Interactive Whiteboards in Australia

News, ideas and discussion about interactive whiteboards in education

Downloading flash from the internet to use in flipcharts

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 23, 2009

Flash files are (usually) interactive animations that work particularly on interactive whiteboards. You have probably seen them in two places.

1. The internet. Below are some screenshot examples of flash animations.


2. In your IWB software . Below are three examples of flash animations included in the Promethean Activstudio resource library.


Did you know that you can download flash files from the internet to use them directly in your flipcharts? The advantages of downloading rather than linking to the web include:

  • Using the resources even when you don’t have access to the internet
  • Ability to resize the flash animations (so you can fit other resources on the page. For example, you might want to write on the board every random number shown to see if a pattern emerges)
  • Ability to annotate over the top of the animations
  • Keeping all your regularly used activities in one place
  • Use more than one animation on one page

I’ve found the best way of downloading flash files is to use Internet Explorer’s Temporary Internet Files folder (I haven’t yet found an easy way of doing this with Firefox.)

1. Navigate to the page with Internet Explorer.

2. Watch the animation.


3. Click on the Tools button or menu, and go to Internet Options.

4. Click the Settings button under Browsing History on the first tab. Then click View Files.


5. The animation you have just watched will be at or near the top of the list of files (it will end with .swf) . I find it easiest to drag it from this folder onto a flipchart page now.  (If you get a pop-up box, choose ‘add placeholder’).

6. Now you can watch it in your flipchart, and drag it into your resource library to save it.

I save a shortcut to this Temporary Internet Files folder on my desktop, so it’s easy to get to.

Remember this is the same as copying text or images from the internet, so check copyright.


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Great websites for exploring 3D shapes

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 20, 2009

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Recently I posted on Google Sketchup, and how this program could be used to explore the properties of 3D shapes with primary or secondary students. Today’s post focuses on websites that work well on an IWB and provide an introduction to 3D shapes for primary students. They are listed in order of difficulty for students, starting with easy.

1. Buried 3D shapes

This one has been around for a while but is still extremely popular. It features half buried or obscured shapes which need to be matched with their name. By clicking on the name, students can also listen to the correct pronunciation of the word. And the images used are unusual and intriguing – a nice change from the usual primary colour scheme.


2. 3D shapes

This flash resource from Birmingham Learning Grid is the best one I’ve seen for the concept. It starts with an comparison of 1, 2 and 3D (which increased my understanding of the concept too!) and then provides 11 different 3D shapes that you can take a closer look at – not just the usual 4 or 5 shapes. When you click on each shape, you get a written description of the shape, the net and a 3D model that you can rotate to view.

image image

3. Mathsnet interactive geometry

There’s two activities on this site that I find particularly useful with teaching 3D shapes. Both of the them look at different ways of viewing 3D models (particularly those constructed from cubes). In both activities, you can grab the pen shape with your finger or pen, and rotate it until it matches the silhouette view shown on the right hand side. The website itself is not very clear to use, but these activities are very good.



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Fascinating photos on the IWB

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 16, 2009

Showing interesting photos to your class can be a great way to engage in a topic or discover more about the world. Here’s four great sites that you can explore with your class.

National Geographic imagesimage

This is a great source for photos of the natural world and a range of cultures. In my class, we clicked on the link for “Photo of the Day” every morning. After we had viewed and talked about the photo, we did a right-click on the photo and choose ‘Set as Desktop Background’ so we could see it all day.

This website showcases a news event from somewhere around the world each day and features high quality photos of the event. It’s updated every few days. Recent topics include:

  • A giant spider art installation in Liverpool, UK
  • Bushfires in Victoria, Australia
  • China’s lantern festival in Beijing
  • London from above, at night
  • African migrants to Europe


This intriguing project by photographer Simon Hoegsberg is 100 metres long! It features 178 people that he photographed from a railway bridge in Berlin. The photos are honest and revealing. Unfortunately the title may make it unsuitable for primary classes. There’s lots of interesting possibilities of exploring topics like relationships, emotion, differences, body language, preconceptions etc in these photos.

In the snapshot below I’ve used the blind tool to cover the title bar, and minimized the start bar so I could use this with a class without them seeing a distressing title (there’s nothing in the content that is unsuitable, just the title!) You use the slider bar at the bottom of the screen to browse through the images.


LIFE magazine on Google Images

LIFE have added all their previous photos to Google Images so you can search for these fascinating historical pictures. As a US magazine, there’s an understandable bias for US content, but well worth a look for people in other countries too.



Here’s some off-the-cuff ideas about how to use the photos interactively on your whiteboard:

  • Students use the camera tool to photograph a favourite part of an image. View everyone’s favourites and discuss at the end of the lesson.
  • Use the spotlight tool to cover the image. Ask students to guess what it is, or rest the spotlight on one portion of it to focus their attention.
  • Use the pen tool to annotate over the picture. For example, you might get students to use a red pen to circle all the 1940’s artefacts in one of the LIFE photographs.
  • Use the sound recorder to add voices to people in stories.
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Search images with Tag Galaxy

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 13, 2009

Tag Galaxy is a Flickr photo search that displays the results in a beautiful and unique way.

When you go to the site, you are asked to enter a keyword. I entered Perth and got this result:



This lovely galaxy of tags rotates slowly. It’s an excellent way to see what keywords or tags are associated with a topic (remembering that these are user photos). If I click on one of the smaller planets (e.g. Beach) a new galaxy with new keywords will open up. 



When I click on the central planet in any galaxy, photos from Flickr with those tags fly on to the planet.



You can then rotate the globe with your pen or finger, and double click on any image to see a larger size.


Flickr images are moderated, so you can feel reasonably safe to do the search in front of a class. However, it never hurts to do a quick search before they arrive, just in case anything unexpected appears!

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Recording your work on the IWB with Jing

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 11, 2009

Jing is a free piece of screen casting software. A screencast is a video which records everything you do on your computer + your voice. The embedded video below is an example of a screencast which I made showing how to make a jigsaw in Activsoftware.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you use Promethean Activsoftware or SMART notebook, you might have used the recording tools in the software to make your own screencasts. Jing has a similar function. The big advantage of Jing is that your screencast is automatically uploaded to the internet (at a site called and the link of the video copied on to your clipboard. You can make a screencast, paste the link into an email to students or add to the school’s portal, and students can watch your video at home.

You can also use Jing for student assessment. Students can record their work at the interactive whiteboard and narrate their activities, then upload them to the website where you can review them later (HINT: get each student to start their assessment by speaking or writing their name on the board!) This can provide really valuable feedback about their understanding of a concept. Here are five ideas of how to use recording in different subject areas:

1. Science. Draw 3 containers and label them solids, liquids and gases. Students fill the containers with dots to show the difference in distribution and how the particles can move.

image 2. SOSE (social studies, geography). Provide a page with oceans and clouds. Ask students to add arrows and pictures if necessary to show the five things that a hurricane needs.

3. Primary numeracy. Provide pictures for students to tell a number story to illustrate a concept. This can be used for addition, division, fractions, negative numbers etc.


4. Secondary maths. Students record how they can rearrange an equation or complete a maths problem, explaining their reasoning of each step (e.g. ‘when I put the five on the other side of the equals sign, it becomes a negative number’).

5. ICT / computing. Jing will record any thing that happens on your computer. Students can demonstrate how they would complete a task in any piece of software or within the OS.

This is a really valuable assessment tool. If necessary, you can watch these videos back with the student to explain any errors. You can pause the video at the right spot (‘you see where you took the five to the other side of the equation? What did you need to change there?’) These videos can be watched by anyone with an internet connection, so the web link of the video can also be sent to parents for review.

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Going back in time with Google Earth (part one: how to)

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 9, 2009

Google Earth have released a significant new update which has some lovely new features (which all look fab on a IWB). To get the new update, go to the Tools menu in Google Earth and choose Check for Updates Online. Click the download button in the dialogue box which will take you to a web download. Once it’s downloaded, restart Google Earth.

One of the new features that I really like is the historical imagery feature. When you click on the clock button you get a sliding scale and you can explore the satellite imagery for different dates. So far, I’ve just seen dates ranging from 2002 – 2009, but apparently some parts of the US include imagery as far back as the 1950’s.


I then used this feature in a flipchart, so it was easier to compare the views. Promethean Activsoftware includes a feature called Magic Ink which allows you to see through a picture to see another picture hidden underneath. I used the camera tool to take snapshots of each view in of the map.

Then I stacked the pictures on top of each other (2009 picture on top) put the latest view on the top layer and then added a magnifying glass to see through to the 2003 layer. Look carefully at the magnifying glass in the picture. You will see half of a building in the magnifying circle (2003) which had been demolished in the rest of the picture (2009). image

I think this feature works really well as it allows you to directly compare different parts of the picture.
There’s a good post on the new features in this Google Earth version at the Google Earth blog.

If you have Activstudio or Activprimary software, you can download my flipchart showing this feature here.

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Viewing a 3D interactive model of the human body on

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 6, 2009


Visiblebody is a fantastic website that allows you to contrast and compare the systems of the human body.

It’s free to register and can be used on an interactive whiteboard very effectively.

As you can see from the screenshot, you are able to view any combination of systems on a human body. You can view, hide, or see a transparent view of the systems. This is a particularly useful function. Many anatomy resources only display the organ systems in isolation, but this site develops understanding of human biology by showing the relationship between different parts. You can rotate, pan, and zoom in to any part of the body. This website would be suitable for a basic look at human anatomy in lower primary, up to advanced work in upper secondary and tertiary courses.

This is one website where it’s well worth watching the tutorial video to see how it works. The functions are simple, but not intuitive. I had used it for a while before I realised that I wasn’t getting the full functionality.

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Exploring rare words on an IWB

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 4, 2009 is an interesting dictionary website that would work really well on an IWB in a primary or secondary English class.  I came across on the Cool Websites blog post on

It has a simple but attractive interface, made up of magazine cuttings of rare or out of date words that are no longer used. Hover over a word to see it enlarged, click on the word to see a definition. (There’s a rather irritating sound of ‘ooh, pick me!’ as you hover over the words, but luckily there is a mute button at the bottom of the screen).

Here are five ideas for using it in the classroom:

1.  Choose a student to pick a word. Hover to enlarge but don’t write it down. Ask students to write down possible definitions (silly or sensible) then check the real definition.

2.  Predict the word type: noun, adjective, verb? Predict and hold a class vote before clicking on the word to reveal the answer.

3.  Choose ten words, read the definition for each one, then choose an alternative word or phrase that has a similar meaning.

4.  Use the camera tool to take a snapshot of the word and send to a flipchart, then the definition. Repeat this for about five words. Then challenge student to match the correct word to the correct definition.


5.  Each definition features a sample sentence. Ask students to write another sample sentence featuring the word. 

The language used in the sample sentences are provided on the site make it better suited to an upper primary or secondary students. 

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Running different activities on your interactive whiteboard and computer

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 2, 2009

Usually, whatever you do on your computer monitor shows on your IWB (and vice-versa). But did you know that you can have different activities showing on each one? This might be useful if:

  • Students are writing independently and referring to words on the IWB while they are doing so. You want to be able to use your computer to finish a worksheet for the next activity.
  • A student doing extension work is reading an article on your desktop computer while other students are completing an activity at the board.
  • An educational assistant is using the class computer to make a resource for the class while your class is answering comprehension questions that are written on the IWB.

You won’t be able to interact with both screens at once, but it’s very handy for when you just need to view information on one screen and work on another.

To do this, you need to make your desktop much wider. It will then display over two screens.


On your desktop computer and IWB your extended desktop will run over the two screens and look like this (note that there are no icons on the IWB, indicating that it is one long desktop rather than two identical screens).


To change your set up to extended monitor, right click any part of your background and choose Properties… from the drop down menu.


Click on the setting tab. Then click on the picture of the computer screen on the right (your IWB screen). Now look at the check boxes at the bottom of the dialogue box.


Click ‘Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor’ to put a tick in this box.  Now your desktop will extend over the two screens.

You will need to make a change in the Activstudio settings to put flipcharts on the page. Go to Studio Settings… and select Multiple Monitors in the left hand menu. Change Showing Other Tools from Specific Monitor to Mouse Monitor.


Now you will be able to show flipcharts on one page and work on the computer simultaneously.



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Exploring 3D shapes on an IWB using Google SketchUp

Posted by rosiemacalpine on January 30, 2009

In a recent post on Promethean Planet forums, Mark Robinson suggested using Google SketchUp to create 3D shapes with a class. That prompted me to have a look at the program. I was initially worried that it would be too technical, but the good news is that it is very easy to start looking at shapes on the board. Here’s a quick video showing how to use it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “2009-02-17_1055“, posted with vodpod

Step 1: Download and install.

It’s about 40mb and can be downloaded here

Step 1b (optional): Watch this 3 minute video on how to get started in SketchUp.

Step 2. Open the program


I clicked Choose template, then choose the second simple template, then clicked the button at the bottom (Start using SketchUp)

3. Start drawing!

Click on a square or circle to add shapes to the page. Then use these tools to explore.

image Click on this tool, then click on your flat square or circle, and drag. You’ve turned a flat shape into a 3D shape!

image Click here then drag over your picture to view your shapes from any viewpoint.

image Use the zoom tool to zoom and out.

It’s a powerful program but I really liked that it’s simple enough to get started straight away. I would love to leave this on the board for a group of students, leave them to explore and see what they discover!

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