How I learned to love my Interactive White Board

Before I had an  IWB I had no idea of how useful it could be, and how it could help teaching and learning in my classroom. Learning what was possible was the key to seeing what could be useful, so I thought others might like to share in what I now use most often. The IWB in my classroom is a ‘SmartBoard’, but I have used other types so most of what I shall write will apply to other makes.ImageYou will notice the tool bar is on the bottom, I put it there because the board is on the wall behind my desk, so the bottom of the screen is often obscured from students’ view. At least they are not missing lesson content that way. Just like a touch screen on laptop or tablet, you can swipe to move from page to page. I usually find it more useful to be facing the class at transition moments, so I normally use the keyboard on my desktop, or the remote. However I am a slow typist, so I do prefer to write on the board, choosing the pen tool gives the calligraphy option. This makes a dramatic improvement to my handwriting, not only can the students read what I’ve written, text recognition (select text, choose dropdown menu top right of box) works too.

I still tend to prepare work as PowerPoint slides, not all the machines I use have SmartBoard software. I can add to the slides as I show them on the IWB. if I use the computer mouse to hover over the bottom left corner, and select the pen icon that then appears by tapping on the IWB with a pen  I can later choose to save or discard the annotations. But some prepared IWB files do help to make activities student centred.


Put a diagram/photo/map in the centre of the board, with unattributed label words around it. Students can drag the words into place, or add arrows. If I hand write each word in a different colour, there’s no danger of two words being grouped together.

Let students sort words into columns (factors affecting thinking or braking distance) or Venn diagrams (KE, momentum or both).

Paste exam questions, and either model or have students attempt their answers.

Paste text and ask students to highlight key words e.g. those showing a particular character trait.

These last examples remind me to talk about more of the tools I find particularly useful. If you choose the camera icon, then switch to a different programme, you can snapshot pictures or text. (Don’t forget to give credit). The pen tool has the option of a highlighter. The blind is useful to conceal then reveal (e.g. model answers). The creative pens help with highlighting important points, but I’m sill looking for a good excuse to use the magic pen that spotlights whatever you circle. A brilliant short cut with the ‘eraser/board cleaner’ is to draw a circle with it and then tap the centre – everything within the circle is wiped.

There are more drawing tools, and word processing tools, there are galleries of activities and objects, and the ability to record a presentation with voice. Although I’ve tried them, they haven’t been so useful in the context of my teaching. But two particular actions have been transformational.

in a physics lesson I often want to develop quite a long argument, referring back to previous lines and diagrams. The IWB has a smaller area than many traditional teaching boards. You can keep writing, but it gets long, thin, and the bit you are talking about to the students is on the bottom, less visible part of the board. So duplicate the present slide/page as you fill it, select all, draw, group, then shrink it into the top left corner. It will still be legible, and is there for reference as you develop the argument.

The other action? As well as filing, under ‘file’ is the option to ‘send as PDF’. At the end of the lesson I can email any student who has missed the class with the notes from that day.

This has been a very quick snapshot overview, to try to demonstrate that an IWB is so much more than just a projector screen. My mind is crowded with other ways to increase student involvement and engagement – I’ll save some for another post.



About lifelonglearner

Teacher in Southern England enthusiastic about exploring ways to learn and teach, and evangelistic about sharing them. Specialism is Physics, but that's just a useful starting point.
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