I used to wish my school would spring for an interactive whiteboard. This year, however, I got a projector in my room and recently added a wireless drawing pad. After using these, I don't see much need for an interactive whiteboard.

With google docs, sketchcast, and another tool I just found - Imagination Cubed, I can do most things I've seen iboards do. When I throw in the wireless sketchpad, I have even more freedom and the kids can "manipulate" things on screen themselves. ( I've written more about the tools I use on my blog).

All this comes for significantly less money than iboards. Does anyone else use a similar setup? Are there iboard users who think that a simple projector and sketchpad can't measure up?

Tags: iboards

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The true value of the interactive whiteboards are not necessarily for the productivity of the teacher but to get students who are reticent about going up to the board or speaking in class to more fully participate. When writing a grant for such an item, remember to emphasize that aspect of using it. We have seen very shy students become totally animated when showing their work on a SMART Board and being able to click on the board with their finger or "pen." Students want to make sure they get their turn to write on the board or interact in various other ways. I understand how it would seem that having a projector almost negates the need for the board but do not discount the huge impact it has on the children. Remember why it is interactive. :)
I think there is a difference between IWB use in the Primary and Secondary spheres which can mean that there are often two slightly different conversations occurring. The physical interactivity of the board is a great engager for the pre-teen, especially when you can have them sitting on the floor. However I haven't been seeing the same with older students; in a traditional classroom setup with students at desks, having them come to the board one or two at a time can be laborious. And for paired work, a computer is just as good.
I find myself doing a flip/flop on this issue. I taught high school mathematics at the time graphing calculator technology/dynamic geometry software etc. were beginning to attain mainstream status. Our math department got on board very quickly and wrangled two laptop/projector setups along with the mimio (radio frequency based) IWB system for each. I loaded it up with VTI (free virtual ti83+ graphing calculator) and Geometer's Sketchpad, and a host of other math apps. In the beginning, it was the coolest thing and very useful for getting students unfamiliar with graphing calculators up to speed quickly. Unfortunately highschool mathematics is traditionally one of the worst for the "sage on the stage" approach being ingrained and the typical uses of IWB's at that time, perpetuated the approach, albeit in a more visually engaging and instructionally rich way. After a while, as equipment started to wear..and batteries died at inopportune times, re-calibration became more frequent etc. I started to notice I more often than not used all the same applications with the projector and just used the wireless mouse instead of the whole mimio system. In this context I would have to say that the interactive whiteboard was not really necessary, due to the way I was using it and the applications available at the time. However...
I have since resigned from classroom teaching to explore and learn about emerging technologies ie. social media, social networking, virtual worlds etc. and find ways to leverage them in teaching/learning. In a different style of learning environment where students had access to OLPC type devices and were "encouraged" to collaborate with other students in social learning networks, I could see a "form" of IWB's becoming integral again. I see it more of an available tool in the learning space - up most of the time, filled with relevant rss feeds, blogs, pod/vidcast links that students could interact with ...as needed. With applications designed to make specific use of the ability to "touch in some way" the whiteboard and interface with what it is showing I could see there being added value in other more focused uses as well. Just watching CNN over the last couple of days as the Indiana primaries were discussed I couldn't help but notice the way they were using a touch interface to a custom "Google Map" based election app on a huge plasma(I think) display. (Go here and under by section look at a few clips where the "magic board" is used) For that purpose, I think one would have a hard time replicating the effect with a projector and a mouse interface, so I think I am starting to lean back towards IWB's used effectively.
Wow, I just tried these sites and really liked them. I created 2 practice sketches at sketchcast but the first one had the animation with no sound and the second one would not run at all. I am waiting for their technical advice. Once I know what I did wrong, I'm sure I will really like it. I definitely want to let my teachers know about these in our staff development.

Thanks for sharing.
There are lots of teachers in my Board who agree with you wholeheartedly. It's not _exactly_ the same thing as a whiteboard but an 'Airliner' or similar device provides many of the advantages of a smartboard and some more (!) which many teachers like.
This is especially so when the savings on the smartboard can pay for many of the wireless tablet input devices.
However, as with most technologies, all depends on what it's used for and what the user wants to do.
I hope interactive whiteboards are neccessary as our NSW government is investing $158million on IWBs/video conferencing for 2200 public schools over the next 4 years. Its called the connected classroom project. .
Hi Tony,
That sounds like a HUGE project!

The issues that have been discussed in this thread simply multiply when you tackle a project of this large scale. Getting people to change the way they do things is hard. Getting lots of people to change all at the same time is even harder.

I hope the NSW government is investing time and money in classroom-embedded PD, not just workshops for teachers. It's very tough to see how the classroom can change if you don't see it happen in actual classrooms with actual kids.
Essential for kinestheic movement...is the incentive for kids to get out of their seats and come up to the board... Fine and large motor skills development... your Occupational Therapists could speak about the benefits of writing and drawing on a vertical surface for muscle development...
Also if you are checking out products you must check out the Promethean ActivSlate and the integrated assessment devices including Activ Expressions which allow multiple user input to create movable objects that land on the Promethean IWB called the ActivBoard...

Please check out the featured teachers who are using the ActivBoard to make truly interactive lessons...K-12
I don't think an iboard is necessary to help students with kinesthetic movement. The students could use a variety of real-life manipulatives to work their "fine and large motor skills." Instead of one or two students working at the iboard, while the rest twiddle their thumbs, the whole class can work on the same thing at once. If the research suggests that students need to write on vertical surfaces, couldn't they do the same thing by writing on the board with a marker? If interacting with the screen is a must, why not build your own. My students built their own. The only problem is we haven't found much to use it for that makes their learning any better. They learned a hundred times more by building it than they've learned using it.

I don't have anything against iboards. It's just the cost. In my initial post, I asked if anyone did something with an iboard, that I couldn't do with a projector and a little creativity. To date, I still haven't found anything that justifies spending thousands of dollars on one device, when buying 5-10 computers for a classroom would impact far more students.

The technology and impact are not worth the money. I'm not concerned about all the great lesson plans that can go with the board. It is a shame when textbook makers, software companies, and administrators treat teachers as if they can't research or come up with anything on their own. There is a generally a free or extremely less expensive alternative to pretty much every educational tool around these days.

The only difference is that the free sites don't have the advertising that for-profit companies do. I hope that companies and districts awarding large grants to schools for technology pay attention to the less expensive (and many times better) alternatives. Nothing is worse than putting an iboard in every room when 95% of the teachers just use it as a projector. Just buy a projector!
You might be interested in the conversation going on in the comments on Wes Fryer's blog about whiteboards.

I can see your point Mike! I currently use the Smart technology now but I am migrating to the others. I am interested in looking into the tools you mentioned. Thanks!
Our school is looking into making a significant investment in IWB's over the next year. A lot of individuals; prinicpals, school board members, teachers and parents are buying into the idea IWB's = student's learning. Not sure if they realize it is not as simple as installing a board and wonderful things happen.

Does anybody know of any research that shows IWB's are effective classroom tools?



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