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What To Do with a Whiteboard

I know this is a common scenario: there is a new interactive whiteboard in the classroom. You’ve likely attended one or two training sessions and you seem to have the basics down. But the nagging question in your mind is how you and this seemingly magnificent piece of classroom technology will take the leap into full techno integration. As if 30 sets of eyes were not pressure enough—you have your district's financiers of the race toward the 21st Century classroom to contend with as well. What pressure I tell you.

A fair number of companies compete in the whiteboard arena including Hitachi, Panasonic, Mimio, Interwrite, Promethean, and Smart Technologies. Not too many would argue that a classroom projector and whiteboard are the beating heart of the 21st century classroom.

I was reading an Edutopia article about a seventh grade teacher who’d been teaching for 34 years before acquiring an interactive whiteboard three years ago. The teacher, Sue Holland, was a semifinalist in the 2005 California Teacher of the Year Award. Her exuberance over the whiteboard nearly jumped of the page in her quotes about the “powerful learning” that goes on in her class and how the whiteboard allows her to be as creative as she wants to be. This would have all been fine and good and I’d have glossed over it had I not read more about what she actually does with a whiteboard and projector.

This teacher is in a perpetual state of connectivity to the Internet so that through the course of the day she likely repeats several times a day “Let’s take a look” in response to students’ questions and thus ads a visual component to anything she’s talking about. A visual learner myself who was often left behind in classroom discussions, I wish I’d been educated in a science classroom where when learning about the human brain my teacher used a hyperlink to a 3D image that highlights each part and describes its function.

By accessing Web-based software (such as Google Earth) and other Web resources the potential for using projectors and interactive whiteboards in class expands even more. This is what’s going on in some classrooms every day:
•Digital storytelling.
•Showing streamed or downloaded videos.
•Geography taught by way of online map and satellite imagery.
•Artwork displays or online museum tours and discussions.
•Viewing and analyzing competitive sports and P.E. activities
•Teaching students how to conduct research on the Internet.
•Writing and editing exercises, math instruction, and science experiments.
•Software training, keyboarding techniques, and general computer skills.
•Creating,viewing,and annotating PowerPoint and multimedia presentations in real time.

I’ll continue to fish around and find out other ways this interactive whiteboard technology is being used in classrooms across the country and around the world.