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Speaking of Electronic Whiteboards

Combine the touch screen capability of a video game with the drawing flexibility of whiteboard markers and what do you get? Electronic whiteboards! Discover how K-12 teachers are using the devices in almost every subject area, and learn what you should consider before purchasing one yourself. Included: Links to lesson plans, tips for use with students with special needs, suggestions for choosing the best model for your needs, and more!

Consider the ordinary computer and projector. Used together, they can display the contents of a computer screen to an entire class. The limitations of the setup, however, are obvious: although you can display a Web page, you can't highlight an important statement, add an interesting fact, or label a clarifying graphic. You can't even go to another Web page without abandoning the display to return to the computer monitor and mouse. Maybe it's time to consider using an electronic whiteboard instead!


Looking for Lesson Plan Ideas?

Intrigued by the technology, but wonder if it's relevant to your classroom? The sites below are filled with lesson plan ideas and activities for using electronic whiteboards in almost any subject and at almost every grade level. Check them out!

* Free Interactive Resources: Lesson plan ideas and free tools for math, science, and preK-2 from e-chalk.

* Using Electronic Whiteboards in Your Classroom: Lesson ideas for a variety of subject areas.


Electronic whiteboards -- often referred to by such brand names as Smartboard or Mimio Board -- look very similar to the traditional whiteboards or chalkboards teachers use to display information to their students. The electronic versions, however, have capabilities far beyond those of their low-tech predecessors; in addition to simply displaying information, they also allow teachers to save what they have written or drawn and send it to students' computers; to navigate computer files and Web sites; and to interact with online information with a touch of the finger.

Whiteboard users can use a finger or a special electronic "marker" to interact with the information displayed on the screen. Thus, brainstorming "doodles" can be saved for later review. Math and science students can graph and display problems that are difficult to represent using ordinary software programs. Teachers can remain in front of the class when moving from one computer application, file, or Web site to another, keeping students' attention and preventing off task behavior.


Electronic whiteboards, educators report, assist in lesson planning, support diverse learning styles, and provide a needed tool for graphic representation in math, science, and art classes. Most importantly, they engage students, particularly when the learning is student-driven.

Minnesota educator Pamela Solvie was surprised to find that her electronic whiteboard not only engaged first graders in literacy instruction, but also provided valuable scaffolding for diverse learners. Moreover, when students in small groups or in one-to-one settings were allowed to manipulate the board themselves, Solvie discovered that both student learning and interest rose dramatically. From lesson preparation to review, the whiteboard proved to be a valuable tool in that teacher's classroom.

Students at Bowden Grandview School in Alberta, Canada, use their electronic whiteboard for such team projects as student-created picture books. Meanwhile, teachers creating their own digital curriculum make use of the whiteboard's hot buttons to zoom in on specific images, something tough to do with other technology tools. Administrators report greater student participation, interest, and excitement in the curriculum.

One challenge of using electronic whiteboards, however, is that they might not be accessible for students with disabilities. Screen readers for the visually challenged -- devices that read aloud what is displayed on a computer screen -- cannot read the devices, and students with motor disabilities might not be able to operate the whiteboard in student-driven activities. In either case, teachers must provide substantive alternative materials and avoid using the whiteboard for essential information.


Are you interested in purchasing an electronic whiteboard for yourself? You'll want to consider size, weight, and flexibility prior to purchasing. Whiteboards can be bulky and take up valuable classroom space. Choose the device best suited for your needs and your classroom.

How will you know which is best? As with any expensive technology tool, it's important to see the device in a classroom before purchasing it. Try to visit a teacher in the area who's already using an electronic whiteboard. Or, many teacher conferences include exhibit halls at which vendors offer hands-on demos of technology tools, including electronic whiteboards.

Electronic whiteboards can transform teaching with a tap of your finger or a touch of a marker. Check out the resources below and in the accompanying sidebar to learn more about this exciting technology tool.


Teaching Suggestions and Research

Electronic Whiteboards by Vendor

Article by Lorrie Jackson
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World


Updated 07/18/2011