“Campus Tech: Improving Collaboration with Interactive Whiteboards at King’s College” by David LaMartina first appeared on Edcetera

It’s an all-too-common scenario in both higher education and K-12: students are talking, collaborating, and learning – and the class period ends. Even in high-dollar college courses, students are quick to exit, and the work they do on chalkboards and whiteboards inevitably gets erased. They may retain some of the info and insights they gained, but it’s pretty tough to move learning along when you’re constantly destroying the “hard copies” of your notes.

Fortunately, a variety of low-cost interactive whiteboards are making it far easier for students to collaborate and retain their work. These devices not only replace traditional writing surfaces; they allow users to save, store, and quickly display the work they’ve done with others.

Better Learning through Interaction

At King’s College in Pennsylvania, professor Sunny Weiland has had huge success with Steelcase Education’s Eno Markerboard. The Eno board roughly fills a third of the space of a traditional room-length whiteboard, uses a wireless pen, and allows small study groups to quickly swap files for classroom display. King’s also connects all of its whiteboards to their main data storage system, so all users can download the files they’ve worked on for later viewing and editing. As Weiland notes, “nothing is more terrible than a social learning scenario going on in a classroom, and then the bell rings.”

Weiland mainly uses the board for her education classes, where students prepare individual and small-group presentations for 20 – 30 of their peers. Aside from easy file-swapping, the board facilitates polling, real-time editing, and annotations. She’ll have her students annotate each other’s blogs or slide presentations, and follow up with on-the-spot questions. Overall, she uses the board to encourage deeper understandings through student-to-student collaborations, rather than lecturing. “The Eno really provides me with a great resource to be creative and to push my students to the next level,” she says.

Future Options

Interactive whiteboards are already a big hit among students and professors, and they may be getting even better. Steelcase and other companies are experimenting with wireless functionality, which might allow anyone in a room – or outside the room – to participate and contribute. Students would also be able to instantly upload their own files to the class drive, making it even faster and easier for small groups to share projects.

As useful as Eno and other interactive whiteboards are for in-person classes, they may have even more applications for partially online courses. When everyone’s on the net, the obvious solution is a browser-based chat and “chalkboard.” When everyone is in the room, teachers can still get by with regular markers. But when a traditional course has people tuning in from all over campus – an increasingly common sight – it would sure be helpful for the distance learners to have the same degrees of participation.

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