Pimp My Whiteboard

My school is finally jumping on the smart board bandwagon and installing several dozen Hitachi Starboards over the coming months. My understanding is that by the time the next school year starts, every instructional space will have one, and that this is part of an initiative to have our school be a model of technology use in our city (I would rather have a one-to-one program, but I’m not one to inspect the oral cavities of equine gifts). I was fortunate enough to be in the initial pilot group, so in mid February the school installed one in my room along with an Elmo document camera. I didn’t have any formal training for the Starboard since I was out of town on school trips and conferences for both sessions, but I’ve been playing around with it and collaborating with my common planning colleague. I’ve always thought that smart boards had more applications in the maths and sciences where graphing was important, but I’ve also seen several distinct uses in high-school level humanities that I presented to my department at the last meeting: Categorization, Annotation, and Visual Notes.


This can be either what I call prepped (with all information typed on the board beforehand) or unprepped (when the teacher or students writes/types on the board, which adds a surprisingly long time – writing on the Starboard is cumbersome and innacurate). In this example, I have students drag flags to the appropriate spot on the scale:

Likert Scale

And in this one, students categorize attributes of three major monotheistic religions (notice that the, er, last two or three entries were put in only for presentation to my colleagues…):

Categorization example 2


The Starboard can import Word files and the like – although it imports them as images, not text. Once this is done you can mark up the passages as you like, highlighting and adding handwritten notes in the margin. I do this to analyze sample essays to identify claims, topic sentences, evidence, etc.

Visual notes

It’s not as beautiful as using Prezi, but the Starboard’s pan, zoom, and annotation features combine powerfully with graphic organizers to produce solid visual notes that can be either completely done in advance or annotated around a skeleton of main ideas, as in these two examples:

Visual notes 1

Visual notes 2