Visual learning strategies using interactive whiteboards: an innovative approach

Written by Doug Gregory
Tuesday, July 11, 2023

This article discusses various visual approaches to problem-solving and its potential application in digital classrooms. It emphasizes using interactive displays, multimedia, and collaborative tools to promote active visual learning and digital storytelling and cater to diverse learning styles.


Albert Einstein never claimed to be the most intelligent person in the world, although he is often considered such. He claimed to be highly curious, questioning things everyone else took for granted or at face value. Like Leonardo da Vinci, he had an insatiable desire to understand the world around him and connect things in novel ways to find simple and elegant truths. Einstein was also noted as a bored student, and if the subject did not capture his interest, he typically only did what was required to pass a class. He didn't learn by rote and detested conventional teaching methods.

After he became one of the first contemporary celebrities, when asked about his nondescript education, he often remarked that standard education processes likely limited the discovery of people who could positively change the world with their minds. Many educators in the past 100 years have certainly had this in mind during their careers.

His oft-quoted critique about judging a fish by how well it flies has helped usher in visual learning as a tool for educators to successfully reach students with learning skills that may be outside the norm, whatever that is. 

Da Vinci – for whom the term "Renaissance Man" was coined – likewise followed tangents of thought in his learning that led him into mechanics, anatomy, physics, and math. All things that are not normally ascribed to the painter of the Mona Lisa. Many of his ground-breaking ideas, often hundreds of years ahead of their time, came from his imaginative doodling and comparing through drawing, ideas that went against conventional thinking and education.

Most educators have little expectation of having the next da Vinci or Einstein in their class, but they often see exceptionally bright students who may not learn the way others do. For those seeking to respond to that challenge, visual learning tools can be critical to their success, to say nothing about how these tools can improve learning for every student.

Einstein's Approach: how visualization can help student problem solving

Albert Einstein's unique approach to problem-solving has inspired scholars and researchers alike. Focused on the visualization of problems, Einstein constructed a mental image or a story around the issues he sought to understand. This imaginative method allowed him to examine the situation from unique perspectives, paving the way for groundbreaking discoveries, including his theory of relativity. This significant shift in perspective, driven by visualization, illustrates this strategy's profound potential to enhance problem-solving skills.

5 visual learning strategies for the digital classroom

Einstein's visualization approach offers valuable insights that can be incorporated into modern digital classrooms. Adapting to various learning styles is crucial for educators, and adopting visual learning strategies can aid in this process. Here are some strategies inspired by Einstein's problem-solving approach to the digital classroom:

  1. Interactive Visualizations and Problem Solving: Implement platforms or applications that allow students to visualize complex problems or concepts, akin to Einstein's approach to problem-solving. When coupled with interactive whiteboards, these platforms can provide a space for interactive problem-solving, especially for complex mathematical problems or scientific concepts.
  2. Multimedia Learning and Flipped Classroom Approach: Leverage the multimedia capabilities of IWBs to make abstract concepts more understandable. This could include videos, images, diagrams, or animations, which can be utilized in a flipped classroom approach. By providing visual lessons or tutorials that students can engage with outside the classroom, teachers free up class time for deeper exploration and discussion.
  3. Balanced Approach to Exploration and Memorization with Interactive Displays: Design digital activities that balance visual exploration and memorization, leveraging interactive displays. These displays can allow students to actively participate in their learning process, promoting understanding and recall through the visual organization of information.
  4. Collaborative Learning through Visual Interaction and Digital Storytelling: Facilitate collaborative activities using the interactive features of IWBs, promoting teamwork and understanding through visual interaction. Additionally, encourage students to create and share visual stories or presentations on digital platforms, fostering collaboration and mutual learning.
  5. Integrative Use of Technology for Enhanced Visual Learning: Encourage the utilization of various technological tools, such as interactive whiteboards by i3-Technologies, that stimulate visual learning. These tools can foster a different perspective, encouraging curiosity, critical thinking, and an active learning process.

Exploration vs. Memorization: The Current State of Modern Education and Visual Learning

Exploration and memorization are two main learning paths used in the education process. In contemporary teaching, a mix of the two is often the norm. We have centuries of experience in memorization brought to us by standardized textbook learning. Seeing how it is well documented that memorization skills do not lead to good test results, new technologies are widely available to support using visual learning, digital storytelling, and imagining problems as successful learning strategies. Facilitating exploration through visual learning can be a bit more challenging and, frankly, more demanding for the educator. The results seem to speak for themselves.

Every educator sees the difference in the quality of education when students are actively engaged in the learning process. Education can quickly become just a rite of passage or even something to be survived if the experience fails to connect with how each student engages with the world. While some respond well to memorizing tables of data and can then connect them with the real-world stories presented to them in the real world, many either fail to translate memorized information into real-world skills or disconnect from learning after failing the memorization task. In either case, it becomes difficult to blame the student for their path through the education process.

How Interactive Displays Facilitate Student Exploration and Digital Storytelling

Interactive displays continue gaining acceptance as a medium of excellence in learning. As educational tools, they can open doors to information and ideas, capture data, images, and insights, and bring them together in a visual format to determine relationships, conclusions, and knowledge. The technology can help inquisitive students assemble and tell stories in graphical form, allowing them to construct patterns and paths as they explore the world around them.

Of course, anyone can research topics, compose ideas and share content on a laptop, PC, or tablet. Interactive displays offer three key benefits: encouraging curiosity, promoting active learning, and supporting learning through digital storytelling. The first is the ability to whiteboard mixed mediums. Creating a content board of information, ideas, images, and documents helps students develop a visual storyboard structured according to how they process information. The second benefit is having a storyboard where two or more students can participate in the storytelling process. If two heads are better than one, interactive displays support multiple users and allow them to try numerous paths to creating the story before settling on one as the platform to complete their story.

Collaborative Learning with Interactive Displays

Stories created by students can be shared digitally on interactive displays with instructors or fellow students, where they can be easily viewed, reviewed, and explored. Adding new information, insight, or paths of inquiry is an organic experience that doesn't require starting with a fresh piece of paper.

Want to try a new approach to a story? Create a new whiteboard, share saved notes, annotations, images, or documents, and reorganize them in a different pattern. Want others to evaluate the work so far? Send them the QR code for the saved whiteboard and get their input.

Storytelling with interactive displays resembles gaming as much as anything. In gaming, multiple avenues are played out to determine which paths, resources, and partners are best to reach a chosen destination. Storytelling on an interactive display gives users the same formatting, creative and preparatory tools used in gaming to discover the best plot line for the story. Multiple apps are also available to support this process.

Students are used to storytelling; they may not be used to telling them in written form. When they can first visualize the story, it becomes easier to write it down, take the path in their head, and plot it on a whiteboard. The education process then focuses on ensuring students have the tools to succeed according to how their minds work and less on rote and ritual.

What impact does technology have on digital storytelling and visual learning?

Technology drives how we understand, interact with, and communicate with the world. It is how we structure our activities, our points of view, and how we access information and knowledge. For those in the educational system, it will be a greater influence on their lives than any of us could have imagined when we were in the system.

My 10-year-old granddaughter gets onto my i3-Technologies touchscreen and shows me the world from her perspective. It is how she thinks and operates. The process is intuitive to her as a digital native. When she was just five years old, she took a collection of wood building blocks we had and created a ten-foot square image of an online game on our floor, complete with menus, tool kits, and all the things she was used to seeing in a game. She knew very well what she needed to create a game, and she visualized it using wooden blocks and then took several minutes to explain it to us in some detail.

Of course, she also used the periodic table to design her "graduation" cap. How did she learn about that? You guessed it.

Each child is different. The connection each makes with the world around them is unique, so they speak different languages of learning. Educators are figuring out how to identify various learning styles and how to capitalize on them to help students learn at their pace and in their own ways. The days of "judging a fish by how well they can swim" – an Einstein original quote – are long gone.


Educators must be flexible and adaptable in recognizing the unique learning languages of each student. The days of "judging a fish by how well they can swim," to quote Einstein, are long gone. The strategies shared above for the digital classroom mark a promising path towards more inclusive, engaging, and effective education processes.

In this digital age, are you ready to embrace innovative visual learning strategies for your students? The future of education depends on our willingness to adapt and evolve.

Doug Gregory
Doug Gregory

Doug Gregory, Syntigration’s principal, is focused on creating integrated InterActive Spaces. A consultant and entrepreneur in the office furniture industry for over 20 years after stints at both HON and Steelcase, the novelty of learning how best to meet customer needs never gets old. The journey of these articles is to help identify how interactive technology supports contract dealer growth through meeting the complex needs of our mutual clients.