Making the most of your interactive whiteboard

Interactive whiteboards are part of the modern classroom. Terry Freedman explains how to put yours to better use

Few readers will be unfamiliar with the interactive whiteboard. According to Futuresource Consulting, 73% of classrooms in the UK now have one installed.

However, there's a problem in the phrase "interactive". ln fact, the term "interactive whiteboard" is a misnomer. The board isn't interactive in itself, which is why BECTA used to describe them as electronic whiteboards. What makes the board interactive isn't the technology, but the way you use it.

Many teachers we've spoken to feel that interactive whiteboards are, in effect, under-utilised. Mike Lane, a teacher in London, believes that if used well, an interactive whiteboard makes teaming fun and lifelike for pupils. At worst, however, they're glorified chalkboards. Danny Nicholson, a consultant who runs the Whiteboard Blog agrees. "An interactive whiteboard can become a window on the world," he says. "Or it can be used for presenting only static content with no chance to engage with resources on the screen."

Over the next few pages, we'll look at how you can make whiteboards more engaging, and at the tools you can use to get the best from every board.

Practical issues

Just as any good worker takes time to make sure their tools are kept to hand, so any whiteboard will benefit if you observe a few practicalities.

Making the most of your interactive whiteboard

First, remember there isn't only a whiteboard involved, but a projector too. As Ian Sillett, Educational ICT advisor at education specialists onefourseven, argues: "If pupils can't read or see what's on the screen, even the most motivated will lose interest. Sadly, it's common for the image to be faint because the projector lamp is inadequate." Overtime, lamps grow dimmer, until they need to be replaced, and while budget constraints mean you won't want to replace a lamp before it's necessary, there's always a time to do it. Dirty lamp filters can also affect what you see on the screen. Try cleaning the lamp filter weekly, as recommended by Christine Terrey, headteacher at Grays Infants School in East Sussex; or follow the advice of Simon Chappell, ICT Director at Wellington Academy, and buy filter-free projectors.

If you're in the process of buying and installing whiteboards, you may want to opt for a short-throw projector - one that needs to be only a short distance away from the screen - as you can be more flexible about where you place it.

Think, too, about where the board is located. lt should be visible from any point in a classroom, ideally somewhere you can block out the sun. Regularly cleaning the board is a must as well, especially if it's being worked by touch. Dave Smith, ICT advisor with the London borough of Havering, advises that you "clean the interactive whiteboard's membrane to avoid smears from pupil's or teacher's hands".

Finally, make sure there's room to move around the board, so both pupils and teacher can use it easily. And if your whiteboard needs a pen, keep some spares, preferably locked away. Strangely enough, if teachers each have their own whiteboard pens there's a lower chance of them going missing.

Pinning objectives

Getting the most from your white board is a matter of making it a part of the key tasks of the lesson. Below, we're going to look at methods using Smart's Notebook and Promethean's Activlnspire software, but the basic principles can be extended to other brands and software.

One challenge every teacher will recognise is getting pupils to remember what the objectives of a lesson might be. If you're using a Smart interactive whiteboard with Smart's Notebook software, there's an easy way. Amanda jackson, Inspector Standards and Effectiveness for ICT with Havering borough, recommends using the Pin tool to pin a page containing the objectives on the board: "it's an effective way of enabling children to see the key objectives through the lesson."

It's easy to do. Go to View I Zoom I Dual Page Display, and then View I Zoom I Pin Page. Type your objectives onto the page, and then click on the New Page icon to do the work. You can keep adding new pages; the pinned page, containing the lesson objectives, will remain in place. lf your whiteboard software, such as Promethean's Activlnspire, doesn't have a pin feature, don't despair. Simply create two flipcharts: one with the objectives, the other containing the lesson itself. You can then switch between the two when necessary.

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