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Published January 10, 2010 | Chemistry

Projecting Whiteboard Content Online

For the past year I have been using an interactive electronic whiteboard, a Smartboard, instead of a conventional blackboard to teach my introductory Organic Chemistry class. Although surprisingly easy to use, this technology has allowed me to dramatically improve student access to the information that I am presenting.

A Smartboard looks like an ordinary whiteboard in the classroom, but this appearance, is deceptive. A data projector beams an image onto the sensitized surface, the whiteboard, which is linked to a computer. By 'writing' on the sensitized whiteboard with special electronic 'pens' a line is projected onto the surface in different colours according to the 'pen' that is used. The image is then recorded on proprietary software. There is an excellent description of this technology in Wikipedia under the heading of 'Interactive Whiteboard'.

Detail of the interface for the software.

One writes and draws as one would on an ordinary board with the advantage that one can add pages as one goes along and then save the file as a pdf which can then be transferred to LEA, a web based content management system (CMS). Students can readily access notes from each day's lecture on Lea. Wikipedia also has a description of CMS technology.

The use of the Smartboard/CMS system is designed to minimize a number of the repetitive comments and questions asked by students including:

  • I wasn't at class yesterday, what did I miss? Do you have a copy of the handout from the last class?
  • How much is the lab worth toward the final mark?
  • What are your office hours?
  • Do you have some old exams I can practice on?
  • Where are the answers to the last class exam?
  • Are there any videos or web sites on the topics you discussed in class?
  • I have lost the course outline. Do you have an extra copy?
  • Did you change my mark on the last exam as you promised?
  • What is the current total of all my grades? What do I need to get on the final exam to pass the course?
  • What is the date of the next exam?
  • What was the class average on the last exam?

The answer to each of these questions is "Please look on Lea". The CMS acts as a repository of all documentation pertinent to the course.

Opening screen in Lea

The opening screen in Lea shows all the different categories within the course management system such as distributed documents online, gradebook, announcements. Note that students can correspond with the instructor by e-mail through this CMS.

A sample of a page of lecture notes created on the Notebook software.

This course requires that students be able to draw molecules and the bonding involved and so the smart board facilitates the "imprinting" feature of learning.

A sample of the summary of the lectures created on the Smartboard and displayed on the CMS.

One can see how frequently each lecture has been accessed by the students. For example the lecture on August 24th was retrieved by 25 students out of a class of 44. One can also see a summary of how many times and why students are accessing the CMS.This gives a sense of how useful the students find the technology. The summary can be filtered in terms of either specific names or specific reasons (actions) that the site was accessed (i.e. for grades, for a specific document,etc.).

Summary of student's actions.

A list of web sites that are related to course material is included on the CMS. YouTube turns out to have a large number of videos related to this course. Note the on-line survey site shown under EVALUATION that can be used by students to voice their opinion on the use of the Smartboard/CMS system and thus serves as a useful feedback tool for the instructor. An on-line grade book is included that the instructor can fill in as the class progresses. Students can only see their grades as well as the well as statistics of the grade distribution.

List of videos related to the course.

List of other websites related to the course.

On-line grade book.

The use of the Smartboard/Lea combination poses the question as to whether it does facilitate learning. If some students stop taking notes because they know they will be posted on the web, how effective is this methodology? More research is required in order to understand how outcomes such as pass rates are influenced by the use of the technologies discussed. The one thing that is certain at this point is that students have used the resources that this technology provides.

Are you using Interactive Whiteboard Technology? Share your experiences with your colleagues around the province by using the Comments feature below.

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