s desktop on the board’s surface. But this is not enough. In order to make the whiteboard’s screen act as a Human Input Device (HID), which means as a mouse or a keyboard, you need to install to the computer a special device driver software. You can use either your finger or a stylus (digital pen) or an other form of token pen as a pointing device for the whiteboard.


Why to use interactive whiteboards in teaching?

After presenting you a general definition of what an interactive whiteboard is and how it works, I think that it is time to give you some reasons in order to understand why this device is so useful in the teaching process. Most of these reasons have been proposed by experts who have conducted a lot of research around this topic within the last years.

The reasons are:

  1. The interactive electronic whiteboard is great for demonstrations. The presenter’s ability to run the application from the board and to mark the important points on it by writing with the stylus or using one’s finger like a mouse brings on enthusiasm to students.

  2. The board can accommodate different learning styles. Tactile learners can benefit from touching and marking at the board, audio learners can hear the class discussion and visual learners can see what is taking place as it develops at the board.

  3. All ages of students respond favourably to board use. Researches have shown that the use of the interactive whiteboard in classes, in which the age of the students ranges from younger learners to graduates of the university, is always successful.

  4. One-computer classrooms can maximize the use of limited computer access by using the whiteboard.

  5. It can interface well with other peripherals. You can use any other type of peripheral device you may want to, in order to present some more material to your classroom.

  6. The board is great for meetings where the participants need printed copies of the proceedings. After the end of a particular exercise(e.g. brainstorming) or at the end of the lesson, you can print and give out handouts of the whole lesson to your students.


Let me now talk about the two main reasons why to use interactive whiteboards, in my opinion.

  1. It is an interactive device. Let us not forget that we talk about a device in which students can feel free to input their ideas on the board and the teacher can distinctively control them by sitting on their computer. In this way, students feel that they actively contribute in the teaching process and are more efficient than they used to be.

  2. It is a fact that interactive whiteboard is a kid magnet! In young learners’ classrooms, all the children are drawn to the board and they want to use it in every opportunity. Children’s participation in class is much larger than it used to be in the past and therefore their grades are greatly improved.


How to use interactive whiteboards in class?


This is going to be the last part of my presentation concerning the interactive whiteboards. I am going to supply you with a list of ideas of how to use the interactive whiteboard in your classrooms. Again, most of the points are based on researches which have been conducted on this issue.


Here are some suggestions of how you can use the interactive whiteboard:

  • Save lessons to present to students who were absent

  • Create video files to teach a software application, a lesson, or as a review to be posted to the server or web.

  • Use the built-in maps to teach continents, oceans, countries, or states and capitals.

  • Present presentations created by student or teacher

  • Have students create e-portofolios including samples of their work and narration

  • Digital storytelling

  • Teach whole class computer or keyboarding skills

  • Brainstorming

  • Take notes directly into PowerPoint presentations

  • Reinforce skills by using on-line interactive web sites

  • Creating a project calendar

  • Teach editing skills using editing marks

  • Use highlighter tool to highlight nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.

  • Teaching students how to navigate the Internet

  • Illustrate and write a book as a class. Use the record feature to narrate the text.

  • Diagramming activities

  • Teaching vocabulary(Electronic Word Wall)

  • End each day by having students write one thing that they learned


This is a first presentation of some important features of interactive whiteboards. I hope you find them helpful. Do not hesitate to ask questions for things that you want a further analysis.

Final note: Always remember that, although it looks like a game to some people, interactive whiteboard is a powerful instructional tool and with proper planning, preparation, and training, it can be adapted for use with a wide range of subjects and ages!!!!

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You may see an example of an interactive whiteboard below:


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