Introducing Interactive Whiteboards

Mike Lawson • Archives • July 6, 2009

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Technology is changing how we teach. First we had old blackboards and chalk, and then we moved onto colored markers on whiteboards. Now, a totally new interactive whiteboard is waiting in the wings. What is this new-fangled contraption? It’s basically a giant touch-screen on which an LCD projector can display your computer’s screen for the entire class to see. Instead of lecturing students, you can teach a concept and let students illustrate those ideas on the spot. Let’s take a closer look at these next-generation interactive whiteboards.

There are several companies producing interactive whiteboards, including: Mimio, Hitachi, Smart Technologies, PolyVision, Promethean, and Panasonic. All of these companies offer products with a diverse range of features and Web-compatible extras.

Mimio offers an array of multifunctional interactive whiteboards in four different modes, ranging from a wide-screen to standard, 78 to 110 inches. A wireless USB receiver provides coverage for up to 30 feet, eliminating the need to run cables across the floor to attach to a PC. Web-based lessons can be captured and saved using their Capture Kit, which can also save the notes from the board in various formats (PDF, JPG, HTML) to be printed or e-mailed. This interactive “smartboard” can be viewed online at

Hitachi offers a very large screen for greater presentation space. The durable surface can sustain scratches, dents, and heavy-handed student use without diminished performance. It comes with software that lets users record and capture onscreen activity for posting on YouTube or to a resource center where lessons can be modified. It also has conferencing capabilities that can facilitate project collaboration with other schools in a Web-based community called Twinning Portal (

Smart Technologies is one of the leaders in whiteboard use among music educators. Their Smart Notebook Student Edition software can be downloaded to a PC or the Smart Notebook SE bracelet to help students find information and organize files. The software enables students to search for documents and digital materials through keywords that are reviewed in a Web 2.0 tag cloud, a user-generated tag that helps find content.

PolyVision offers a three-in-one product, the Enco, which is a marker-magnet-multimedia combination that makes use of a dry erase marker and letter and number magnets. This tool can be integrated with other peripherals and hardware such as a Bluetooth-enabled stylus. Teachers can use Web browsers without having to download special software and can toggle between other applications and the Web while using the marker, magnets, and stylus.

Promethean is another leader in interactive whiteboards among music educators. Most Promethean Activboard peripherals, including pens, are used wirelessly so there’s no muss or fuss with cabling. If the board can’t be mounted due to lack of wall space or a need for it to be transported back and forth between classrooms, there’s the option to use a mobile stand. When banded together with e-learning software provider Elluminate, it brings Web collaboration into the electronic whiteboard space. This allows students from far-away classrooms to meet and learn together via the Internet.

Panasonic’s Panaboard is best used with Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. Teachers can write, draw, print handouts or save the content on the board to a PC for archiving. These units work well with Microsoft’s NetMeeting for cross-classroom Web-based collaboration.

Using Interactive Whiteboards in the Classroom
My favorite example of interactive whiteboard usage in the bandroom is when it is used to display a warm-up exercise transposed by SmartMusic, and there’s only one computer in the room. SmartMusic’s jazz improv patterns, Play by Ear and Jazz Exercises are particularly well suited for whiteboard presentations because they are all ideal for class participation. Rhythm Bee ( also works smoothly with whiteboard technology generating quick, sequential rhythm instruction in an ensemble setting.

Craig Gonci of Valley Forge (Pa.) Middle School has developed some rather sophisticated uses of the interactive whiteboard. Some of his great whiteboard teaching ideas are online at: Craig has created activities and projects called: Staffwars (V1 + V2), Recorder, Rhythm Dictations, Boom, Music Math, Strings, Rhythm Blocks, String Tuner, and Hands on Math. He uses Abode Flash, which is a great multimedia application that handles audio and video very well and allows users to easily make interactive content and animations.

Martha Reed at Tucson (Ariz.) Magnet High School teaches piano, theory and AP Music Theory. All of these classes begin with a musical clip from YouTube on her whiteboard. She finds that the addition of visuals keeps kids focused better than just playing audio recordings. Her piano classes keep listening logs, which gives students an opportunity to reflect on what they have heard as well as learn and integrate new vocabulary.

Martha has a Sympodium and a projector that she projects onto the regular whiteboard. She prefers the Sympodium to an interactive whiteboard because she can remain facing the class while she uses it. Other whiteboard companies do offer alternative ways to face the classroom, as well. The screen is easy to write on and can be more finely calibrated than an interactive whiteboard. This really helps when she is positioning notes on the staff in Sibelius, for instance. For more info on products that teachers can use without turning their backs on students, check out Martha uses the Smartboard notebook software to prepare and set up the class. “I create a file with the date and announcements, as well as an agenda of performance objectives,” she says. “I set up a page with a staff. The gallery includes staff lines and notes, but I just use the staff and write my own notes. I embed the YouTube links directly into the file, as well as links to other files or URLs I may be using in that class. It is so great to have this all in one dated file. I can immediately call it up and see what I did on any given day.”

Martha continues, “In addition to Sibelius, I use Finale Notepad. We have a laptop cart with this installed for the students to use and more recently I use This site allows me to quickly throw together musical examples, at home or wherever I am, then embed the URL directly into my Notebook File. Also, my students can do composition or theory homework on Noteflight and send me the link to their work, which can instantly be seen and heard by all.

“Interactive theory Web sites abound, and we use them all the time in class. The kids enjoy taking turns at the Sympodium to either answer questions and quizzes or lead the class in a game. We use everything from the elementary games at to the Kostka Theory Self Tests at

“The techonology engages students because it gives them instant feedback. They construct chords and are able to hear them, check for errors in part-writing, and immediately see the answers. I also enjoy projecting their sight-singing exercises from the screen because it keeps their heads up and they aren’t mumbling into their books! I don’t know if any of this is particularly groundbreaking, but I recently found out how much I depend on the Sympodium/Smartboard software combination when my projector lamp burned out in the middle of class! I had to rethink everything, and I realized how much time this actually saves me in planning as well as lesson delivery.”

Sympodium products enable users to control any presentation and bring it to life simply connect the interactive pen display to a computer and projector. Write over slides in digital ink, save notes, access any Web site or multimedia file and project work onto a large screen to give students a truly interactive experience.

Steven Chetcuti at Somers (N.Y.) Middle School in uses his Smartboard extensively in guitar class, all bands, music appreciation, and other courses. “The Smartboard is the answer to the visual learners’ prayers,” he says. “Now the teacher and the students can see the same images at the same time while keeping the whole class involved.”

Here are some of the ways that he teaches with editorial interactive whiteboard teaching strategies.

  • Display Sibelius exercises in panoramic mode for good sight reading.
  • Bring up YouTube videos appropriate to curriculum use.
  • Work with interactive Web sites like
  • Take notes on the board and save to a file to be uploaded to a classroom homepage.
  • Create and save for consistency between classes.
  • Prepare plans that are ready for display by the substitute.
  • Connect a VHS/DVD player to the video input for an always-ready large screen projector.
  • Teach form analysis, interactive harmonica lessons, and jazz students use Jazz Musician overviews at

Jackie Wiggins and Alex Ruthmann studied the impact of SmartBoards in elementary and college music classrooms in the metro Detroit area. They observed some innovative uses of the tool in the classroom. Here are just a few of their observations: Teachers use the whiteboard with traditional notation or sequencing software to enhance their lessons. Teachers can use sequencing software to display iconic (piano roll) and notated versions of music previously recorded as MIDI files. The whiteboard enables the teacher to stand in front of the class and touch the screen to highlight and alter parts of the MIDI file, while engaging the students at the same time. Students can work interactively on music programs like Music Ace and MakingMusic. With the whiteboard, the entire class can be involved with one copy of the software running on one computer. The whiteboard with its companion digital whiteboard software allows students to create visual representation maps to pieces they are listening to.

Tonie DePasquale of Middletown, New York uses a Smart board with Notebook 10 software with her general/vocal music students in grades 2-5. In her 20 years as a music teacher using the principles of Orff-Schulwerk pedagogy, Tonie has seen her teaching evolve right along with technology. Convenience, easier access to materials, and the ability to create and use exciting interactive visuals to motivate students has helped her to better serve her students. With Smartboard technology, great looking and kid-motivating visuals are colorful and interactive and easy to save and store in folders on a laptop or flash drive.

Tonie especially enjoys using the Smartboard when presenting recorder lessons. “I have noticed a marked improvement in the students ability to track and read music since I have been presenting it on the interactive white board,” she says. She uses a laser pointer to help students keep their place when reading music on the staff as well as color-coding notes for students who need an extra visual cue. She has found that it is easier to monitor whether students are actually looking at the music when playing if the music is projected on the board.

The Kirby School District #140 in Illinois purchased Promethean boards for every classroom teacher. Teachers use the Promethean board throughout the day. Many teachers create their own flipcharts and have incorporated previous PowerPoints into their flipcharts. Music plays a large part of their lessons. Their music web page can be found at:

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