Interactive Whiteboards #101 : A short primer

At this time of year I find myself running a lot of interactive whiteboard training sessions for schools and colleges on how to get started with their IWB and to get going with the basics.

I always direct them back to this blog to check out the IWB Guides area on here, so I thought it would be useful to collate a lot of the basic ideas that I hand out.

So if you are a newly qualified teacher soon to be embarking on their teaching career at their new school, an existing teacher moving schools, or simply having an interactive whiteboard installed in your classroom over the summer for the first time, then here’s a couple of handy tips to get you started.

1 Get hold of the IWB software

The first thing to do is to get hold of the software for the IWB you will be using at your new school. Usually the licence will allow you to install a copy at home for lesson preparation purposes, which I think is an essential step to get teachers familiar with the software away from the board itself. Ask your school ICT technician for the activation code.

Promethean Boards:

A copy of Promethean ActivInspire can be downloaded for free from the Promethean website here. ActivInspire will download as a 30 day trial version – which will work fine until you put in your school’s serial number. Once the time is up it will still run as personal edition. So you can install it now, and play with the software for a while before you need to get hold of the activation code.

Smart Boards:

Smart Notebook 11 can be downloaded for free from the Smart website here. It will run on a 30 day trial until you put a code in which unlocks it permanently.When installing, do make sure you check the box for Smart Notebook, or you’ll just end up installing the drivers, and nothing else!

Older versions of Smart Notebook (And Mac versions) can be found here.

Easiteach:

The Easiteach software can be downloaded here. The link for the 30 day trial is also on that page.

Mimio Boards:

The Mimio software can be downloaded here.

157/366 smartboard pens

2. Invest in a large USB stick

With the software installed on your own computer, it’s easy to prepare lessons at home, and bring into school on a USB stick. It’s probably best to then copy to your user area at school and run from there rather than running direct from your stick. This also means you have a backup copy in case you accidentally make changes by mistake.

The price of USB sticks continues to fall, and you can a decent one for not too much of an outlay. I have a tiny USB stick on my keyring – I know I can never leave it at school because I can’t drive home!

Some teachers I know email the files to themselves at school too. That also works!

3. Sign up for Dropbox

Dropbox is a free service that gives you some space in “The Cloud” for file storage. It creates a folder on your home computer which you can copy files into. Those files then get uploaded to your private space. You can then access those files from anywhere via the Dropbox website.

I always copy a backup of my important training materials into my Dropbox on my PC, this allows me to always access them – as long as I can get online I can get access to my files.

Some schools do restrict access to Dropbox though, so it’s best to check. Even if you can’t access it from school, I find it an excellent way of backing up my important training materials. You can’t have too many backups!

4. Get Free Resources

There are quite a few sites tailored to providing ready-made resources for teachers. Most are free to join and don’t just join the one for your particular board, you’ll still find useful stuff you can use on other sites too!

Promethean Planet hosts a wealth of resources for all teachers. It’s not just for Promethean users. You’ll find powerpoints, worksheets and other resources. If you are an ActivInspire user then the ready-made flipcharts and resource packs will also prove to be invaluable. Use them  “as-is” or treat them as a starting point for your own lesson materials and adapt to your own needs.

The forums and User Groups are also very useful places for getting teaching ideas for all subjects and phases. Again it’s not just for Promethean users, although if you are then there’s also a lot of software and tech support available on the site.

If you are a Smartboard user then check out the Smart Exchange which will give you access to ready-made Smart Notebook files and resources to use in your lessons.

RM Easiteach users should go check out RM Easilearn for resources you can download.

And again, a general resource for teachers that you should also register with is TES Resources which has some excellent resources for all subjects and key stages.

5. Start with the basics.

Don’t try and overload yourself with all the possible bells and whistles that your whiteboard software can do. Familiarise yourself with the basic tools that you can use every day and be happy in how to use them.

Be sure you know how to use the following tools:

a) Pen / Eraser – being able to handwrite on the board like you would on a regular whiteboard is an essential skill. Look for the colour palette to change the pen colour, and also the pen thickness. The eraser will rub out everything written in pen, it won’t remove shapes or text.

Write a little larger and slower than you normally would. Don’t worry if you run out of space on the board, you can either make the writing smaller after you’ve written it, or just go to another page. You can have as many pages as you want, so don’t try and cram everything onto one.

b) Selection tool – use this tool when you want to interact with something – move something on the page or make it bigger/smaller. Click on the selection tool and then tap on an object to bring up the blobs that let you stretch/rotate/move it about.

c) Text – When pre-preparing a flipchart, it’s better to type in the text that try and write with a mouse. Simply click on the text tool then click on the page to add a text box. You’ll have the usual text formatting tools that you’re used to in Word. You can also copy and paste text in exactly the same way that you can in something like PowerPoint.

Each text box can be moved on its own – you can use this to build matching activities – put single words in their own box, and definitions in other ones. Pupils can then match the words to the definitions.

d) Shapes – There will be plenty of ready-made shapes that you can use to create tables, venn diagrams etc. Use the paint bucket tool to fill them in with colour. Have a play and see what is available. Often you’ll find speech bubbles, which are good to use when introducing lesson objectives.

Also think about how you can hide parts of the screen under shapes – maybe important words or parts of an image. Use the selection tool to move the shapes when you are ready to reveal whatever is hiding behind it.

Remember the best way to get to learn how to the use the software is away from the board on your own computer with a mouse and keyboard. Once you’re happy, you can then try it out on the board itself.

For more ideas – check out my blog post : 8 Ideas to Keep it Simple

6. Check the Gallery

Most IWB software comes with a gallery of ready-made clipart and other resources that can be quickly added to your own lesson resources.

In ActivInspire you will find these in the Resource Browser. You should have an area called Subjects with lots of resources in there. If you’re missing it, check the ActivInspire download page and download the separate Resources file.

In Smart Notebook look for something called Gallery Essentials or Essentials for Educators.

If there are pages that you use a lot – Lesson objectives, tables, venn diagrams then you can add them to your own area in the Resources to be able to get hold of them easily. Right click on any page in the Page Browser and choose “Add page to Resource Library”

And that’s it! Go play and explore the software. Any questions or other sites you’ve found useful, please add them to the comments.

And if you do want Interactive Whiteboard Training for your school on Smart or Promethean boards, then please get in touch.

 

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Author: Danny Nicholson

Danny is an author, Science teacher, ICT Consultant, PGCE lecturer and computing / interactive whiteboard trainer. He has delivered training courses across the UK, in Europe, and in Canada. Please get in touch with your training requests.

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