Interactive whiteboards Louise Vanderplas and Christina Ly
Interactive whiteboards have been developed from the conventional classroom whiteboard. They are a “large physical display panel that can function as an ordinary whiteboard, a projector screen, an electronic copy board or as a computer projector screen on which the computer image can be controlled by touching or writing on the surface of the panel instead of using a mouse or keyboard” (TechLearn, nd). The whiteboard is calibrated so that it recognises touch from either a finger or stylus, and will perform command as made by the finger or stylus. While these actions seem similar to writing on a standard whiteboard or using the mouse when working on the computer, the interactive whiteboard has the capability to integrate all these functions in one board.

SMART technologies have been the industry leader in the research and production of interactive whiteboards. In 1991, SMART technologies released the SMARTboard. This was the first interactive whiteboard produced, and available on the market, which could “provide touch control of computer applications and annotation over standard Microsoft Windows applications” (SMARTtechnologies, 2008).

Interactive whiteboards began entering classrooms in the late 1990’s. This was mainly in England, Canada, America, and most recently in Australia (Kitson, Kearney, & Fletcher, 2005).

Since the release of the SMART board, many other companies including Toshiba, Panasonic, Hitachi and ACCO have began producing interactive whiteboards, and with the increasing demand for interactive whiteboards, “the interactive whiteboard industry is expected to reach sales of $1 billion worldwide” sometime this year (Davis, 2007).

More recently, technology has also been developed which enables any whiteboard to become interactive, using a Mimio or eBeam device. More information on this development can be read in the 'types of interactive whiteboards' section of this wiki.

As teachers become more comfortable with using interactive whiteboard technology, and begin to realise its many teaching benefits, their use is expected to increase. It is actually predicted that one in seven classrooms, worldwide, will have an interactive whiteboard installed by 2011 (Davis, 2007).

types of interactive whiteboards

Interactive whiteboards can be free standing or wall mounted, depending on the brand purchased, and the operating requirements, and operative with either electromagnetic (pen) or resistive (finger) technology (

Resistive boards are equipped with a “touch sensitive membrane” (Techlearn, nd), which is able to track movement by detecting the amount of pressure exerted on the membrane by the finger or stylus. This pressure then corresponds to co-ordinates of the computer monitor that is being projected onto the screen.

The electromagnetic interactive whiteboard operates in a similar way to the traditional whiteboard. These boards, with their hard surface, can be written on with normal whiteboard markers or with a specialised stylus when on interactive mode. These pens are equipped with a small battery and “emit a small magnetic field” which is detected and picked up by the whiteboard (Techlearn, nd).

Interactive whiteboards are being produced by a number of companies. These include SMART technologies (makers of SMARTboards), Toshiba, Acco, and Panasonic (makers of Panaboard).

A more recent development is the ability for a ‘normal’ whiteboard to become interactive. In these situations, a Mimio or eBeam device is attached to the whiteboard and linked via wire or wireless connection to a computer. The board is then configured to the computer and pen, and full interactivity is available. Specialised pens, and battery operated ultrasound mice are required with these types of interactive whiteboards. This option has become popular for many schools, as a result of the smaller cost associated with purchase and installation, and their portability (Techlearn, nd).

key features of interactive whiteboards
The whiteboard is designed to allow users to project computer images onto the board which can be added to (by writing on the panel surface), printed out, saved for later use or sent to others (TechLearn, n.d).

Interactive whiteboards also have functions that permit users to perform a variety of other actions, which include:
· Recording video with sound and actions. These can be played back and reviewed. This is a very useful tool for teachers to use when assessing work, with the recorded actions becoming a student’s work sample. The child completes a task on the board, which is recorded. The teacher can then view and analyze the video at a later time. No face is shown in the video, maintaining student privacy, and only showing the actions they took on the interactive whiteboard.

· Taking screen captures. These can be useful when presenting students with the steps to complete a task, or when monitoring progress of work. A screen capture is like a photographic image of the Interactive whiteboard screen, and an image of the opened application is captured. The image can then be inserted and used in the current task or used later.

· Printing off work done in a current application or document.

· Using wireless and ‘remote’ keyboards, mice, and writing tablets from other locations in the classroom to contribute to or control the interactive whiteboard.The whiteboard is designed to allow users to project computer images onto the board which can be added to (by writing on the panel surface), printed out, saved for later use or sent to others (TechLearn, n.d).

Interactive whiteboard equipment and software requirements

To set up and use an interactive whiteboard in the classroom the main hardware requirements are a computer and data projector, as well as an interactive whiteboard of your choice. This might be a wall mounted board (such as the SMARTboard or Panaboard), or a standard whiteboard with a Mimio or eBeam attachment device. Stylus pens are also necessary to operate and control the interactive whiteboard. Other optional extras that can be purchased to enhance interactive whiteboard use include wireless writing tablets, keyboards and mice.

A software program, depending on the type of interactive whiteboard, will also be required to operate the board. The board you purchase will generally come with a particular operating program. Some of the common software programs used include Notebook, easiteach and Mimio studio.

Educational value of the interactive whiteboard
Use of interactive whiteboards in the classroom is believed to have many benefits for students. Some of these include:

· The interactive whiteboard is placed in front of the class so all students have a clear view of what is being displayed and taught.
— Students can physically manipulate objects on the whiteboard.
— Touch screen technologies allow younger students to interact with whiteboard, using their fingers.
— Whiteboard pens allow older students to practice handwriting skills in a different context.
— Students are effectively engaged with the learning experience and lesson content
— Students can gain immediate feedback from activities
— Active and collaborative learning is encouraged.
— Skills in technology and enterprise are developed.
— Differing multiple intelligences are supported.
— Students with special needs can participate in the learning experience.

Most importantly, using an interactive whiteboard adds a whole new dimension to student learning, and makes learning fun!

It would not be fair to presume that there are not any negative aspects associated with interactive whiteboard use. These negative aspects include:
— The cost of setting up interactive whiteboard technology is large, and can inhibit schools.
— Limited number of boards in the school could result in needing to make prior bookings for use.
— There is the risk of technology failure during a lesson, which relies on an interactive whiteboard.
— Interactive whiteboards can be used ineffectively, and as a substitute for good teaching.
— It is still possible for students to be disengaged with the lesson or content if the interactive whiteboard is not used effectively, and if students do not have the chance to manipulate the whiteboard themselves.
— “chalk and talk” can still happen.

Links to learning theories
Using interactive whiteboards in the classroom is supportive of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (Krause, Bochner, & Duchesne, 2007). Listed below, are some examples of how interactive whiteboards can cater for students’ multiple intelligences.
· Visual – The colourful images and interactive nature of the programs caters for students who are visual learners. Students become motivated to learn and are actively engaged in the learning experience as they can all see what is happening.
· Musical – Interactive whiteboards include many programs with ready-made lessons for teachers to use/adapt. Many of these programs include musical components. Students’ who learn best by listening/hearing will be catered for, and benefit from these learning experiences.
· Bodily-kinaesthetic – Interactive whiteboards have been developed so that students can physically manipulate and control the programs, and images that are projected onto the board using either their finger or a stylus. Young children are generally concrete learners and benefit from teaching methods that allow hands-on interaction; therefore making the interactive whiteboard a useful education tool to supports these children in their learning (McDevitt and Ormrod, 2007).
· Intrapersonal and Interpersonal – Students are encouraged to work together as a class, in small groups and independently during whiteboard activities, and will be involved with learning and practicing social skills including sharing and turn taking.
· Linguistic – Teachers can use the interactive whiteboard to support literacy learning, which would cater for linguistic learners. The whiteboard could also be used to support class discussions, further engaging students with linguistic intelligence in the learning experience.
· Logical-mathematical – Math lessons taught with the whiteboard will allow students to learn mathematics in an entirely different context. Students will be able to explore and manipulate mathematical concepts. For example a shape can be viewed from different angles.
· Naturalistic – Society and environment can be taught with the interactive whiteboard. It could be used to show images of cultural and natural environments using innovations such as Google Earth; allowing students to visit another country without leaving the classroom.
· Spatial – When using the interactive whiteboard students who have spatial intelligence will benefit from being able to manipulate and move objects on the screen.

Links to research
Research was conducted on the trial use of interactive whiteboards in 5 Sydney schools: 3 primary schools and 2 high schools. A full report on this research can be read at:

The article at discusses the effectiveness of using interactive whiteboards in the classroom, and whether they actually support and enhance learning.

Visit, which extracts ideas about interactive whiteboard use in the UK from literature and then extends this to make some suggestions on how the use of interactive whiteboards could be enhanced and maximised in the classroom.

Future learning
View these online video tutorials for support in becoming a confident interactive whiteboard user:

A free trial version of Notebook software (used with SMARTboards) can be downloaded from this website: and is a great way to become familiar with the program and experiment with creating learning activities.

Future teaching
These websites are most suitable to support interactive whiteboard use in the early childhood and primary school classroom. They offer a variety of games and activities that can support and enhance classroom teaching and learning, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy.

For ready-to-use SMARTboard resources visit

An online forum also exists which enables you to share and gather advice and suggestions from other interactive whiteboard users.

Davis, M. (2007). Whiteboards Inc. Interactive features fuel demand for modern chalkboards. Retrieved October 15, 2008, from

Kitson, L., Kearney, J., & Fletcher, M. (2005, July 6-9). Transversing the digital divide: Using interactive whiteboards. Paper presented at the 33rd Annual Australian Teacher Education Association Conference. Retrieved October 15, 2008, from

Krause, K., Bochner, S., & Duchesne, S. (2007). Educational psychology for learning and teaching. Melbourne: Thomson.

McDevitt, T.M., & Ormrod, J.E. (2007).
Child development and education (3rd ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education.

TechLearn. (n.d.).
Interactive Whiteboards in Education. Retrieved October 15, 2008, from Accessed October 22, 2008. Accessed October 22, 2008.