On the most basic level an Interactive Whiteboard (sometimes Electronic Whiteboard) is a dry-erase whiteboard writing surface which can identify the location of any contact on its surface and capture any writing or drawings electronically. By interfacing and interacting with devices such as computers, video recorders and DVD players, interactive whiteboards can be utilized as a large display panel to provide a richer, interactive media basis (sound, video, images, interactive software, web sites etc.) for presentations or problem solving.
Interactive whiteboards can be used in the workplace to capture meeting notes and as a tool for work on collaborative projects. They are particularly useful for collaborative use of software for teaching or computer aided design (CAD).
Interactive Whiteboard Use
Interactive whiteboards are used in one of two ways;
- To capture notes written on the whiteboard surface using dry-erase ink or,
- To control (click and drag) and/or mark-up (annotate) a computer-generated image projected on the whiteboard surface from a digital projector.
Interactive whiteboards work as a large computer screen by projecting the computer image onto the board via an external projector. The computer can be controlled via sensors on the board being used to position the cursor. There are three different types of board with different ways of controlling the computer via the board, electromagnetic, touch-sensitive and infrared.
An interactive whiteboard connects to a computer via a USB, serial port or Bluetooth (wireless connection). A software device driver on the computer handles the interaction with the whiteboard. The driver converts contact with the interactive whiteboard into mouse clicks or digital ink.
Four common technologies for determining contact with a whiteboard (eg. by a stylus for pointed finger) are:
- Touch-Sensitive – Electrical contact between two electrically conductive sheets separated by a small gap of air due to pressure from a finger or stylus causes a change in resistance or capacitance establishing the (X,Y) location of the contact;
- Electromagnetic – An uniform array of wires under the board surface interacts with a coil in the stylus to determine the (X,Y) coordinate of the stylus. Styli can be either active (require battery or power cable) or passive (no power source). This technology usually has a hard writing surface with no moving parts that can be learnt or rested on when writing with the electronic stylus;
- Laser – A laser beam sweeps across the whiteboard surface and reflectors on the stylus or marker reflect the laser beam back to the source triangulating the the (X,Y). This technology has a hard (usually ceramic on steel) surface, which has the longest life and erases most cleanly. Markers and styli are passive, but must have reflective tape to work. Touch cannot be used;
- Ultrasonic and Infrared – Contact with the whiteboard surface triggers the marker or stylus to send out both ultrasonic and infrared signals. Two ultrasonic microphones use the difference in sound arrival times to triangulate the location of the marker or stylus. This technology allows whiteboards to be made of any material, but requires an active dry-erase marker or stylus. Touch cannot be used;
Interactive whiteboards are generally front or rear projection. Front Projection indicates the video projector is positioned in front of the whiteboard. Conversely, Rear Projection Whiteboard projectors are located behind the whiteboard. Presenters having to look into the projector light and the casting of shadows are practical problems for Front Projection Whiteboards although recent improvements in short throw projection are reducing problematic shadow effects. These problems are avoided with a rear projection unit however this format brings its own problems of higher costs and the inability to flush mount to the wall.
Interactive Whiteboards – Useful Accessories
- Wireless connection to the controlling PC.
- Remote control to give the presenter freedom to move to different parts of a room.
- Tablet to provide participants control of the whiteboard from a distance.
- Voting system to accept and tally answers to questions posted on the whiteboard.
Some Interactive Whiteboard Brands
ACTIVboard – ACTIVboard products are manufactured by Promethean Technologies Group Ltd. Their product range includes ACTIVPrimary or ACTIVstudio interactive teaching and learning software, Promethean ACTIVboard interactive whiteboard, ACTIVote voting handsets and ACTIVslate remote board control slates
SMART Technologies Inc. has a product range including versatile, intuitive group collaboration tools, including interactive whiteboards, multimedia furniture, whiteboard capture systems and software. Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, SMART also has offices in Japan, Germany and Washington, DC. SMART distributes to more than 65 countries around the world.
ONfinity – ONfinity produces a rear-projection interactive whiteboard and the Portable Interactive Whiteboard, CM2, designed to be portable for on-the-road business presentations. They have after sales service centres in Holland, UK, Hong Kong SAR and China.
3M supply the Digital Wall Display Plus Series interactive whiteboard. 3M is a large technology company with global sales reach.
Interactive Whiteboard Video Demonstration