January 2008

Interactive White boards in Schools

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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 White board and is used similarly. The computer connected to the interactive White board 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 White boards 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 White board 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 programme 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 needs 
  • 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  

Types of Boards
There are 3 different technologies used for this purpose.
 
Resistive membrane 
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 boards are made of rigid construction and can take usage abuse in a class. These boards withstand pricking with a sharp nib, nail or compass and last for a longer period. Some boards have the entire electronics in a geometry size controller box placed behind the board and in case of a failure only the controller  needs to be replaced. Controller based electronics offer maximum uptime rate and are the best in the industry.
 
Infra-Red scanning

These scanning devices are light and portable and can be used with different types of standard whiteboards. Tracking of color 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 color and position. At many times, the recognition or encoding may malfunction.
 
Purchasing Considerations
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 colored 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.
  • Preference in case of class room should be given to the surface of the board, which should be long lasting and able to with stand rigorous usage.
  • Other relevant questions:
  • Is there local technical support in case there are hardware or software failures?
  • What is the duration of the suppliers warranty?
  • What is the track record of the supplier?

Interactive White boards create a range of learning opportunities for both students and teachers. Studies have found them to be highly motivating and learner-centered when integrated innovatively.  

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