A Beginners Guide to Whiteboards
Many years ago, some bright spark realised that you could make easily erasable marks on a slate using simple chalk - and the blackboard was born. Blackboards are great, in their way, but they have two significant disadvantages – chalk leaves powder everywhere (even dustless chalk!) and the slate is either thin enough to be carried, but brittle, or thick and too heavy to move.
Another bright spark then invented the chalkboard. This is a flat surface, usually wood or glass, painted with a special paint that allows you to write on it using chalk. While these are a significant improvement on slate, top quality ones use thick glass which is also heavy, and you still have the problem of chalk dust. Plus, over time, the surface degrades, and the writing becomes invisible.
Blackboards and chalkboards require a lot of maintenance to keep them in tip-top condition. They need to be washed clean, re-primed and repainted on a regular basis, as well as the area around the board hoovered at least daily to keep chalk dust to a minimum.
Which is why the whiteboard has become so much more popular in recent years. Early models still required wet cleaning, unlike today's dry wipe boards, but once the dry erase marker pen was developed, it was clear that they had huge advantages over chalk.
Whiteboards are found everywhere these days. Offices use them to plan workloads and holidays, brainstorm for projects and present findings. Restaurants, cafes and shops use them to display menus and special offers (especially pre-printed ones where they write in the current prices). Educational establishments use them to present work and guide learning. Anywhere that a temporary message needs to be displayed you’ll find a use for a whiteboard.
Types of whiteboard
Another reason for the popularity of whiteboards is the number of different variants that are available. We're all familiar with the large wall mounted type – we've seen them in TV programmes where the detective is putting a case together, or a teacher is making a point to a class. Wall-mounted whiteboards are easy to fit, many models being light enough that they can be fixed to partition walls. And, they come in a huge range of sizes, from A4 to several metres to a side, depending on the application.
Modern wall mounted whiteboards don’t even have to be white. Glass dry-wipe boards come in a variety of colours, but still have the ease of erasure and low maintenance of the more traditional type.
Sometimes you don’t want a fixed whiteboard. Perhaps you have seminar rooms created from sliding partitions as required so fitting a whiteboard is impossible. Perhaps you want a temporary sign that can be placed outside to provide directions or to advertise a daily special. Mobile Whiteboards are available in many different designs and often have extra features such as providing a space to hand a flipchart pad, rotating so you can bring a pre-drawn diagram into view during a meeting or pivoting to increase the writing space available. Mobile whiteboards also have the advantage that one side can be gridded using gridding tape or magnets, perhaps for planning holiday leave, while the other remains clear for general notes and discussion.
Very small whiteboards can be used instead of paper for taking transient notes. Schools often use thin A4 sized portable whiteboards to allow children to answer questions and hold up their response in group sessions or to practice handwriting.
The other big choice to make is whether you need Magnetic Whiteboards or not. Magnetic whiteboards use a thin layer of magnetic material underneath the whiteboard to allow magnets to be affixed to the board.
There are lots of different magnetic accessories that can be used with magnetic whiteboards, including magnetic gridding tape, numbers and letters as well as simple round magnets that can be used like pins to hold paper onto the board.
Magnetic whiteboards can be useful where paper-based resources need to be combined with easily erasable marks – during a brainstorming session or work-planning meeting perhaps. Young children like using chunky magnetic letters on whiteboards, often in conjunction with a pen, to draw pictures and practise handwriting.
On the other hand, magnetic whiteboards are more expensive. While the cost difference may be negligible if you are buying one whiteboard it can quickly add up to hundreds of pounds across an entire organisation. If you want a whiteboard with a permanent layout - to create a reusable calendar or to divide up into different lists a non-magnetic whiteboard and self-adhesive gridding tape may be a good compromise.
Care of whiteboards
Whiteboards are far lower maintenance than blackboards, mainly due to the lack of dust from the chalk. On a day to day basis, all your whiteboard needs is for you to ensure that only whiteboard pens are used on the surface and a whiteboard eraser to wipe off notes when they are no longer needed.
Over time your eraser will get dirty. If it no longer cleans adequately, then you will need to purchase a new one. Some models come with peel-able or replaceable pads to keep waste a minimum.
Small, stubborn marks can be erased by taking extra care and using circular motions. Sometimes scribbling over the top and wiping again will help or you can try a damp cloth. If the board has been left for a long time with writing on it, then it will need to be sprayed with dedicated whiteboard cleaner or wiped with a whiteboard wet wipe to dislodge the marks. Dry the board carefully with a clean cloth or paper towels, being sure to get right up to the edges.
If a permanent marker is accidentally used, then scribbling over it using a normal whiteboard pen can lift the ink allowing you to clean the board as normal. You may need two or three attempts before all the permanent ink is removed. Prevention is better than cure, so in future make sure that everyone knows what pens to use.