Interactive Whiteboards - PDST

Interactive Whiteboards - PDST
NCTE Advice Sheet – Interactive Whiteboards
Advice Sheet 16
Interactive Whiteboards
The Biology class is studying the functions of the heart with a graphical and
text-based presentation projected onto the whiteboard. All queries are
clarified by drawing on the large, touch-sensitive screen. As well as allowing a
number of pupils to click on an organ and visually explore its relationship with
the heart, the teacher draws arrows to indicate the direction of blood flow and
later initiates a discussion to test their understanding of the topic. The teacher
has also linked parts of the diagram to other web-based and computer-based
multi-media resources. The students use the board’s authoring software and
make presentations to their classmates.
What is an Interactive Whiteboard?
An interactive whiteboard is a large, touch-sensitive panel that connects to a digital projector
and a computer, displaying the information on the computer screen. It resembles a traditional
whiteboard and is used similarly. The computer connected to the interactive whiteboard can
be controlled by touching the board directly or by using a special pen. Such actions (inputs)
are transmitted to the computer instead of using a mouse or keyboard.
Possible Educational Uses
Interactive whiteboards present educational resources in a highly interactive way and are
suitable for whole class and small group settings. They allow pupils to engage and interact
with the technology to become active participants in learning. Pupils with special needs can
particularly benefit from the presentation of multimedia content on a large screen as it can aid
in both information processing and retention. Optimal use of an interactive whiteboard
involves both the teacher and students using it in a classroom situation. It can, for example,
be used to:
• Allows presentation of student work in a more interactive and collaborative model
• Show video clips that explain difficult concepts (in any curricular area)
• Demonstrate how an educational software program works, e.g., an art program with
students using their fingers and hands to draw rather than working with a mouse
• Cater more effectively for visually impaired students and other students with special
• Display Internet resources in a teacher-directed manner
• Create handwritten drawings, notes and concept maps during class time, all of which
can be saved for future reference
Technical Considerations
To get an interactive whiteboard up and running, five separate components are involved:
• Touch-sensitive whiteboard
• Digital projector
• Computer
• Software
• Connectivity (wired or wireless) between the computer, whiteboard and the projector
The computer and the associated whiteboard software are fundamental to the process. The
digital projector (see Advice Sheet 15) allows everything that is happening on the computer
screen to be projected on to the whiteboard where everyone can see it. The touch-sensitive
whiteboard allows users, either the teacher or students, to interact with the information being
displayed, i.e., to interact with the computer. Generally speaking, marker pens (electronic or
ordinary) are used as input devices, but some whiteboards allows users to use their fingers,
as the pointing device, directly on the board.
© National Centre for Technology in Education June 2007
NCTE Advice Sheet – Interactive Whiteboards
Advice Sheet 16
Types of Boards:
The surface of an interactive whiteboard is critical to its functionality and is a distinguishing
factor between the different technologies used in the boards themselves. The interactive
whiteboard captures the pen or user’s finger inputs and detects where the user is touching the
board, this information is then is used as input to the interactive whiteboard software.
There are 3 different technologies used for this purpose
Resistive Membrane
The board surface incorporates a soft flexible yinyl or polyester-based plastic front surface
and a rigid back board. Two layers of resistive material with a small gap between them create
a touch-sensitive membrane, which is used to detect where a student or teacher touches the
board. Applying pressure to the front surface (by using a pen or a finger) registers a contact
point that is used as input to the interactive whiteboard software. The advantage of
whiteboards based on resistive technology is that one does not require special pens to write
on the board, a finger can be used just as well. One possible disadvantage is that as the
surface of the board is soft it can be damaged by the use of ordinary markers, so the school
needs to make users aware of this.
Electro-Magnetic pick-up
These whiteboards are similar to traditional whiteboards in that they are rigid to the touch.
The pens used with them emit a small magnetic field, which the board detects on pen impact
or movement, and this information is then used as input to the interactive whiteboard
Infra-Red scanning
By attaching infra-red scanning devices to an existing whiteboard or flat surface it is possible
to transform an ordinary whiteboard or surface to act as an interactive whiteboard. These
scanning devices are light and portable and can be used with different types of standard
whiteboards. Tracking of colour and patterns is based upon using special encoded pens,
each of which has a uniquely encoded reflective collar that the board uses to identify its
colour and position.
Purchasing Considerations
The cost of an interactive whiteboard varies considerably and generally depends on the type
of technology chosen, and on the size of the board. Of the types discussed above, the infrared attached whiteboard is the least expensive, as it works with standard whiteboards.
Schools should note that
Software is almost always included in the purchase price of the whiteboard, but it is
necessary to check if this software allows users to:
• Draw or write on the board using different coloured pens or even the students’ fingers
• Print out or save the results to the computer
• Use “layering”, “grouping” and other features which allow the user to create their own
classroom resources, often with the help of an associated gallery.
Some suppliers supply specialised software packages to suit either Primary or for Post
Primary schools.
Boards range in size from 35 inches (diagonal) to 78 inches (diagonal) and normally cost in
the region of €1500 - €3000, including controlling software. Most boards can be fitted to a
moveable stand, costing in the region of €300, enabling access in different locations, or can
be wall-mounted. Generally the kit to do so is included in the price; however, installation and
configuration of the board and projector could add another €500 to the overall price. If the
school does not already have a digital projector, this can make the quite expensive as
suitable projector prices begin at approx. €800, plus €320 for a replacement bulb. Some
suppliers provide integrated, wall-mounted projectors, bringing the total guide price to €6,000
(including installation). Given the price variations it is essential to seek best value by obtaining
© National Centre for Technology in Education June 2007
NCTE Advice Sheet – Interactive Whiteboards
Advice Sheet 16
quotations from at least three providers. Note that these indicative prices do not include the
price of the computer itself.
Infra-red Interactive whiteboards are the least expensive option. Such systems can be
purchased for under €1000, with the school providing its own board and projector.
Other relevant questions:
• Is there local technical support in case there are hardware or software failures?
• What is the duration of the suppliers warranty?
• Is there a charge to receive future software upgrades, or will these be free of charge?
Additional Considerations
The following relevant points should be noted when considering introducing interactive
whiteboards to a school.
• Before purchasing an interactive whiteboard the school should ensure that it will be
used appropriately to engage with pupils. Will the whiteboard re-enforce the ‘sage on
the stage’ role of the teacher-directed classroom, or will it facilitate the ‘guide on the
side’ teach role and student-centred learning?
• Interactive whiteboard should be located in classrooms, not in computer rooms.
• Which teacher(s) will use the board? Given the expense of the board, there may be
some degree of local negotiation needed to decide priority access.
• Will the board simply be an expensive projection screen?
• Will the board work with the particular computer platform(s) in the school and with
platforms about to be used in the school?
• Will the whiteboard need to be freestanding or fixed to a wall?
• The size of the board should be sufficient to enable all pupils to clearly see the
contents of the board.
• To enable all students and teachers to reach all parts of the board, a height
adjustable type is preferred.
• Is the software supplied with the whiteboard appropriate for the needs of the school?
• Consider if the digital projector should be ceiling mounted or portable?
• How and where will teachers prepare lessons using the interactive whiteboard?
• How and when will staff receive training on using the interactive whiteboard?
• What is the situation regarding licensing of the software that comes with the board?
Interactive whiteboards create a range of learning opportunities for both students and
teachers. Studies have found them to be highly motivating and learner-centred when
integrated innovatively.
Relevant Web Sites:
Becta Research
This document summarises Becta research on Interactive whiteboards
Drumcondra Education Centre’s Interactive Whiteboard project
This is a portal site for Drumcondra Education Centre’s whiteboard project, containing links to
classroom resources, to suppliers, and pedagogical advice.
IWB link on Wikipedia
This is an information page on the Wikipedia website
Note: While the advice sheets aim to act as a guide, the inclusion of any products and
company names does not imply approval by the NCTE, nor does the exclusion imply the
reverse. The NCTE does not accept responsibility for any opinions, advice or
recommendations on external web sites linked to the NCTE site.
This Advice Sheet and other relevant information are available at:
© National Centre for Technology in Education June 2007
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