Interactive Whiteboards in Australia

News, ideas and discussion about interactive whiteboards in education

Using Google Earth in the primary classroom – ECAWA presentation

Posted by rosiemacalpine on July 16, 2009

Today (and tomorrow) I’m going to lead a session on how to use Google Earth in the primary classroom more effectively. So I’m putting the links up here so that teachers have got easy access to them during the session.

1. Gmap pedometer

This Google maps mashup provides an easy way to estimate and measure routes and distances.


2. Google Lit trips

Download the Google tours to add a new dimension to a book.


3. AR Sights

You have to see it to believe it!



4. Promethean Planet

To see the Activsoftware layers function.


I’ve taken screenshots of each part of my presentation and added it to a PowerPoint (which means it’s not interactive anymore, but might still be useful. Click here to download the PowerPoint.


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Using Prezi on the IWB

Posted by rosiemacalpine on June 18, 2009

Prezi is a presentation tool (similar to Power Point). But instead of following a linear format, Prezi viewers can choose the part of the presentation that they wish to see and zoom in – then zoom out to see an overview of the whole topic.


On the Prezi showcase board, there are some education examples but most of the ones I’ve seen are examples of secondary topics. I wondered if there is a value in using this in primary education, particularly for storytelling?

The screenshot below shows the overview of Miss Muffet. If you click on the picture, you can view the actual presentation on the Prezi site (or click on this link Click on the arrows in the bottom right corner of the screen to see the presentation in order, or zoom in (click on a word or picture) and zoom out (double click elsewhere on the screen) to visit the images and text in any order.


If you watch a Prezi on your computer screen and click through quickly, it can be a bit nauseating as it zooms from one topic to another. But when you are using it with a class on an IWB, this wouldn’t be a problem as the pace of the presentation would be much slower.

Like a lot of people, I have an aversion to using Power Point or other static presentations on an IWB. But I think Prezi could be a bit different as it offers choice and ‘links’ which make it much more interesting and interactive. It’s also possible to use it a bit like Deep Zoom and hide images and text by making them very small then zooming in.

Possible other educational uses:

Asking children to prepare presentations/ interactive tutorials using the software

Showing the layers of the earth, the food chain, etc by using the zooming feature

Using it with a desktop overlay function to predict the order of something e.g. events in the Civil War, sentence structure – then playing the presentation to see if they are correct. I’ve played with a basic sentence structure example here.

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Using IWBs in a secondary school

Posted by rosiemacalpine on June 16, 2009

As part of my work, I visit primary and secondary school to help them learn how to use the software and integrate this technology into their classrooms.

Introducing IWBs in primary school is easy. Primary teachers love the idea of highly visual, interactive activities for their children. When you combine this with the wealth of free interactive resources that exist for this age group, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.

It can be more of a challenge for secondary teachers. (A disclaimer – I have never taught in a secondary school, so the following is based on comments and observations of secondary teachers). The curriculum is more demanding, and usually doesn’t allow much time for the type of exploration that works so well on the IWB. The physical set up of the classroom can make IWBs more of a challenge too.

Having said that, I’ve met lots of teachers in secondary schools who love their IWB and wouldn’t be without it. Here are just a few ways that I’ve seen these teachers use this technology to enhance their teaching.


  • Use MathType or EquationEditor (Word) to write equations then paste them into flipcharts
  • Use existing software such as GeoGebra to investigate shape.
  • Use Promethean’s maths tools (such as a calculator, protractor and compass) to demonstrate concepts.


  • Embed Java and flash science animations into your flipchart
  • Snapshot and label diagrams
  • Use annotations to demonstrate how things move on the board (e.g. dots for particles)


  • Use the deconstruct text method to pull keywords from a text
  • Embed videos into a flipchart and then use the built-in video snapshot (ActivInspire) to take snapshots of scenes for viewing activities
  • Use Promethean’s free Manga Shakespeare resources to bring a modern day perspective to the writing

Design and technology

  • Embed YouTube and other videos showing correct use of tools, cooking techniques etc.
  • Use the resources with your whiteboard to sort food in correct food groups

Phys Ed

  • Put a large playing field or court on your board. Drag pictures of players onto the board to demonstrate where and how they can move
  • Watch videos showing correct game techniques

Business studies

  • Use the Tablet Panel in Vista to write directly into Excel spreadsheets
  • Drag highlighted labels onto a credit/ debit sheet to identify the matching pairs


  • Use fonts from other languages (e.g. Japanese) and type in these fonts on your board
  • Use the microphone to record correct pronunciation of words
  • Drag and drop to match pictures and words together
  • Match the word and the correct translation
  • Rearrange a sentence into the correct sentence structure


  • Visit virtual museums and galleries and use the snapshot to collect the images for your class
  • Use free programs like ArtRage to draw and paint on the board


  • Scan books, workbooks and worksheets and then write on them on your IWB
  • Use the camera tool to snapshot and enlarge diagrams and pictures from the web
  • Look for high quality interactive websites which enhance your subject. Ask students for ideas – they often have superior web browsing skills!

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Poisson Rouge – a site without language

Posted by rosiemacalpine on May 14, 2009

There are lots of lovely websites for young children that you explore in a class setting. But what if you want your children to navigate the site independently? Most website rely on some language prompts such as instructions or labelled buttons or menus to guide navigation.

Poisson Rouge is different. This flash based site opens with a colourful playroom. Click on the toy you’d like to play with, then explore! Sometimes you need to hover, sometimes click and drag. It’s a wonderful opportunity for children to work in small independent groups to solve problems. So fire up your board, stand back, and let your children investigate!


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Making interactive 3D prisms in ActivInspire

Posted by rosiemacalpine on April 13, 2009


This idea was suggested by some maths teachers at a local high school. I was intrigued by the connectors (lines which ‘glue’ shapes together) in ActivInspire, but hadn’t quite worked out what to do with them! I think this was a really clever and useful idea.

Click the video below to see how you can use the shapes. Remember that a personal edition of ActivInspire can be downloaded from Promethean Planet and can be used by any teacher, regardless of the type of board you use.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you want to see an ActivInspire flipchart with these shapes, click on the link below to download the flipchart. You will need to install the ActivInspire software (if you haven’t already done so) before you can view the flipchart.

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Lexipedia online dictionary

Posted by rosiemacalpine on April 6, 2009

Last year, I posted about Visuwords, a lovely interactive online dictionary that looks great on an IWB. I’ve found another great one (actually I think it’s even better) called Lexipedia.

Like Visuwords, you enter a word into the search category and are then presented with a web of words, colour-coded by type (verb, noun etc). You can hover over a word to see a definition, and click and drag the web around the page.

The categories are easier to distinguish than Visuwords, but my favourite feature by far on this site is the ability to filter the types of words. In the screenshots below, I’ve searched for the word screen. In the first shot, all the results are shown. Then in the second shot, I’ve clicked on the nouns link to only display nouns. The third screen shot shows only verbs. This would be a fantastic way to explore and identify different word types.





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Using timers on the IWB

Posted by rosiemacalpine on March 30, 2009

When I used an IWB in a classroom with young children, an onscreen timer was one of the tools that I used several times a day on the board. I noticed a rapid improvement in their ability to monitor their own work pace and ability to complete tasks within a given time frame. I used the timer for the following tasks:

  • Silent think time about your story before you share your idea with your partner: 30 seconds
  • Finish your writing before recess: 20 minutes
  • Time on a learning station before your group rotates to the next station: 10 minutes
  • Time to read your book silently before you finish your spelling: 5 minutes

In this post, I will showcase some of the timers included in the Promethean software in addition to timers available on the internet (for all IWBs). I have restricted the choice to timers that you can set at the board (no keyboard required – with one exception).

1. Timers in Activstudio V3

Clock/ countdown timer


You can access this timer by adding the clock to your Toolbox, clicking on the icon and choosing countdown. You can choose from several different sounds or even add your own. You can also set actions to occur at the end of the time e.g. turn the page, take a snapshot of the page.


Resource library timers (Flash)

You can find these timers in Shared ACTivities> Gadgets and Widgets> Timers


My favourite is the candle which melts as the time ticks by.


2. Timers in ActivInspire

Clock/ countdown timer

You can access this timer from the Tools menu or by clicking on the hammer and spanner icon on the Toolbox.

I don’t think it’s quite as user friendly as the timer in Activstudio, as you have to open the clock then choose the countdown option. But the other features are the same.


Resource library timers

In addition to the timers in Activstudio (which you still have access to), this timer has also been added to Inspire in Lesson Building Tools> Gadgets


This is a nice simple flash based timer but doesn’t have any sound attached. It is available in a few different colours.


3. Online timers.

There is a huge number of online stopwatches and countdown clocks, but the majority of them require you to use a keyboard to enter the time at the board. You could use the onscreen keyboard, but I prefer to skip this step if I can. Here are three keyboard-less stop clocks (and one notable exception).


This is a full screen stopwatch with large buttons which is easy to set at the board. A timer sounds when the timer is completed.


This stop clock is from the same source as the counter above but uses a nice sand timer as a display rather than numbers.

In addition to an alarm, the full screen picture flashes red when the time has finished, making it suitable for hearing impaired children.


This is a simple javascript timer which is also easy to set on the board.

This is the only timer I used that requires a keyboard to set the time. The great thing about this timer is that you can set the time directly into the web browser. Simply type  and then type a time after the slash – 4 days, or 3 hours, or 20 minutes etc. I mostly use this to monitor my own work. The remaining time is displayed in hours, minutes and seconds.


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Online IWB

Posted by rosiemacalpine on March 16, 2009

Skrbl is an online IWB with simple writing and drawing features but very interesting collaboration possibilities.


You can type, draw or write freehand, and use straight lines and shapes in your drawings.

The most interesting thing about skrbl is the ability to share your work with other people. The paid version ($10 a month) includes video conferencing and all sorts of interesting things. But it would be easy to get started with the free version. How about using it to play a game with another class in the school (such as guess my number, 20 questions (If the teachers also used their mobile, this could be very effective!) Or you might want to collaborate with another class to brainstorm a solution to a problem e.g. “how can we reduce the amount of rubbish in the school?” The Year 2 class could use red ink, while Year 5 use blue to differentiate the ideas.

You could also use the board for collaborating with schools in other parts of the country, or the world! Using MSN or Skype in another window could help co-ordinate turn taking etc. A question like “Describe your town” with categories such as shops, parks, people, favourite things etc. could be very interesting for both classes.

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Ripping images from Google to use in flipcharts

Posted by rosiemacalpine on March 10, 2009

Before discovering Dear Computer, Google Images was my main source of images for flipcharts. Particularly since I discovered that you can search by size, type (e.g. line drawings, photos) or colour. Here’s a previous post about these features.

Since I’ve found the advantages of Dear Computer, this has become my first stop for images. You can narrow a search in the same way as you can using Google Images, (as it is still using Google to look for the images) but Dear Computer saves you two clicks for every image you see. That might not sound like much, but it’s easy to browse through multiple images for a flipchart before you find what you are looking for.

Here’s the results of a Google Image search for simple machines:


If I want to look at the third thumbnail along, I click on it to go to the page with the image. Then I need to click the link at the top of the page to see the full sized image.

Searching for Simple Machines in Dear Computer puts all the images in their full size on the page.


Then I can just use the camera tool to grab the images that I would like, or right-click> copy then paste them on my flipchart page.

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Splicd – how to chop YouTube videos to a single segment

Posted by rosiemacalpine on March 3, 2009

Splicd is a website that allows you to view any YouTube video on your IWB, but overcomes three common problems with using YouTube in the classroom:

1. YouTube is blocked on some school systems

2. You may just want to show a portion of a video and it’s difficult to get to the right point.

3. The video you’ve chosen is appropriate for the classroom, but user comments or related videos (displayed on the page) are not.

Splicd lets you paste the URL of a YouTube video, and then choose the start and end point. You can then link directly to that video (or download it with RealPlayer see a previous post on this) and watch only the segment you want. There are a few ads but I haven’t seen any that are inappropriate.

Here’s an example of how you might use the service. You would like to show a section of ‘The Godfather’ which includes a traditional Roman Catholic christening. Unfortunately, the YouTube clip also shows the planning of a mob murder! Here’s the clip on YouTube:

And here’s the clip on Splicd, only showing the clip from 1:50 to 2:18 (sans mob murder)

EDIT: unfortunately, embedding the clip in my blog means that it keeps playing after 2.18. It won’t do this when you use it within Splicd.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

You can still view the entire clip by linking from Splicd, so it’s not safe for students to use unsupervised. But it’s a useful workaround for using YouTube with the whole class.

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