Confused About Interactive Whiteboards?


Interactive Whiteboards can be really confusing: Especially if you’re looking around at what type to buy or you want to know more about them. And because you’re here reading this, I know you’ve probably found out pretty quickly that different people will tell you completely different stories about them.

Ever since we launched our Interactive Whiteboard Music Resources, we’ve found that teachers often touch base with us just to ask more about using Interactive Whiteboards in the classroom and how to get the best out of them. So I’ve put this article together to explain in just a few dot points on what we’ve learned about Interactive Whiteboards over these past few years. If I can share with you our experiences, then you can go ahead and use this information to help you make a more informed decision about interactive whiteboards for your classroom.

A Hidden Myth about Using Interactive Whiteboard Software
When you go and buy a whiteboard, a sales representative will tell you that you’ll need to go and download the matching software for the whiteboard. So for example if you purchase a SMARTBoard then it’s the SMART Notebook software which is associated with that brand and for Promethean Whiteboards, the software ActiveInspire which is associated with that brand.

Now that may be the case that you are best using the associated brand of software, however…. other brands of software WILL work on the board. We have tested ActiveInspire on a SMARTboard, and SMART Notebook on other whiteboards. It is simply NOT the case that you can only use the supplied software, and you have the choice of what software you’d like to use.

What really runs your interactive whiteboard program is your computer or laptop which is connected to your whiteboard. Think of the whiteboard as simply being a touchable projector screen. So what this means is that no matter what kind of whiteboard you have in the classroom, it’s the software that you install on your computer or laptop that runs it! Interactive Whiteboard Companies want you to believe that you need to use their brand of computer software, but the truth is that you don’t!

After extensive testing of all brands of software available for interactive whiteboard, the best software I can recommend is ActiveInspire from Promethean, and this can be downloaded for free onto any computer and projected onto any Interactive Whiteboard. Even if you have a Mimio or other kind of whiteboard, this software will work because it can be installed on your computer and that is what powers the whiteboard.

If you have a SMARTBoard then you can download their software free with a serial number, however anyone can download ActiveInspire personal edition from the Promethean Planet website, free of charge.

Choosing the Best Resources to use on Your Interactive Whiteboard

When you get started with the interactive whiteboard, you effectively have two choices:

1) You can acquire or write your own prepared lesson plans inside the software for the whiteboard


2) You can use websites, web-based software, or stand alone software programs on the whiteboard.

Now we obviously have a preference towards route #1 – as that is the way we have created our interactive whiteboard resources. Here is why we feel that this is a better route, and is the reason why we didn’t create our interactive whiteboard packages as stand-alone content:
1. It is possible for teachers to change the lesson content.
Teachers can go straight into the program and add extra pages or sentences etc into the already existing lesson structure so that it can better suit their classes or teaching style and any changes can easily be saved as you go and change them.

2. You can use the pens and the duster that come with the whiteboard.
Now this seems very obvious, but many web-based software resources won’t enable you to fully use pens or the erase function on an interactive whiteboard. By using lessons inside the whiteboard software you can fully use the pens, dusters and all the other functions of the whiteboard. Now, you may say… ‘I can still use the pens with another program’. That might be true, but the board won’t know what you’ve written on what page, and remember it. It’ll be like taking a transparency, placing it over the computer screen and writing on that. You’ll be able to write something, but once you’ve written it then you’ve got to rub it off and throw it away. Any ways of saving it cause problems, and from our experience using this feature at all massively slows down your computer – as it requires whiteboard software to be running on top of your program.

3. They require no Internet Connection.
Web based materials require a fully functioning, fast internet connection. With prepared materials inside the whiteboard software once the materials are downloaded onto your laptop via CD-Rom, there will be no need for an internet connection. It’s a bit like ITunes where once you’ve downloaded the songs you want, you’ll never have to use an internet connection to access them again because they are now a part of your computer.

4. It helps to better focus your students.
Unlike using web based resources, specific resources written inside whiteboard software won’t suddenly have a pop-up or have any difficult navigation issues. These lessons only show what is required for the students, so you don’t see an entire teacher’s desktop when working from the lessons and the content will fit the whole page without having to continually adjust it.

5. The board becomes your lesson plan
I feel that this is the single biggest reason why resources written inside the software platforms are preferable to stand alone programs. Inside the platform you can step through the activities of the lesson one by one, from a warm-up to an introductory activity, some revision, the main content of your lesson, and then revision concepts and games. You can have everything pre-planned, and because you can edit it you can shuffle about the order of the lesson until you get it perfectly the way you’d like to teach it. With pre-programmed software you are restricted to exactly the way the programmer wrote the software, and activities that you don’t like you are stuck with ‘navigating around’ all the time, in front of the students!

So what do you think?

Do you agree with our premise that using the whiteboard software is preferable to using stand-alone programs? We’d love to hear your experiences. If you have other questions, concerns or stories that you’d like to add to this topic, then please post them in the comment box below to share with our wider teaching community. It’s amazing what we can learn together and how quickly we can learn about new technology when we work on it together as a network.


P.S. Want to check out our materials for interactive whiteboard? Click here to download a free sample of Whiteboard Music Lessons Module One: Introduction to Music.


  • By Lynnette Reply

    I have been using an interactive white board in my lessons for the last 6 years and the most useful way I see it in my class is when it is in the hands of my students. I have it currently at a centre where students use it to work as a group, creating and composing a song. In this case, they are creating their own composition using graphic notation. It is a planning board, a place to research more information, it is a final product when they are done and it is a place where they feel confident in what they are doing. I sometimes use it as a tool for the whole class, but when our students are so tech savvy, they get bored watching the teacher use it, they need to be just as involved with it as the teacher. Put it in the hands of the children as much as you can!

    • By janice Reply

      Totally agree Lynette. The interactive whiteboard is a place for students to be hands on. Thanks for sharing your creative idea.

  • By Sarah Reply

    I love the smartboard resources. I integrate them into my lessons to add depth, understanding and to engage the students and they love it! It’s so hard to find something suitable on the internet to add to your lessons. This was a useful resource that is easy to pop up during the class or to use as as a filler for the last 5-10 minutes of class.

    • By janice Reply

      Thank you for your kind feedback on the interactive whiteboard resources Sarah. I’m glad they are useful to you and if there’s anything else you can think of to help improve them, let us know.

  • By Lynette Reply

    Thanks to you I have downloaded ActiveInspire onto my lap top and I use your programs to add interest and energy to my lessons. I was one of those who was confused by the whiteboards but with you valuable advice I am up and running and the children are loving it.

    • By janice Reply

      Thank you so much for your kind feedback Lynette. We are always so energised to hear success stories and you’ve made our day today by telling us yours: ) Would you mind if we shared your comment with others too? We know that many teachers feel confused about interactive whiteboards and we know they’d love to hear that you’ve worked through the issues with it and are loving it!

  • By stacey Reply

    Thank you for all the information about Smart Boards, do the programs you have created also work on a mimio. I appreciated the idea that you don’t need the intranet. I am so excited to download. Can you download to an F drive.

    • By janice Reply

      Hi Stacey,
      Yes no problem. Our products work fine with Mimio boards and yes you can download to whatever drive you like
      Kind Regards,

  • By Debra Reply

    Do you know anything about the BOARD SHARE whiteboard system?
    Will it let you play/interact with interactive whiteboard resources?
    I just can not afford a SMART board at this time.

    • By Janice Reply

      HI Debra,

      There are a great many whiteboard systems on the market – and Board Share is one we’re not familiar with.

      What we do know is that with these systems, its the underlying COMPUTER that is the important thing. The board basically just projects what is on the computer screen, and provides interaction with it, like a mouse or a trackpad does. Therefore most interactive whiteboard systems will work with our content and other content, if you have the appropriate software on the computer that is hooked up to it.

  • By Helen Reply

    I’m an emergency teacher and do not have access to a school computer or network. Can I use an IWB if I take my own laptop?

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Helen,
      Most schools allow you to use your own laptop and plug it into their IWBs – you should however check with the school if they allow that.

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