Why do I need an interactive white board?

I still don’t get the point of  IWB’s. I’m open to being persuaded since I have one in my classroom. The things I use it for could just as easily be done with a data projector though.

It seems like a tool which promotes the sort of teaching where kids  face the front and focus on the teacher. It doesn’t seem to encourage interaction, collaboration, creativity or thinking. I’ve been told that it doesn’t need to be teacher centered. I’ve been told that having kids come up to the board individually or to work in a group is engaging. But what’s the rest of the class doing meanwhile?  It would surely be less costly and even more engaging to give the kids iPads or laptops and have them interacting in groups.

IWB By whatedsaid | View this Toon at ToonDoo | Create your own Toon

Maybe it’s because I haven’t had any IWB training. Maybe it’s because I haven’t tried hard enough. Or maybe it’s because they don’t quite fit with what I believe about learning…

I believe that learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving. I believe that learning for understanding includes acquiring skills and knowledge, constructing meaning and transfer to other contexts. I believe that learning is active and social and best takes place through collaboration and interaction. I believe that learning includes meta-cognition and reflection, and requires learners to take ownership of their learning.

Could that be why I haven’t seen value in IWB’s?

If you really feel they add something to learning, please convince me!


52 thoughts on “Why do I need an interactive white board?

  1. I can’t wait to read the responses to this post! It’s a topic I’ve toyed with recently too. I think there are a lot of schools who think buying more IWBs will make them a “21st century school”

    I absolutely love the quote I heard from Chris Betcher recently – “Having an IWB in your classroom won’t make you an effective teacher any more than sitting in a henhouse will make you a chicken”

    I love the fact that my IWB is a “window to the world”, however, as you said – that could be done with a projector.

    Teaching seven and eight year olds, I know they love to learn by doing and my students love having a turn at anything on the IWB. What are the other students doing? Well, surprisingly I find they are engaged and working out answers, strategies, ideas etc themselves – we do a lot of “ask the audience” to keep the observing kids involved. I love to have my students be the teacher by using the IWB to explain concepts, strategies etc to their peers.

    Still, I’m not sure if this is a reason to fork out $6000 or so and I can’t wait to read what others think.


    1. Hi Kathleen. Loved your recent interview with Tony and Darrell… I gave a copy to our K, 1 and 2 teachers and they’re all fired up now and want to start class blogs! thanks! 🙂

      I hear your argument about “that could be done with a projector”, and I’ve heard it from many others too, but I don’t buy it. For a couple of reasons…

      1. Most classrooms would not have a projector at all if it were not for the total IWB package. I’ve surveyed a number of teachers on this and in most cases, those teachers who have an IWB never had a projector on its own before betting the board. So the “projector is just as good” argument is a bit of a red herring if most teachers never actually had a standalone projector before getting a board.

      2. The cost of installing a projector is actually the most significant part of the “$6000” classroom setup. Of course, not if you just want to manually set one up on the front table of the classroom each time you want to use it… I mean if you want to actually install it properly, hang it from the ceiling on a proper mount, put speakers on the wall for audio, cable it all for power and data and include a wall mount to plug a laptop in, etc… the cost for the projector installation (done right) is enough to say that the cost of including the board (especially when you amortise the cost of the board over its expected lifespan of 5+ years) is negligible. Honestly, the cost of adding the board on top of the projector is about $300/year. I find it hard to swallow an argument that says that IWBs are expensive, especially when you consider how often they get used… I think they are actually very good value for money.

      3. Perhaps the very best advantage of an IWB+Projector versus a Projector On Its Own is the human factor of being able to stand *at the board* and use it. Whether it’s the teacher or the student using it, there is something very human about being able to physically touch, point, drag etc on the board while also making eye contact, gesturing, gesticulating, etc and interacting with your “audience” in a very natural way. You really lose this very important aspect of the interaction between teacher/student/content if you only have the projector. I’d actually argue that by having just a projector it actually elevates the importance of the CONTENT, whereas having an IWB as well enphasises the interaction of IDEAS and DISCUSSION about the content, since it puts humans back in the focus of interacting with the content.

      Just my 3 cents worth.



      1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Chris.
        1. I taught in a room with a data projector but no IWB last year, so I was doing all sorts of things already… the ones that can be done with a projector and don’t require the IWB.
        2. Ok, fair enough.. I haven’t actually done any sums. I’m more of a learning person than a budget person, I confess!
        3. I’d like to see you in action. Have heard that Chris Betcher is the one person who would demonstrate the value of the IWB in a convincing way! Not just here, either.


      2. @ Chris thanks for the comment. I think I forgot to add in my original comment that I love my IWB and I use it for every lesson of every day and use it well, if I do say so myself but I guess I was just trying to think outside the square and determine whether an IWB is necessary for the creative class program that we like to operate. I think you’ve put into words the answer I was looking for!

        I did read something you’d written recently about the cost of IWB V projector so I can’t believe I forgot that! Very interesting.

        Thanks for your kinds words about the podcast. I hope your early years teachers get into blogging!

        @Edna, you’ve done it again – a post that has got people thinking and really reflecting on how and why they do things. Well done!


  2. Of course I agree with everything you say Edna, however if you have an IWB in your room, then I believe you should learn how to use it properly and then use it. And yes I agree that it takes time and training to become fluent and see the ways it can be used.

    I virtually never have one student come to the board while the rest of the class get bored. What I have done though is prepare all my own maths lessons on the IWB, designed so any teacher could follow them. Occasionally they will have an activity that suits a very small group, particularly good for visual learners who need extra hands on help. Yes, I get that this can be done in other ways but since you have a board why not use it?
    Not to mention taking their notes, from their thinking and brainstorming and saving them for next time or next week or next year even.
    I have also had the software put on all my classroom computers, the students love it and often create their own backdrops for presentations or skits. It can be used like powerpoint, except that it has more options.
    I have an IWB, someone put it in and paid for it. I love my IWB and now after 2 years getting to know I would really miss it.


  3. I’m pretty sure that your main problem is not having any training in the use of IWBs. This is a kind of tool which requires good training not only to spare the teacher a lot of time to learn him/herself about the many functionalities of an IWB but also and above all to understand that it’s just another tool like others which needs to be effectively used to have an impact in students achievement. Citing another quote by Chris Betcher, “It’s not about what happens on the board. It’s about of what happens because of what happens on the board.”
    For me, the main difference of the IWB compared to other tools teachers have had ever since is that the IWB has more potential to amplify good teaching. Having a technology like an IWB in the classroom is like having an iPhone in your hands. Suddenly everything is at your fingertips concentrated in just one place. One of the most difficult things for teachers is to be aware of that and remember to use it when it’s most appropriate. Here is where practice and good teaching comes in. Only with practice can any good teacher become savvy in the use of IWB and use it to it’s full potential.
    I’m sure you would use your IWB as effectively as you already use other technologies to support your ideas about learning you mentioned in your post. You just need to find out how.


    1. But that still suggests the kind of teaching where the teacher is in control upfront, no? When I said I hadn’t had training, I meant official training. I do know how to use it and I share the room with a teacher who does. The most powerful way I have used it so far is having kids talk on skype with people in other countries… but I could have used a data projector for that. Haven’t given up, but…not convinced 🙂


      1. I don’t see any problem in the being sometimes in control upfront. There are times when the teacher needs to lecture. There is still room for teaching in the 21st century, no?
        You mean, you know how to use the IWB technically, right? Knowing how to use the functions of an IWB is not enough, you need to know how to teach with them. It’s simple as this: if you think you are a better teacher without the IWB, then don’t use it. As Ben said, “Good teaching doesn’t need an IWB.” I add: and any other technology.
        I agree that you can use a projector to do many things that you can do on an IWB. But could the teacher or the pupils come up to the projector screen and make annotations on it? No. Could you drag scenes out of a video and have them pasted on the board for later discussion if you were using a data projector? No. Could you let the pupils reveal information that you had hidden before, if you were using a data projector? No. Could the pupils come to the board and drag objects around to accomplish a matching exercise, if you were using a data projector? No. There are certainly many more examples.


      2. Is there a problem with teachers teaching? Is there something inherently bad with explicit teaching?

        I think the real issue is that in a mad push to ensure our classrooms are student-centric places, we are starting to dismiss the value of explicit teaching. Don’t get me wrong… we absolutely need to make our classrooms more student centred… the great majority of the world’s classrooms are far too teacher centric so I absolutely agree we need to work at addressing that problem and promoting the importance of students learning as well as teachers teaching.

        But to say that ANY form of explicit teaching is bad is just silly. We need to get a more equitable balance of teacher focussed versus student focussed in our classroom, but if anyone imagines that bottom Year 9 maths class will somehow magically teach themselves trigonometry, they are clearly kidding themselves. Sometimes the fastest, quickest, most effective way to help your students learn a difficult concept is to actually TEACH them. Heresy, I know, but I think it’s true. To refuse to engage in explicitly teaching difficult concepts to your students is abrogating our roles as teachers. (The problem is that for too many teachers, this is the ONLY way they know how to manage their classrooms… we need a sensible balance)

        If you accept that there IS a place for some element of explicit teaching, then having a large screen, dynamically connected to a world of digital resources, able to help with visualisations and interactive explanations, that all students can see, discuss and ask questions around, seems like a pretty darn good idea to me.


      3. Mr. Alves, I agree with you on the functionality. However, in my mind, we are talking software (Inspire/Notebook) rather than hardware (IWB). I love the things that can be done with the software: hide and reveal, spotlight, screen capture, annotate, and on.

        Those are all functions of the software, which is free.

        One issue is the one person-centeredness that often happens with IWBs.

        Another issue is the cost of the board and installation. In my original comment, I mentioned slates. A wireless slate paired with the IWB software, gives you all the same tools at a fraction of the price and you gain the ability to move around the room.

        If we agree that the software leads to better teaching, then we can get better teaching into more classrooms using slates. However, in my heart, I believe that a good teaching is independent of anything else. That might be a debate for another day though.


      4. Mr. Ben, I never referred to the functionality of the hardware but to the software of the board, of course. The software (ActivInpire or Notebook) is not free. You get a free copy if you buy the board but if you just want to have the software, you’ll need to pay for it.
        I don’t know the wireless slates nor what they are capable of. If a wireless slate costs about 300 dollars and each student should have one, then multiply 300 by an average of only 20 students per class and you get a higher price than one IWB. Furthermore, it needs to be proved that we can get better teaching with slates than with IWB.
        Anyway, I’m more interested in discussing about IWB right now.


      5. To add to the Chris Betcher love-in, Betcher made a very strong point in a recent keynote when he (to my mind) proved the effectiveness of ‘Teacher at the front’ style teaching. Yes there is a place for independence, interdependence, collaboration and inquiry and these can help kids learn in wonderful ways, but teachers are more than just facilitators.

        Betcher asked a large audience who could understand the binary number he had on the board. Maybe three people put their hand up. Betcher then went on to ‘teach’ us how to understand binary in about a minute and a half (using an IWB, as it happens). At the end of his little lecture on binary, he tested us with a student response system and the majority (ie, 99%) got the answer correct. You could test me on a binary number today and I would still get it – and he taught us this a month ago.

        This example from Betcher showed me that while the kids can go off and research and problem solve to their hearts’ content, *sometimes* the most appropriate method of instruction is, well, instruction. We are teachers – we need not be ashamed of teaching!

        I was an IWB skeptic before the IWBnet conference on the Gold Coast, but having seen the great ways that the likes of Chris Betcher and Peter Kent use them, with sound pedagogical thinking to back them up, I had to reconsider my position.


      6. Chris, I have been teaching very successfully for 30 years, during which time I have continually grown and developed as both as a teacher and a learner. I’m not ‘silly’ enough to think kids can teach themselves. I assure you that I understand the value of and need for explicit teaching! I doubt that there are teachers who ‘refuse to teach difficult concepts’ to their students either.

        The question was about IWB’s. Thanks for your response to that.


      7. Joao, you’ve said some interesting things, thanks. I’m fascinated by the idea of dragging scenes from a video, for instance, but I don’t see how coming to the board to reveal hidden information or to match items adds much to the learning. I’m more interesting in creating a culture of thinking in the classroom, which those sorts of activities don’t seem to promote. But I’m open to trying! If you read my blog, you’ll know that I am not afraid of experimenting with different kinds of technology. The post was written precisely to attract responses by people who find them valuable, so that I’d be inspired to experiment more!


      8. I agree that coming to the board to reveal hidden objects and match items is not a high of thinking and interaction. But the kind of activities you do with the board must be adapted to both the age level of your pupils and the content you are teaching. I’m an English and German teacher at high school. I teach mainly German at a beginners level for pupils who are 16 year old and are learning their 3rd foreign language. With this basic content and even for adolescent pupils I think a meaningful activity that would require them to come to the board and do something like revealing or matching would result in a gain of attention of the whole class and perhaps in better learning afterwards. Of course, these kind of activities applied to the same pupils but in the English lesson where their level is much higher (6th year of English) would not make much sense.
        I’m glad you raised this issue here because this is a subject that interests me at the moment a lot since I’m a user and a teacher trainer. Also because in Portugal this is a kind of discussion difficult to have as there are still very few teachers who have experience with IWB. Schools in our country got IWB installed only last year and at the moment the teachers are being trained on how to use them.


      9. There are free versions of software, especially if you look past Inspire/Notebook. That isn’t an issue.

        As for the slates, not every student should have one, just as not every student gets an IWB. My point is simply that $300 for a slate to do what an IWB does is a much more cost effective alternative to a $3000 and will allow you to implement this system in many more classrooms, if it truly does improve teaching.

        However, for personally, I’m not convinced that I’m a better teacher with an IWB, a slate or even just the software.


  4. I totally agree about the kind of teaching this board seems to invite, but we have one in the library and here is the thing I LOVE about it-it also invites a kind of collaboration between students that is not easy to get with other tools. Kids can gather around the interactive whiteboard to create projects, make decisions, etc. All have access to the screen and it invites group decision-making and participation by everyone. Our students have used it to create stories, edit film, create new songs and edit those on Garageband, etc. The key for me has been to not have it front/center in the room but to make it a workspace for kids. I do think it takes a little work to keep it from being a teacher tool but once I opened it up to kids last year–how can you use this to support your learning, they had lots of amazing ideas and I saw conversations, collaboration and creativity that I didn’t see with other tools. The talk as kids were standing around the board, contemplating decisions was poweful.


      1. Well, after watching groups of kids, I found that when working on the IWB, no one really “owned” the board like someone “owns” the keyboard. On a computer, someone is always ftont/center, controlling the actions. Others can see, but not quite as well so the participation really depends on that person in charge. The IWB seems to invite participation from all because 3-5 kids can stand there, discuss, try something and no one person is the decision-maker.


  5. Like Mr. Alves said in his comment: “Having a technology like an IWB in the classroom is like having an iPhone in your hands. Suddenly everything is at your fingertips concentrated in just one place.”

    I couldn’t agree more but argue the opposite point with the same quote. It puts everything in one place. If’ I’m going to have everything in one place, I want it in the hands of my students. I’d rather give them an iPod Touch, a laptop, or a smart phone. For what you pay for a IWB and all the associated costs, you can get technology into most of your students hands. Than it becomes student centered around the room and not teacher or single or two student centered at the front of the room.

    And Franki describes good teaching:

    “Kids can gather around the interactive whiteboard to create projects, make decisions, etc. All have access to the screen and it invites group decision-making and participation by everyone.”

    Good teaching doesn’t need an IWB.

    As for the collaboration piece that Franki describes, you can foster that with the good teaching that has been described. Again, going back to price, you can purchase a wireless slate to work with a computer for less than $300. It gives you all the same things that you can do on a IWB. Hook that computer to a projector and you’ve got all the same functionality of the IWB at a much lower cost. At that cost, you could set up several “slate” stations around the room for the cost of one IWB.

    Now, I do have a IWB in my room. However, I rarely teach. My students are doing most of the work through the exploring, collaborating and doing.

    Perhaps I do need more training but for now, I’m not convinced that cost vs. benefit analysis is acceptable.

    I’ve heard a quote that IWBs are a gateway technology: They get non tech teachers to move in the direction of tech and more powerful tech. That’s the best analogy I’ve seen yet.


  6. Yes, the IWB is a tool ghat can pull everything together quickly in a lesson. For example, here is the shared reading text about fruit bats, read, highlight, click on attachments and watch a quick embedded link to a video on bats, click on the attached google link and look at the parts of the world fruit bats live.reread the shared text & do interactive writing together to answer the question. This saves a HUGE amount of time, because the teacher isn’t opening & closing programs, struggling with chart paper & locating markers. The lesson is quick, purposeful & meaningful which means its highly engaging.(Smart Notebook software) then after the whole group lesson the students use it for a workstation to either revisit the lesson & or build upon the lesson. They can collaborate together & learn more about bats, record their thinking, add to previous groups ideas. I use the IWB as a large group, small group, partner tasks & individual tasks. Buy one!
    This year I’ll be using iPads in my classroom, I’m struggling with the insteuction piece. I see the iPad as a great partner & individual task but it’s missing the molded & shared piece. I’m a strong advocator of the gradual release of responsibility & I see it clearly with the IWB & I’m working to figure out that piece with the iPads. When u do inservice with the IWB do it in the context of the gradual release ( here is how u use it to do a model,Ed lesson, a shared reading lesson, a guided lesson, & individuAl lessons)
    My thoughts,


  7. I struggled with this too, much of the good use of a IWB can be accomplished just as easily with a projector. I really wanted the Promethean to be more for my students, since I was gifted with it, I decided to set out and find the best way I could use it with my students for engaged learning where students were in control. One of my favorite uses for the IWB is as the center for virtual field trips (if you look at this category on iLearn Technology you will find specific examples of this). For example, one thing I did with my second grade students was set them off on a virtual dinosaur dig. One students acted as “pilot” to get us to the dig while the rest of us sat in seats lined up like we were on an airplane. We used Google Earth to “fly” us to the site of the dig. Once we all disembarked from the plane the kids dawned their explorer caps (donated by a parent) and took out their official paleontologist journals that I made. I brought up a virtual dinosaur dig where students could take turns acting as lead paleontologist at the board. While one (or two) students were at the board leading the dig, the other students took field notes about what they were seeing. During the dig every single student got the opportunity to take part in a portion of the dig. One of the last steps in the virtual tour was to wrap up the bones so that they could be transported back to the museum, we had a student act as pilot again and another student asked if they could act as tour guide and give commentary on the way back. It was hugely successful with the students! They all felt like they got to participate in a real dig, learned to work together and teach each other and best of all learning felt like play. The same format could be used for almost any virtual field trip.
    I also really like using the board for whole class games where I split students into teams and have them use the board as a playing surface. Everyone is engaged and having fun learning together.


  8. Cards on the table up front – I’m in the ‘pro-IWB’ lobby.

    Now we’re on a cards metaphor, let’s consider the ‘training’ card (it’s a high one, Queen perhaps, but not an ace) and the ‘cost’ card (a low one, five at best). Training, or more precisely professional development should never be an issue, but invariably is with tech in education. If it is, then the organisation’s got it wrong. Whenever you make an investment in technology, then the Total Cost of Ownership has to be factored in – initial purchase cost, support materials (e.g. software), peripherals (e.g. projector, visualiser), upkeep (repair costs, pen replacement), replacement at end of life, end of life disposal costs . . . oh, and training/PD! In the case of an IWB, maybe half a day’s skills/familiarity training, but followed by extended professional development (of which there are several models) to help people see how the board might support with “inquiry, questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving.” Now whilst schools will shell out the purchase price, how often do they commit the budget required for the device’s lifetime? And how often do they commit the funds needed to ensure the people who will be using the device become confident capable users who can wring every last drop of learning from said technology.

    But I’ve already rambled on too long when others have made much more eloquent points than me, like this thorough post from Emily Starr (http://interactivewhiteboardinsights.blogspot.com/2010/05/reasons-why-interactive-whiteboards-are.html) – the comments, both pro & con, are well worth a read too.

    A man who has some great ideas for ways to use IWBs is Danny Nicholson, whose blog is well worth checking out (http://interactivewhiteboardinsights.blogspot.com/) and I’d thoroughly recommend the SmartBoard Podcast from Ben Hazzard & Joan Badger (http://pdtogo.com/smart/) for ideas and wider-ranging discussion points.

    Let me close with an imaginary offer (has to be imaginary ‘cos I’m a Yorkshireman, born of a Scot!). If you had a choice for your class between a MacBook Pro & an IWB (they cost about the same), which would you pick?


    1. A middle of the road MacBook Pro is about $1500. Given $1500 for my classroom, I’d pass on a IWB and the MacBook Pro. I’d opt for 5 netbooks at about $300 a piece. I’d install Ubuntu (free) and set them up as a station in my room and let students rotate through the stations.

      If I could get a couple hundred more dollars (if you were talking about a 17″ MacBook Pro), I buy a couple cheap projectors (http://www.eyeclops.com/), under $100 and let groups collaborate that way. Using my district provided Moodle site, I could post activities, including Flipcharts, that students can work through on their own.


      1. I think you are hitting on an issue in education. There are IT people, who may or may not have classroom experience, making decisions. If decisions were being made about what to put in classrooms, the IT people should be talking to classroom teachers.

        In my district, there is a push to put IWBs in classrooms. We have teachers who got them this year, didn’t ask for them and are now bugging other teachers try to figure out how they work.

        What if they flipped it around and had a menu of things that you could have in your classroom. Say each classroom gets $10,000 in technology. Then the teacher gets to decide what they need. This would also require an extensive “show and tell” at the teacher orientation so they know what the options are.


  9. I don’t think an Interactive White Board is necessary for good learning. I am certainly not one to try to talk people into buying one over other things like cameras, videocameras, and other tools that students can use to create. But I do see the IWB as a great collaborative tool if we can rethink the way it is used–rather than a teacher tool, thinking about it as a student tool. But, if you already have one in your room, I think there are some great ways to use it-things that you can’t do with other tools.


  10. I don’t think having an IWB is necessary for learning but I certainly have seen how it enhances learning. I think the lack of training is holding you back because you haven’t had the opportunity to see the possibilities for interactive, real-time, ‘just-in-time’ learning. Quite often teachers begin using IWBs primarily as a teacher tool and using it for things typically done with an overhead projector, flip chart, computer, etc. This is where most people begin and it is a time where teachers and students learn how to the use the hardware and software. I believe that this stage is necessary to move forward. If this is where the pedagogy remains, however, then it certainly is a wasted investment because we are simply using new technology to teach with the old strategies. The key is when teachers move forward and begin thinking differently. We must consider how this IWB really is interactive. Here are four things that have helped me develop learning opportunities as you described in your original post – I plan for interaction with: a) the technology b) the content/material c) the teacher/presenter (want students doing this) and d) classmates/peers in the classroom.

    I made tons of mistakes when I first had a IWB in my classroom. We all sat and watched one student touch the board (this is what I thought interaction was!). I learned very quickly that this was just like staring at a blackboard and I had behaviour issues because students were disengaged. What I have learned is that an IWB is a tool and I use it when it makes sense, not all of the time. That is like handing students a ruler and asking them to use that for everything they do at school! I began really thinking about lesson design and using the IWB as a springboard for activities where students were active. We used the board to gather their ideas, check answers and share thinking about problems, connect to the Internet for new ideas, grab an interactive video, show some dynamic software to demonstrate difficult concepts or ideas, etc. We’d also use the recorder feature to capture student thinking. Overall, though, the flow of ideas was back and forth as the IWB being one piece of the dynamics in the room. Then I saved the work we had created together. When we picked up where we left off students were connected to the material because they had created it 🙂 I learned that having a beautiful-looking lesson was a missed teaching opportunity because it represented my isolated learning away from my students. Much better to have a few slides with key questions, links to websites, etc. and then offer activities where students create their own questions, seek solutions, collaborate, etc.

    All of the things you described are possible without technology but they all can be enhanced as we learn how to take advantage of the tools at our fingertips. Good luck!


    1. Hy Cathy. Thanks for this great post about your rich and interesting experience with IWB. I agree with everything you said and copied and pasted many of your ideas in a flipchart that I might show to the teachers who are attending a course on IWB on Monday. I’ve been collecting statements about teaching with IWB for my personal PD and as a resource of experiences and ideas from different people.


    2. Thanks, Cathy. You’ve shared some great ideas. I think, as Fiona says below, we need to see the use of the IWB modeled by excellent teachers, rather than be shown by sales people from the IWB company.


  11. Edna, I think we need training from a teacher not the company that sells the boards!
    Having said that, I think we need to step back from the cost (odd for me considering I have to deal with the cost of resources every day) and look at them as a tool.
    I liked Chris Betcher’s, “It’s not about what happens on the board. It’s about of what happens because of what happens on the board.”.
    You are an awe inspiring teacher with the right beliefs in learning, so if the tool you choose is an iTouch or that huge IWB, so be it. Just squeeze out all it’s possibilities and use it to your advantage! Forget that it’s this elephant in the room and make it do what your teaching beliefs dictate, if it doesn’t do that for you, then turn to the tool that does.
    If our schools want to spend money on them, fine, we’ll learn about all it’s possibilities, sift through the dross, make sure it suits our needs and use it when we think we need to.
    Keep on stirring the waters! The sand must never settle!


    1. Thanks, Fiona. You’re right. I thought maybe I needed formal ‘how to’ training, but what I need is to see its use modeled by excellent teachers. Actually what I needed was this very conversation, so I’m glad I provoked it 🙂


      1. I see you are almost convinced! 🙂 I agree, the best way to understand and get convinced about anything is to see good live examples. I’m glad that this conversation has already provoked a few good examples. I’ve learned a lot.


  12. A great conversation–one of the things I think we all do is to look for ways these tools are used in the real world and I am not sure I know how they are being used by people other than teachers. I know that our orthodontist has several small TV screen Smartboards that he uses to demonstrate and share information with patients. But it might help us to see how people outside of school are using IWB. Are the being used for any reason outside of the school culture and if so, how? Does anyone know of any examples?


  13. Wow, what a great conversation.
    I have an interactive whiteboard in my room and I love it for it’s ‘instant’ projector capabilities but secretly wish I’d been given the cash to spend on flipcams or iPads or spare power cables for the kid’s netbooks!
    I completely agree with Franki about the benefits for group work. As a giant , shared keyboard for group collaboration with distributed leadership, it is awesome.
    My biggest issue with the board is the guilt factor. I know how much it cost, I’ve been given lots of training but I just haven’t seen enough evidence of how it would/could actually improve student learning for me to spend the time designing specific tasks to use with it. Or worse still, maybe I’ve fallen into the digital dinosaur category that I accuse so many of my colleagues of belonging too :-0


  14. Wow, great discussion! IWBs have so far passed me by as well. Grade 4 had one in their room and gave it up to Middle Years. I don’t have one in my room, but there is a mobile one.

    I guess I can see it working as something, but not sure what. Great ideas here, though.

    Will have to try it out in the next week, just to see how I am with it.


  15. I’ve been having a similar discussion with a colleague recently. I actually seem to be using mine less now then when I first had one 2 years ago. Then, I used it a lot with the associated software but mainly as a teaching tool. It did engage the students though and the ability to converge all of the available resources was a definite plus.

    Like some of the other comments here, though, my colleague and I definitely think we need less of the PD (often from vendors) on how to use the software, and more examples of best practice using IWBs.


  16. So many teachers don’t have a choice between getting an IWB OR something else. I think the best work we can do is to work together to figure out the best ways to use the boards to support student learning. There are so few examples of great uses of the IWB, that it would be nice to collect more that fit a more learner-centered philosophy.


  17. I have to admit that here in Greece, teachers in ICT things share the same questions. Our ministress of Education thinks that IWB are good for the classroom and will put some in schools. Although the majority of teachers believe that some good netbooks and fast connections would do more good in the 21st century classroom! Besides that, our ministress assigns to secondary teachers of informatics to teach in primary school without knowledge of the curriculum or paying any attention to ICT integration to teaching and learning.
    I’m so glad you have the same attitude to IWB, too behavioristic, not collaborative and easy to substitute from a projector. In a few weeks we are going to have a 2 day seminar on IWB. I’ll let you know if it was worth it or if it made me change my mind!


  18. I see three main benefits for IWB, though I hate to admit that I rarely see them employed skillfully. One benefit is when the teacher develops lesson resources in advance and has/takes the time to determine significant learning elements. What active engagement techniques, where and how to check for understanding, how to gradually release responsibility. Though a good teacher can do many of these things extemporaneously, having it planned out and in an easily modifiable form provides more benefit for teacher and student. A second (multifaceted) benefit is having a record of the lesson. It allows students to “replay” the learning, it gives the students an opportunity to help others help them untangle their misunderstandings since they can see, point to, and discuss where they went off the rails. It can provide a reflection tool for the teacher. It can save time for colleagues if the lesson can be shared and modified to suit each teacher as they prefer. Lastly, it provides a flexible management tool for the teacher. This past week, I was in a classroom and the teacher had her “get ready” prompts already posted so she was better able to tune into students. She included a record of their ActiVote responses from an earlier lesson so that students recalled prior learning. She had student names already on the board so that as she taught and determined the differentiated follow up, she moved each student’s name to that spot – small group with teacher, exercises so-and-so, challenge activity, etc. Further, as she worked with a small group, students working independently who discovered they needed assistance went to the board and shifted their name to the “needs help” column and could add a note.


  19. Sorry, I stopped responding after a while! I have read and thought about everything but haven’t had time to respond to all. Thanks for a great discussion!

    My colleague Linda noted that I mentioned my lack of formal training as a possible reason why I don’t exploit the IWB fully. She asked why it is that I have learnt every other tool by playing with it myself and haven’t asked for any kind of training. This got me thinking (again!)…

    When I started exploring web 2.0 tools, I would find a new tool and experiment with ways to incorporate it. It was a good way to learn some tools, adjust to a different way of teaching and learning and practice my skills. (stage 1)

    I am long past that stage. The use of technology has to be driven by the learning. If there’s a tool that will support and enhance the learning in a particular situation, then I’ll use it. I recently experimented with students using flip cameras to film Commoncraft style videos, in response to a text. It was an excellent creative way to demonstrate their understanding and interpretation of the text. But I didn’t start off by thinking ‘How can I use flip cameras in the classroom’?

    I guess that’s part of my problem with the IWB…

    Maybe I need to go back to stage 1. Or maybe it just isn’t a natural fit with the way I teach.


  20. I’m a noob about responding to articles and such, but I felt compelled…I taught jr high/high school math at a private school for 8 years. For 7 of those, I used a chalkboard. When offered, I refused a whiteboard. I was a firm believer, despite earning my degree in 2001, that the chalkboard could provide all that I needed. Many of my former students said that my teaching successfully taught them the tools that they needed for higher math. (By the way, the majority of my teaching is based off of my questioning students after I present an example. Math is difficult (not impossible for the motivated) to discover on one’s own…after all, students are now learning things that took about 5900 years to discover…)
    Last year, I was approached by a generous donor to provide me with a SMARTBoard. I reluctantly accepted and thought, “Oh well, at least I’ll be able to have colored pictures on the board as I write.” Later I thought, “Ooo, I can make power points for my vocabulary words…”
    Then, it arrived. At first, I was just using it to do simple things. Then, I discovered that I could record steps to problems. (I couldn’t implement this as my computer was tooooo slow!) This feature would be nice so I could walk around and discuss the procedure instead of being “locked” at the front of my classroom. I also discovered a TI-83 Flash Debugger that I could use to demonstrate how students could use the calculator (I still can’t think of a better way to show students exact which buttons to push.) Then I discovered wolframalpha.com. There I could make graphs, cut and paste, then immediately interact with them on the board. How is this different from making overheads?…spontaneity. The majority of my students said that I was the best teacher at using all the SMARTBoard capabilities. I think this was due to the freedom it gave me to react to student input. But I would never have done so much with just a projector. I would have been tied to my desk.
    And that may be the biggest reason why I asked for a IWB at the public school where I was just hired.
    I am starting a new position at a rural school tomorrow. I have already requested an IWB. (They are giving me a MIMIO(?)…something new to learn [yes!]) I do believe that this will enhance my teaching and at least make my lessons more exciting. I figure it will be about a year before I fully understand what all I can do with a MIMIO, but I do believe that my ability (and hopefully, someday the students’) to interact with digitally produced objects and to access the WWW and to save my notes to publish to the web will enhance my leadership as we maneuver through the curriculum.
    Thanks…back to lurking…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s