Interactive Whiteboards vs. Traditional Blackboards in Education

Interactive whiteboards are gradually replacing traditional blackboards and whiteboards in classrooms all across the world; the UK and Ireland are not exceptions to this trend. More teachers have dropped the chalk to teach with a mouse, stylus, and a swipe of their index finger (on touch screens).

However, there are still plenty of educational establishments that are yet to embrace the benefits of using interactive whiteboard technology. What are these benefits? How does a traditional blackboard compare? Let’s find out!

Enhanced visualisation for teachers and students
With interactive whiteboards, it has become possible to incorporate high definition images, video and graphics into lessons. This has made it easier for difficult concepts to be explained to students in a visual manner, keeping them more engaged in class sessions. Research suggests that students are more likely to enjoy a class session where videos and quality images are displayed on a high definition screen.Interactive Whiteboard

Some argue that such interactive media opens up learning to people with more ‘visual learning styles’. The reality is that we are all visual beings. Somewhere around 75% of our brains are given up to processing visual information. We process graphical information much faster than we do text and audio. Psychologists have discovered that when we read we have to identify every line and curve in writing, it takes a tremendous amount of brain power and the ‘brain effort’ does not reduce significantly with experience.

The recall of text based lecture materials is only about 10-20%, whereas it is upwards of 65% with the incorporation of rich visual media.

The multimedia stimuli presented to students learning from an interactive whiteboard are on a different level to those in a classroom relying on a traditional blackboard. Images had their place in traditional teaching environments, hand-outs, books and posters all had a role to play, however these only allowed for a 2 dimensional experience, and are intrinsically limited compared to the rich media used in technology enabled classrooms today.

Better display of student projects
With interactive whiteboards, student projects can be displayed on a big screen for digestion and scrutiny by the class. This has a positive effect on the psyche of the student body, creating a sense of community, competition and engagement. With traditional blackboards, a separate arrangement for projection systems and projection screens must be made to display information in this manner. Even with an overhead projector it is hard to make a truly engaging atmosphere.

Better interaction and collaboration
The best interactive whiteboard solutions, like the SMART Board 885ix2, and SMART Board 800 series, make collaboration among classroom stakeholders simpler than ever before. They allow annotations, manipulation of content, surveys, connection through smartphones and so much more. Collaborative activities have led to spikes in student interest in just about every research case study.


A traditional blackboard limits collaboration as only one individual can realistically use the board effectively at any given time. It is also difficult to make annotations or add new content without wiping off the old content. A blackboard or static whiteboard can be a very good basic sketch pad, but without the ability to share information, and really interact with the content, it falls far short of an interactive whiteboard.

A good analogy is that an interactive whiteboard is like a complete brain. There is a visual sketchpad, short and long term memory functions, and an easily searchable unlimited recall system, driven by associative connections, and so on. A traditional board is like being limited to having only a short term visual sketchpad.

All of this goes to show why more education institutions are embracing interactive whiteboard technology.

Here are some examples of education institutions that have deployed interactive whiteboard technology, and the benefits that they are accruing.

Forest and La Houguette Schools, Guernsey
In a bid to drastically improve the learning experience for their students, this school recently installed SMART 580 boards in all of their classrooms. The project was financed by the PTA, in partnership with the local business community.

Following the installation of the technology, the schools have recorded tremendous improvements in both the teaching and learning outcomes in all aspects of the schools’ curriculum. The schools also became the first to teach primary level mathematics with software that was specifically designed to be used on an interactive whiteboard.

Ladyswell National School, Dublin
This school recently installed SMART interactive whiteboards in their classrooms. One noteworthy feature of the whiteboards deployed is SMART Response. This polling feature makes it possible for students to answer questions from their seats, with scores computed on the big screen. The interactivity of the system not only improved interest and motivation metrics, but also improved academic results.

Brediland Primary School, Paisely
Brediland Primary School was seeking new ways to enhance the learning environment in their classrooms and, again, chose to install the SMART range of interactive whiteboards.

The whiteboards helped them break down learning and engagement barriers that had up to then made the learning experience less pleasurable for pupils. The interactive whiteboards have facilitated better child engagement and created an atmosphere of active rather than passive learning. The headmaster explains that the new tools have helped pupils to “think and learn in new ways”.

Gaelscoil O’Doghair, Limerick County
The SMART interactive whiteboards installed in this school gave teachers more flexibility and variety in their teaching methods. There has been a significant increase in the imagination and creativity of lessons. This has led to increasingly positive pupil satisfaction metrics. Previously ‘difficult’ children have shown increased motivation, and better academic results. The SMART interactive whiteboards have also helped the teachers to identify the different learning styles of different members of their classroom.

These are just a few examples of how interactive whiteboards are revolutionising the learning experience across the UK and Ireland. Schools, Colleges and Universities are increasingly turning to new technology to facilitate learning, and tap into the power of new media information. It seems likely that it is only a matter of time before interactive whiteboards become the norm in all teaching environments.