ICT - Wasted whiteboards?

21st October 2011 at 01:00
Get interactive by other means

When I first had an interactive whiteboard (IWB) - 12 years ago - I was like a child at Christmas. But after three weeks, the excitement had faded and I asked for it to be removed.

I only used it as a projection screen, so I soon wanted my old whiteboard marker pens back. OK, I couldn't store electronic annotations, but I was never going to re-use them. Maybe I never opened my eyes to the potential of IWB resource tools, but as an ICT teacher I began to question what these boards really offered and whether it couldn't be replicated in other ways.

Most teachers only use the "pen" to click on objects on a projected image or drag objects from A to B, but this can be done with a mouse or wireless tablet. A Bluetooth graphics tablet (available for about pound;100) can do this. And if you just want a mouse, you can download the Mobile Air Mouse app for most smartphones for free. (If you don't have a smartphone, check out GyroMouse - it's wireless and works in the air as well as on a desk.) If you annotate your work in PowerPoint using the graphics tablet, you can store the ink annotations anyway. Sure, you can pop up a keyboard on the screen of your interactive board, but why not use a wireless keyboard? These portable devices are ideal to pass around the class if you want students to interact.

I once gave a presentation at the BETT Teachmeet at Olympia, where we showed how to create an interactive surface on a standard projection screen by hacking a couple of Nintendo Wiimotes and playing with electronics to switch them on and off using only the radio fob for a car alarm. (Google "Johnny Chung Lee project" or visit www.smoothboard.net to learn how to make your standard whiteboard work become interactive.)

There are pockets of IWB practice in my school and some staff say the boards are a godsend. But really it is not the board that is the tool, but rather the software that creates the activities.

Whiteboard manufacturers must be worried since the Microsoft Xbox Kinect was hacked, potentially allowing a teacher to control a projected image with arm gestures. To see the future, search YouTube for "Multitouch with hacked Kinect". One day it will be like Minority Report in the classroom - and that day may be closer than you think.

David Phillips is head of ICT at Borden Grammar School, Sittingbourne, and a partner in our ICT resource bank


See the resources by David Phillips on his TES profile and leave some feedback

In the forums

Teachers discuss their whiteboard issues, offer advice and share ideas

All links, forums and resources in this issue are available at www.tes.co.ukresources006.


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