I work in a small school, one of many small schools dotted around Australia. Accordingly my professional connections are limited to a small cohort of teachers at my school and my PLN within the wider community. Now since I am active in a number of online networks, most notable twitter, my PLN or Personal Learning Network, is quite wide these days. I learn new things, pick up new tips and grab ideas daily. I then take them into my classroom and school. As I have blogged before, it really doesn’t take much time to keep connected. There are many days I can only spare a few moments, on some none at all. Yet whenever I do, I learn.

So please keep that in mind, while I admit which tool is proving a hit in my classroom this term. I am almost embarrassed to say that I can’t believe I never thought of buying these myself before. What are they, I hear you say? They are personal, portable whiteboards for every student. or as I have heard them say, ‘our own interactive whiteboards’.

I can’t believe my school never had a class set in every room before now, but we didn’t, until I saw this video last holidays. Why did I see that particular video? Well like many others I followed the edublogs awards and so I read this post which won Frank Noschese the edublogs, most influencial blog post award of 2011, for his post ‘The $2 whiteboard’.

So having seen the video and having got the idea, the first thing I did this year was to order a class set of whiteboards for every class at my school. I did try also, to get my large floor length windows painted in whiteboard paint but at the moment that idea is falling into the too hard basket.

So why are the student whiteboards such a hit?  Well so far every time we get them out, the students are excited to have a go. They wil have a go at maths problem solving. They will have a go at quick quizzes. They will have a go at sharing ideas. They will have a go at brainstorming ideas. They  will have a go at spelling words and by that I mean they all have a go. Yes, all of them. So it does not matter who knows the answers and who does not, with a whiteboard in their hands they will all give the task their best shot.

I think it has something to do with the ability to quickly rub answers, thoughts and words out, which cannot be done on paper. So even if they are unsure having a go will not matter, will not brand them a failure, no one else will really notice. Yet for me, a quick glance around the room at their answers keeps me informed. I can see at a glance who understands, who knows, who is unsure, who is copying, who has no idea and who is doodling. As yes, the chance to doodle is definitely there, after all we are talking about ten year olds here!

An example of my maths group creating their own problems can be seen in this photopeach. As you read the problems you will note some are simple, others impossible. Yet the willingness to give it a go and to attempt to solve each others problems was alive and well in the classroom that day.
Real life Problem Solving on PhotoPeach

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  1. Sam

    I love whiteboards, and they can be used anywhere. My year 7’s last year used them to create animations on using frame by frame whether it be to show steps in a maths problem, or to bring to life a cartoon.

    This year, my PREPS are using them with magnetic letters to write sentences, practice forming their letters and they love them!

  2. What a good idea, no one at our school has ever done this either. I’ll be sharing this idea with them. Its all about learning from each other, the digital connections facilitate that and the students subsequently benefit.

  3. woojm

    You won’t believe this, but before I hit your link from twitter, I was thinking along exactly the same lines in my classroom! My year 7 students love ours, which are made from offcuts to whiteboards in classrooms where IWBs have gone in. Our GA sliced and smoothed them for us, and we budgeted for lots of extra pens to use. My best addition? All my children’s old socks (wiggles, Sesame st, thomas etc)-clean- to keep in the cupboard to clean the boards off! For some odd reason, kids love them and fight over which sock to use…I think part of it is the desire to keep their books tidy which as I do not allow liquid paper, is quite a battle in maths. Tuesday I plan to incorporate SRN, mini whiteboards and groupwork in a revision quiz on algebra!

  4. Intresting method. I would like to try whiteboards also with teachers to get in our meetings. There is too much silence in meetings. I’m sure that with this method, there would be a lot of innovations going on.
    I’ve done some animations with students and that would really offer something more to it.

  5. It is such a good idea Henrietta. A way for students to try out an answer but also know that it isn’t permanent and can be changed quickly. I know I could use some in my room for prompting audio responses because we do a lot of voice work. If I let the students use a word processing program they want to write the whole script word for word which negates the whole purpose of making an audio response, but if they had a white board for rough notes I don’t think that would happen.
    Thx for this post

  6. I love the idea of old socks, I have so many! I think we have a sock fairy in my house, I am off to clear out the drawer full of them.

  7. @Jessica_Dubois

    We love individual whiteboards at our school too Henrietta! We have two sizes, one probably close to A3 size and then small ones around 15cm x 10cm. Using whiteboards as you say, takes away that fearful barrier of getting it wrong – a whiteboard can so easily and quickly, before anyone else notices, be wiped clean. They also encourage students to self correct.

    One spelling activity we enjoy is where students will write a spelling word, then rub out a ‘chunk’/blend or letter and pass it to a friend to complete.

    The smaller whiteboards are great for maths – perfect size to write a number, draw a shape, answer a question and hold it up to show each other or the teacher. I could go on!

    I love the sock idea mentioned above. At the moment, I cut new chux wipes in half for students to rub the boards clean. I’m sure you will find many ways to use them in your class. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy 🙂

  8. How about a class set for $7.99?
    In Canada we have a huge hardware depot store called Home Hardware. They sell large sheets of ‘marker board’ In the store they will cut the board down to make personal boards for classrooms. I have purchased huge boards and kept them large so groups can work together on math problems. I also have a set of small boards and a medium board. I’ve seen K teachers screw the boards into the walls at each learning centre. Then kids can write while they are all the centre. House corner-they record shopping lists or write who is playing each role.
    Love whiteboard!

  9. Kylie

    Great post. Whiteboards are definitely great. I use them a few times a week in my prep classroom. The idea that you can have a go then just rub it out and try again is terrific.
    We are trying to figure out the best things to use as erasers. Socks are a great idea, I’ll have to try that. Did anyone one have any other cheap ideas for erasers?

  10. Courtney

    I work for a school in Alabama that uses white boards. They have smaller ones because its an elementary school, but the students really enjoy using them to do their work. They also use the old socks to wipe the work away. The whiteboard idea was great for our school because we were able to cut back on lots of paper use, and also everyone donated LOTS of old mismatched socks. It was a great way to teach the students how something so small like that can help us to “Go Green” and to make use of something like old dirty socks!

  11. Rebecca Warnberg

    I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University if South Alabama. I am studying to be an elementary school teacher. I enjoyed your post because it has inspired me to try using personal white boards in my future classroom. When I was in high school, my math teachers sometime would allow us to use our own white boards and I always enojyed it. I think that giving students an opportunity to actively engage in class and share their thoughts is always better than simply lecturing to them Thank you fo rthe tip! If you would like to visit my blog, here is the address: http://warnbergrebeccaedm310.blogspot.com/
    Rebecca Warnberg