(From the editor: This article was originally published on ViewSonic Library.)
Never before have there been so many tech tools at our disposal for educating in entirely new, exciting, and promising ways. The interactive whiteboard stands out for its ability to amplify web-based resources and transform the way an entire roomful of students interacts with educational content. The advent of interactive large format displays further expands the options for achieving the documented benefits delivered by this transformative classroom technology.
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”
The Road to the Interactive WhiteBoard
Classroom display board technology is a powerful thing. Introduced in 1801, the chalkboard was a transformative classroom technology. It freed teachers from costly and time-consuming handheld slates. The results were far-reaching. First, a dramatic increase in class size. Next, the expansion of education into the American population.
The chalkboard reigned supreme for nearly two centuries. In the early 1990s, concerns about chalk dust and students with allergies prompted the transition to whiteboards. Teachers applauded the new tool, which let them highlight and expand lessons with multiple colors. The classroom as a whole benefited from the elimination of chalkboard mess.1
Along with widespread adoption of whiteboards, new classroom tech began to link the boards with computers. Teachers could now save content written on the board to a computer hard drive. This enabled them to make instant print outs, spawning the short-lived name “copy board.”
The Rise of the Interactive WhiteBoard
Introduced in 1991, interactive whiteboards (IWBs) were destined to make an even greater impact on teaching. IWBs let teachers display anything on a computer to the entire classroom, ushering in a new world of educational possibility.
With interactive whiteboards, students and teachers manipulate content directly on the surface of the screen. Teachers were empowered with exciting new tools. Student engagement increased. And classroom collaboration was set to skyrocket. Original interactive whiteboard systems were a display board connected to a projector.
Recently, large-format touchscreen displays, also called interactive flat panels (IFPs) became another option. These interactive whiteboards deliver the benefits of original projector-based IWB systems, plus added functionality. They’re also less costly over the lifespan of the device thanks to reduced power consumption and lower maintenance.
In Praise of the Interactive Whiteboard
Today, interactive whiteboards are firmly established as a teaching tool. You’ll find them in elementary classrooms and university lecture halls. Instructors praise their ability to foster interaction and focus student attention. Education researchers project that interactive whiteboard use will continue to grow exponentially.2
Given the many benefits IWBs bring to the classroom, it’s easy to understand enthusiasm for this versatile device. Ed-tech pros hail interactive whiteboards for their ability to quickly integrate classroom technology. Even technophobic teachers can use their most basic functions. As they gain experience, teachers are able to leverage the full range of IWB features and benefits.
IWBs infuse lessons with impactful content. Teachers can easily expand their curriculum by integrating new materials into a lesson. Virtually any electronic file or content from the Internet can be used. Along with any online educational resource or app. Students and teachers can annotate on top of these materials with a fingertip or stylus.
Powerful Learning Tools
Teacher enthusiasm for IWBs is palpable in the education blogosphere and on professional sites like Edutopia.org. California Teacher of the Year Finalist, Sue Holland, teaches seventh-grade science. She’s been using an interactive whiteboard in her classroom for years.
She raves: “It’s very powerful learning! I can insert links to the Internet or go right to a streaming video on the web.”
Holland’s students use the board in a variety of ways, both individually and in groups. “I just stand back, and the kids are engaged. For example, we study diseases of the human body in seventh grade. The kids will research a disease, create a PowerPoint presentation, and then share it with the class. They can change their presentation while standing at the board, or write on the board if someone asks a question.”3
“During a lesson, if a student asks, ‘What about this?’ I can say, ‘Let’s take a look’ and go online to view it, instead of just talking about it.”
Interactive whiteboards are well suited for any type of classroom, lecture hall, or distance-learning environment. The possible uses for IWBs are virtually endless. Among their many features and benefits, IWBs offer the following:
- Teacher-directed viewing of any website, app, video or document to support learning objectives
- Dramatic emphasis of key learning points with onscreen highlighting and annotation
- Save and print capability, for instant handouts, supplementary notes and absent students
- Facilitation of group projects and individual presentations
- The ability to collaborate on text documents, spreadsheets, design projects, etc.
- Video conferencing connectivity for virtual field trips, international sister classrooms and more
- Text/data entry via floating on-screen keyboard
- On-screen editing and recording of changes or additions
- Support for effective special needs education
- Student feedback and assessment with optional audience response accessories
Learning Improvements Using Interactive Whiteboards
Students and teachers alike are speaking out about the ways in which interactive whiteboards enhance classrooms. Research backs up their enthusiasm. One landmark study of 85 teachers in 170 classrooms showed IWB’s impact on student achievement.4 Research author Robert Marzano states that:
The study results indicated that, in general, using interactive whiteboards was associated with a 16-percentile point gain in student achievement. This means that we can expect a student at the 50th percentile in a classroom without the technology to increase to the 66th percentile in a classroom using [these] whiteboards.
Marzano identifies three features of interactive whiteboards that contribute to even greater success. Each, he says, helps boost learning. Classrooms which combine all three will experience the greatest increase in student achievement. In his study this amounted to an overall 31% gain. Performance boosting features of interactive whiteboards are the following:
Improvements in Interactive Whiteboard Technology
Administrators, educators, students, and the research agree. Interactive whiteboards bring learning to life and improve student success. Options for using IWBs in the classroom are as unlimited as the imagination. Choices in interactive whiteboard technology are a bit more limited. Until recently, projector-based systems were the only IWB tech.
In 2011, large-format interactive flat panel (IFP) displays became a new alternative. Benefits of these flat screen TV-like displays are many. For one, teachers gain more features for developing and delivering high-impact lessons. IT staff enjoy reduced maintenance. With a lower overall total cost of ownership (TCO), IFPs are a favorite among administrators.
IFP displays are an all-in-one classroom solution that wears many hats and offers many advantages. For one, IFPs are multifunctional media centers with an embedded processor and web browser. For another, they’re high-definition displays. Finally, they offer multiple points of interactivity and are as easy to use as a tablet or smartphone.
Interactive whiteboards of any type boost learning outcomes. All-in-one IFP solutions deliver these added classroom benefits:
- Maximizes teaching time; no downtime from burned out bulbs or recalibration
- Greater reliability for more uninterrupted class time
- Eliminates shadows and glare (from projectors)
- Quiet, fan-free operation
- Crisp, bright display lets teachers keep the lights on
- Easy cart mounting for resource sharing (without recalibration)
- Versatile teaching tool for seamless use of cloud resources
- Enhances collaboration with multiple touchpoints and the ability to annotate over displayed content
Cost & Administrative Benefits
IFPs are simpler and easier to manage than projector-based interactive whiteboards. This makes them more cost-effective than traditional IWBs. IFPs deliver better overall TCO and a rapid ROI via:
- Easier, faster installation
- No initial calibration required
- Lower energy consumption
- Reduced maintenance: no bulbs or filters to change
- Longer lifespan
- Typically, free from licensing fees and software/hardware agnostic