• How To Get The Most From Your Interactive Whiteboard

One of technology's best features is that it makes everything interactive. The old-school whiteboard is no exception. Interactive whiteboards lend some 21st-century magic to a product that first emerged in the sixties.

Instead of drawing on an interactive whiteboard with your dry eraser, you use a finger or a digital pen designed to work with the board. The board interprets your touch and displays those virtual marks.

There are two types of interactive whiteboard. The first senses what you're drawing using various technologies ranging from infrared beams to pens using ultrasonic or light beam technology. It then uses a short-throw projector, typically mounted to the ceiling, that projects that image onto the whiteboard surface. Projectors can give you a large image, which is useful for bigger rooms and audiences.

An alternative version involves a stand-alone touch-enabled display, and typically pen capabilities. These can be more expensive than projector options but give you a brighter image than a projector and aren't as affected by ambient lighting. They're also typically easier to mount than projection systems.

No matter which option you choose, you're going to spend well over a thousand pounds on a decent unit. With that investment, you'd better take full advantage of it. Here's how:

Use it for more than videos and slides

Using an interactive whiteboard just to show PowerPoint slides is like buying a sports car for grocery runs. What's the point of buying all that extra power if you're not going to use it? Write and draw on it, and have others in the team do the same.

These devices are supposed to be tactile. Use your fingers or a pen to write and draw. It's a more visceral experience than screen sharing. Make use of the software that comes with the board to enhance your input. Some models offer handwriting recognition, enabling you to convert your writing into text.

Use innovative presentation software

If you're going to use presentation software, make your presentations appropriate for an interactive whiteboard. PowerPoint presentations don't have to be dull but often are. Think of ways to jazz them up by making them interactive. Alternatively, switch to a visually exciting alternative like Prezi, which features presentations that zoom and move around.

Foster team collaboration

Collaboration is key in modern work environments, so it's important to let people work on the whiteboard together. Let people manipulate the system as members of a team to build things together.

Using an interactive whiteboard as a collaborative tool might come easily to progressive teachers in an education environment, but it could mean rethinking your meeting formats in a business context. Think carefully about individual product features here. Some models enable you to record meeting participants, for example, and throw their video up on the board. How might you use that in team building or training sessions?

Move from work-in-presentation to work-in-progress

Traditional projector environments lend themselves to presenting finished work. As devices that encourage interactivity and collaboration, whiteboards invite team contribution. Approach interactive whiteboard-powered meetings with a different perspective, asking people to comment on work in progress and throw their own ideas onto the board - perhaps cast wirelessly from a connected laptop - so that you can capture and manipulate directly.

Create continuity after the session

On that note, use the interactive whiteboard to preserve those ideas. Many whiteboards feature the option to capture screens and convert them into files for distribution. This gives everyone an instant snapshot of an entire session and keeps the energy going long after the board has shut down.

Make them a hub for remote teams

Finally, consider how a whiteboard might be an asset in a post-pandemic world. The workplace will look very different as we get used to coping with COVID-19. People will return to work, but not en masse. In many cases, people will work from home more, making remote collaboration more important. Many interactive whiteboards now feature video conferencing, complete with cameras, enabling others to interact with teams remotely.

With all these possibilities, interactive whiteboards promise to be an invaluable aid for organisations with the imagination and capacity to put them to full use. Whether you're a school, college, university, or commercial office, these innovative devices offer plenty of ways to enhance your communication and productivity.