back to article Whiteboards could damage kids and teachers' eyesight

Interactive whiteboards that are used in schools and colleges across the UK could potentially cause eyesight damage due to a lack of basic government guidelines. According to an investigation carried out by the BBC, many of the devices used by teachers and school children do not carry adequate warnings about the "dazzle effect …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Overhead Projectors

    Are OHPs not as damaging? Or is the light level significantly lower with OHPs?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As someone who spends a fair bit of time in front of whiteboards and projectors (beamers) I think the key difference is that with an interactive whiteboard, you are standing in front of the screen (to interact). With an OHP, there is less need to stand in front of the beam since if you want to draw or comment, you need to do so on the slide itself.

  3. Mark Wood

    Common sense?

    Oh come on,

    let's use a bit of common sense here. I don't know about anyone else, but usually when a very bright beam of light hits my retinas, I quickly avoid it and don't go back there! Surely a teacher is able to work out that they just need to move a little to the right before they turn around from writing on the board to address the class?

    What next? Compulsory warning signs at every Beach saying "Don't look directly into the sun light. Your sight could be adversely affected"

  4. Daren Nestor


    I've been complaining about this type of effect for some time. It's been a problem since some genius decided on white backgrounds for computer applications such as word processors, just because it looks like paper. It's a massive waste of light! Why aren't backgrounds dark and foregrounds (like text) light? It's much easier on the eyes!

    It was especially bad on CRT monitors. I just don't get it! El Reg, perhaps a less blinding version of the website?

  5. John

    re: Common sense?

    perhaps the beam isn't bright enough that you realise it is causing damage.

    Even 'arc eye' caused by welders can take hours before you realise damage is done, and by jimminy does that hurt at that point.

  6. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    Blackboards don't dazzle

    .. or indeed old fashioned whiteboards-and-squeaky-pens.

    They also don't need rebooting, and work even when the power's off. And you can leave the curtains open.

    And best of all, the teacher can actually get on with the job of teaching!

  7. Rob


    ... if you advise teachers to keep their backs to the light your asking them to turn their back the class for the majority of the time.

    Do I need to spell it out? Back turned teacher + Class full of teenagers = trouble

    Do that same equation in a rough area and could equal a knife in the back instead.

  8. Register Reader


    "Department for Education and Skills was renamed the Department for Children, Schools, and Families with Ed Balls MP at the helm"

    Surely there can't be that many families with Ed Balls MP at the helm??

    I'll get me coat..

  9. Steve McKinty

    Easier on the eyes?

    Daren Nestor writes "Why aren't backgrounds dark and foregrounds (like text) light? It's much easier on the eyes!"

    Having spent many years working on VT100s (yes, I'm that old) I can say that moving to a real workstation with paper-white background was an absolute joy. Far less eyestrain. The trick is not to turn the brightness up too high, and to have the background off-white, not pure white.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Tainted safety goggles? Added bonus: This will really make you look like a "mad scientist".


    > I've been complaining about this type of effect for some time. It's been a

    > problem since some genius decided on white backgrounds for computer

    > applications such as word processors, just because it looks like paper. It's a

    > massive waste of light! Why aren't backgrounds dark and foregrounds (like

    > text) light? It's much easier on the eyes!

    1) But we are talking about projectors.

    2) There is no "waste of light" in LCDs (though CRTs would indeed save a few watts on dark screens as the electron ray is turned down in black areas).

    3) You can tweak the "Color temperature" of the display if you want

    4) More in this thread:

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Short-Throw Lens

    This keeps coming in and out of the news all the time, but the point is that where a teacher stands they are getting blasted by the light. (So too are students by the reflection from the boards).

    But the two main suppliers of interactive boards into education, now offer solutions with 'short-throw' lens' on the projectors. As the projector is now very close to the board, this minimises the shadowing on the board when its in use, and minimises the light thrown on the teacher when they turn to address the class.

    (Problem is, there is nothing wrong with current installations to justify replacement with the new solutions)!

  12. Daniel Ballado-Torres


    That is what a Darkboard is needed for. Use black background / white text dammit!!! As someone who works with craploads of terminals, black backgrounds are nicer with my eyes... and I use an LCD display.

    Anyway, old tech is also bad... I remember one of the reasons my old secondary school switched from chalkboards to whiteboards (the eraseable marker ones, not the high-tech stuff), it was because some study found out that chalk dust was harmful for the eyes if exposed for a long enough time to it.

    Maybe a whiteboard with an LCD/Plasma display? Wait, there are already things like that. They're just too expensive.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not the tech - it's how you use it

    A Simpsons episode has Lisa complaining about being shown films all the time at school. Using interactive whiteboards isn't meant to be a constant all-day thing, either. They are not supposed to be there to replace teachers.

    Use in schools varies depending on the staff and their expertise with the equipment. A good teacher shouldn't have to resort to depending on the tech for a lesson. What happens when the board/laptop/projector goes faulty? They are unlikely to abandon lessons for a day until the kit is fixed.

    How many kids are sat at home with badly adjusted monitors, games consoles or telly's?

    I wonder how many parents are getting projectors for home cinema as the price comes down. Dell are rather keen to sell them - less than £450 for 2000 Lumens.

    I can see it coming now -- the Daily Mail exclusive in to how our children's brains are being fried at school.

    First it was mobile phone masts, then came the dreaded wireless network - now it's interactive whiteboards.

    It's them foreigners that make the things, it's all a plot to destroy the minds of our youngsters with wireless radiation and then to plant subliminal messages in to them as they sit and look at a big screen.

    As the kids get older they could be in government and then They(tm)* will strike at the very heart of Britain.

    *They(tm) -- unspecified threat to all decency and what is good and wholesome.

  14. MikeWW

    re: Common sense?

    I'm a Network Manager in a school and asking for teachers with common sense is like asking for an increase in my budget i.e it seems reasonable enough but you know it's never going to happen.

    Half of them can't find their backside with both hands even after numerous training sessions and being provided with their own copy of "Arse Finding For Dummies".

  15. Das

    I'm so offended

    You can't call it a whiteboard any more than you can call a chalk board a blackboard. Until we have photon based lifeforms in our society can we please call these devices lightboards.

    This whole thread has been so upsetting for me I'm going to have to sit in a dark corner, sans flip-flops, and console myself with some fair-trade organic tea.

  16. Simone Lively

    Network Manager


    What a helpful comment! I am a teacher and the only time I've had to contact our IT department was when they set up my IT account incorrectly, allowing me no access to the drives I needed.

    I have worked out how to source the information I needed and how to use the interactive whiteboard without help from IT. Plenty of common sense then.... I also feel that the vast majority of my colleagues would find your comments pretty insulting too.

    As my Mum used to say, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

    P.S. Shouldn't you have been answering all the dumb queries from all the dumb teachers instead of browsing this website....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have recently started working in a school doing techy supporty stuff, and frankly, I'm astounded they even bother with these things - surely there was nowt wrong with what we had in my school - an OHP with an LCD overlay hooked up to a VGA splitter?

    That way, teacher sits at computer - not in front of OHP screen, getting in the way, sets the pointer size to 'monsterous' and talks the class through the demo.

    Worked a treat, even back when LCD overlays had a refresh rate that would make the Slug Olympics 100m hurdles look spritely.

    I'll put £5 on it costing a shitload less in initial setup costs [touch sensitive whiteboards, structured cabling, mounting for the projector, control software, support contracts] than the IWBs anyway, and because you can lock it away afterwards, you don't have the problem of the kids sticking pens in the RS232/CAT5/VGA ports, twisting the volume controls trying to find '11' and breaking the switch in the process, etc etc.

    Not a fan of 'em meself - it really seems like an answer to a question no bugger asked.

    Except the bugger who saw lucractive support contracts in a closed market, of course...

    Anon :-)

  18. Dan

    re: re: Common sense?

    >Even 'arc eye' caused by welders can take hours before you realise damage is done, and by jimminy

    >does that hurt at that point.

    Arc eye might not hurt for hours, but you know instantly that you just looked at a chunk of plasma brighter than the sun. Anyone smart enough to not look at the sun will know that eye damage is imminent;

    Also, according to college level textbooks (Weld 107, Welding Technical Orientation, 2006, C. Hobson) arc eye rarely causes permanent damage- If the light from these projectors is not causing sunburn, it is less intense and, logically, should not be doing as much damage.

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