Join the board

20th January 2006 at 00:00
Peter Brett suggests how to reap the benefits of an interactive whiteboard

Citizenship is an excellent subject for exploiting the interactive possibilities of whiteboards. A key element of effective teaching is to make pupils feel involved in their responses to contemporary social and political issues.

Young people are able to select and evaluate material they are engaging with. They can make critical choices about how to present their ideas. The interactive whiteboard can help with this by structuring their choices, promoting discussion and enabling them to come to the front and control the board.

Guy Short, citizenship co-ordinator at Whitehaven School in West Cumbria, has recently established a specialist department at his 11-18 school and sees whiteboard technology as central to the kinds of teaching he wants to foster. He especially likes features such as modelling and mind-mapping.

"Whiteboards are brilliant for modelling how to complete tasks and for pupils to trial stuff before it is committed to paper," he says. "They aren't so fearful of making mistakes if they know they can undo something they've done wrong. There's a wide choice of software that can be easily used by pupils at the whiteboard.

"It is also a fantastic way to gather the views of a class on a particular theme. I use MindManager from Mindjet, but I know that Inspiration is quite widely used."

He also likes the drag-and-drop functions of the software. "Text and pictures can be shuffled up and moved around - for example, the different institutions of government, and, importantly, pupils can play with ideas using frameworks such as circles of inference, hierarchical ordering schemes and thinking organisers. I'm convinced that using the board helps pupils to visualise and remember concepts and ideas that otherwise might well not stick in their minds."

At nearby Southfield Technology College in Workington, fresh from a glowing Ofsted inspection report for the school's citizenship provision, citizenship co-ordinator Judith Wigham is equally upbeat about the benefits of using the whiteboard.

She uses it to showcase the Espresso package of learning resources which has been embedded into schemes of work for citizenship. Citizenship units which use the Espresso materials include Belonging to a Community (Year 7), Youth Crime and the Criminal Justice System (Year 8), Human Rights and Government and Democracy (Year 9), and Global Citizenship Issues (Year 11).

The virtues of Espresso include a wide range of engaging starter and plenary activities on core topics, useful interactive matching and sorting activities (for example, inside a magistrates' court), built in video clips and adaptable worksheet materials. The Espresso 1 (Primary) materials (eg Fair Trade, environmental and sustainability issues) are often excellent for Year 7 and 8 classes and differentiating for lower attainers. Pupil feedback on the materials was also positive: Espresso made lessons "colourful", "active" and "more fun".

Advice on using whiteboards l Embedding ICT @ Secondary: Use of Interactive Whiteboards in Citizenship (DfES. 2004): enship.pdf

* The Review Project (University of Hull) www.thereviewproject.orgsecondary citizenpsesec_citpse_index.htm

* Becta Virtual Teacher Centre

* Becta ICT (Advice for teachersAsk an ExpertMarrying citizenship and ICT: from rhetoric to reality Resources Many resources are available free from websites.

* The BBC Newsround site provides excellent support exploring current events:

* For a list of websites cross-referenced to the key knowledge areas of the citizenship national curriculum, see Resources for Teaching Citizenship: A Guide for Beginning Teachers of Citizenship www.citized.infopdfinductionPB_Resources_for_Teaching_Citizenship.doc

* Opportunities to make a difference and persuade others are built into the most effective citizenship units of work and projects. The communication function of ICT can assist young people in the participation element of citizenship, eg campaigning and linking with other schools and organisations. There are countless engaging discussions and debates on the internet, eg

* E-learning credits can be used to purchase commercial programs such as Espresso ( or the large newspaper database ProQuest ( to transform citizenship programmes.

* In addition to MindManager and Inspiration, other mind-mapping programs include ConceptDraw, MindGenius, HeadCase and OpenMind. Most have the ability to publish as webpages.

* Download software to generate your own citizenship quizzes from Another source of ideas for multiple choice, short answer, jumbled sentence, crossword, and matching andordering exercises when you are looking for starter and plenary activities is Hot Potatoes http:web.uvic.cahrdhotpot

* Educational games are also good for stimulating discussion and debate.

One of the latest is the Food Force game from the World Food Programme.

Pupils simulate participation in a UN mission to distribute food in a country affected by famine. At the same time they learn about hunger in the real world and the WPF's work to prevent it. At key points the game can be paused to discuss the issues involved.

Peter Brett is a DfES regional adviser for citizenship


Use shapes such as rectangles or circles in the whiteboard software to create interactive exercises. Rectangles can provide a container for citizenship vocabulary palettes on key themes. Circles can provide a focal point for dragging words or pictures.

Use a scanner for pages from books or pictures so that a large version of the page can be displayed on the screen. This can then be marked with comments and notes.

Use websites designed for citizenship, such as BBC Newsround or Oxfam's Cool Planet. There are also possibilities to explore the potential of websites for local issues or campaigns.

Pause film clips, import still images and then encourage annotation.

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