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Pete Roythorne explains interactive whiteboards

If you're not already using interactive whiteboards (IWB) in your school, you're no doubt wondering what all the fuss is about and why the Government is so keen to see this technology in classrooms.

IWBs are hugely versatile pieces of equipment; they can be used in place of whiteboards, roller boards, flip charts, overhead projectors, video recorders and even televisions. Using a computer, a digital projector and a touch-sensitive screen, IWBs allow information to be displayed to the whole class. This means whole classes can benefit from the latest software rather than having to wait their turn on a PC or crowd round one small screen.

They also give you access to a large range of additional materials. By adding video, animation, graphics, text and audio you can enhance your lessons and deliver content in a more engaging way. You can also directly introduce web pages, CD-Roms and DVDs. This helps boost the quality of interaction with pupils.

Furthermore, when attached to peripheral devices such as electronic microscopes, digital cameras, scanners or visualisers they make sharing ideas and demonstration easy.

IWBs also include a range of useful tools such as highlighters, different coloured pens and erasers so you are able to edit things on the screen.

This in turn can raise opportunities for questioning. Anything you do on the board can then be saved and reused. So there's no worrying about having to copy anything down or having someone else wipe it off the board.

However, before you jump in and buy one you'll need to think about a number of different things: l There are different types available, ranging from infrared and ultrasonic boards (the cheapest) to dual membrane boards, with more expensive options such as wireless connectivity, impact-resistant boards and plasma screens.

* Decide what screen size you will need, relative to the size of the rooms you will be using.

* Decide between portable or fixed boards.

* You'll need to ensure the software used to link the whiteboard to the computer is the right platform, for example Mac or PC.

If integrated correctly into the classroom and supported by effective teaching, IWBs could have a positive effect on teaching and learning. They also have the ability to cater for all learning styles.

But finally, and this is not to be underestimated, it's a fun medium for kids and it allows information to be displayed in a way they can relate to, which many users find increases motivation.

Links National Whiteboard Network


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