Throughout years of working with primary-level students, ongoing coursework, and continual reading, I have attempted to remain abreast of current research and to employ methods of instruction that effectively address the diverse learning needs of my students. My desire to create a positive learning environment to engage young children while at the same time recognizing their developmental needs has continued to guide instructional practices in my classroom. This desire to improve my practice and meet children’s needs prompted me to acquire a digital whiteboard for use in my first-grade classroom.
The digital whiteboard and how it works
The digital whiteboard is an electronic version of a dry-erase board. I connected my digital whiteboard to a computer and installed the accompanying software. (Software to configure the board is available for both Macintosh and PC.) I configured the whiteboard so it became the computer’s monitor. The board could be mounted either on the wall or on an adjustable, portable stand.
The digital whiteboard can be written on with regular dry-erase markers. Because it’s electronic and is connected to a computer, electronic “virtual” markers or pens can be used. The markers are virtual in that they contain no ink, and they function by responding to their movement on the surface of the board.
The virtual markers are color-coded but the colors and marker line widths can be reconfigured easily from digital whiteboard software menus. I reconfigured the markers, making some write with thin lines and others with wider lines. I configured one of the markers to serve as a highlighter, leaving a wide fluorescent yellow line. The varying widths and colors were used to code text and conventions of print, sort and classify information in charts and Venn diagrams we created, and make revisions on drafts of stories.
For example, the first graders decided during one writing lesson to identify in red all describing words in our interactive writing exercise. Naming words would be in blue. Coding the text with color allowed students to discuss ways in which the story was made more meaningful with use of descriptive words. I was able to model writing and reading tasks on the large screen and to have some work prepared ahead of class. The digital whiteboard encouraged students to read, highlight, add, and remove print from the text.
The virtual markers were activated when lifted from the pen tray that held them on the digital whiteboard frame. Only one virtual marker could be used at a time. Students quickly learned to replace a marker before selecting another.