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?

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I now agree that whiteboards are not necessary. I posted reasons in the forum "Interactive Whiteboards vs. Wireless Slates" yesterday. Here is what I said:

I have been a squeaky wheel to my district regarding technology. I have wanted interactive whiteboard technology in my classroom for some time, but due to cost, that hasn't happened. However last week a wireless slate was installed in my room. It is an incredible tool. I am just learning all it can do, but it is impressive. The cost is significantly less than an interactive whiteboard and that is just the beginning of the "pro" list for me. Other advantages include mobility for me within my room, as others in this forum have stated, and ease of integration with other software and technology. Along with that, the available educational interactive sims designed for use with this tool is incredible. I don't know if I can include this, but here is a link to some videos that show the flexibility of one brand of wireless slate. http://iwl.einstruction.com/support/wstutorials.html#vids Here too is a link to sims that are free downloads somewhat correlated to state standards. http://iwl.einstruction.com/resources/standards2.htm

One "con", as someone stated is related to the user's hand/eye coordination. It can be challenging, but i have used a graphics tablet for personal use for some time so the transition was relatively easy. I think most people can become proficient with this tool, if they want to learn it. My kids laugh sometimes when I fumble, but someone is always quick to say, "Don't be mean! She's just learning." That in itself is priceless! Interactive whiteboards are probably easier for someone to quickly use, but.... i prefer to be mobile.

Another great thing is that some of these interactive slates are designed specifically for education. If I were given a choice at this point, I would choose the interactive slate.

I forgot to mention one more advantage of the interactive slate that I am using (Interwrite). You can record and playback both visual and sound. So if you have a substitute covering your class, you can have the instruction recorded exactly as you want your students to see/hear it. That way you can make sure the students are getting the instruction you want them to have. I am rarely out of the classroom, but I don't like returning to clean up/reteach concepts the correct way. Mistakes in instruction by substitutes don't happen often, but once in awhile they do.
A tool is a tool is a tool.
If anyone on here is waiting for any piece of technology to solve all the woes of the world, then they will be waiting a long time. Every tool, slates, boards, document cameras, projectors, computers, etc. require a willingness for the instructor to look at their craft and be willing to modify how they reach their learners based on the inclusion of that new tool into the classroom.

Trying to determine what is most effective, a slate or a board is like trying to say that a teacher in high school is a better teacher than a 4th grade teacher. It is purely subjective with little to no consideration for the variances in teaching styles, age of learners, physical requirements of the space, etc. A great teacher can teach with a wet paper bag and make a difference in the lives of their students while a poor teacher can have all of the technological tools in the world, and they will fail to do anything positive for their students.

Having said that, I am very glad to hear that the slate you are using works for your environment. I am sure that I can find teachers that use interactive whiteboards that would challenge your successes as well as those that are not nearly as successful as you are. As manufacturers, we try to put out the best products for all classes for all grade levels, for all subject areas as possible. I would encourage you to explore whether slates were a derivative of the interactive whiteboard or vice versa (chicken vs egg). Had the technologies of interactivity not been driven by the boards would there be as many companies offering the options of slates?

Another point to mention is that what is the difference between a Wacom tablet, an Activslate, an Airliner, or just a wireless mouse/keyboard? The answer, I think you'll find, is the software that enables that tool to function in an educational environment. This same software is the driving difference between a gadget and a tool, so while it is great to use websites and things like that in the classroom, I can do that with a $79 bluetooth keyboard or mouse.

Continue to explore the technologies out there. Realize that with every new invention there will be many other companies that will jump on board the trends and put out hardware, but make sure that the software, the pedagogy, and the research backs the gains in student improvement that ultimately tells whether this is a successful use of our instructional time. Make sure this tool is used for students, not just for teachers.

Also, see what happens when you put 4 slates in the same classroom. Imagine what is possible by doing that? Does this make sense for your classroom? I don't know but there are several teachers that wouldn't imagine it any other way. And that is what we strive for, the right tools to fit your classroom needs, whatever they may be.

Chris
The best point here IMHO is that a tool is a tool. It is what you do with it that counts. I have a projector.-Not even mounted in the ceiling sits on a cart in the middle row. I actually sit in the row with the students. The students take over my chair when they dispaly for the class. Haven't been up front for years.

However I would love a smartbaord-or a wireless tablet-heck I'll take anything you all want to send me LOL. But seriously use the tool that works best for you. If it's a tool you like and are comfortable with-the kids will love it too.
Do if any of you want to send a gadget my way-let me know:D
Kelley,
Your statement, "Do if any of you want to send a gadget my way-let me know" is exactly how I was feeling. I want to try new things. It keeps me excited about learning and this transfers to my students. I know technology isn't THE answer, but it sure is fun. I see my students excited about technology and creativity. This is where the real power is of these tools. Can I do it without them? you bet, but
I'm with you, just give me a chance to try the newest gadget!
It's been quite a while since I've participated in this discussion, though I've been monitoring it closely. For the most part, I've stayed out to avoid repeating the same things over and over. At this point, I feel compelled to re-enter the conversation in response to what Christopher writes above, and what Kelley writes below.

I have nothing against interactive whiteboards (Smart, which Christopher represents, or otherwise). In the right hands, they can make lessons more productive. My problem with iboards is the price and whether any measurable gains in achievement can justify the cost. Thus far, I've seen no one describe to me something an iBoard can do that I can't accomplish with a wireless mouse, slate, or wiimote whiteboard at 90% of the cost.

The biggest selling point that Christopher, and others who market these boards, make is that the "software" is so wonderful. I've seen the presentations before and two-thirds of what they show teachers is just PowerPoint under a different name (Notebook) with a bunch of fun clip art that a google image search could turn up in the same amount of time. The other problem is that even if it's used completely interactively, it still only accommodates 1-2 kids at the board at any given moment. Unless you have the add-on "clickers" for another $1000, all the other students are just sitting there.

What most administrators and school boards don't realize is that there are perfectly good free and open-source technologies that do the exact same things for $0. The only difference is that there is no one who comes to your school to show it off and talk about how great it is. Here are some basic examples:

Notebook = Kindlelab
Screencasting = Screencast-o-matic or screentoaster
Drawing capabilities/Math = sketchcast or imagination cubed
Math manipulatives = that quiz


Each of these are free, and I use them in my classroom every week. I have no interactive whiteboard in my room. My students built a wii-board, but we don't use it that often because we used a borrowed wiimote from a student for it. Since my school doesn't have much of a budget for technology, I cobbled together as many computers (10) as I could from some businesses and friends who were upgrading. Instead of two students being up at the board, I can have half the class working on a web 2.0 app while I work with the other half on a lab or other activity.

More important than any tool in my classroom, however, are the people. I've been blessed to have 1-2 student teacher aides throughout the year. My student teachers are far more interactive and much "smarter" than any SMARTboard. I realize that many teachers do not have this opportunity, but there are lots of volunteers out there. Your school could also take the money they were going to spend on all those iboards and hire a part time aid. It would certainly be more beneficial to the students.
Mike, while it is tempting to follow down the rabbit-hole of advancing technology vs minimizing cost, just remember that much of what IS done by the majority of teachers with technology is still not very relevant, meaningful or transformative. We have many analog teachers that are forcing the students of today into the classrooms of the past. Having said that, to answer your question above " I've seen no one describe to me something an iBoard can do that I can't accomplish with a wireless mouse, slate, or wiimote whiteboard at 90% of the cost." I'll give you three real-world examples.

1. Severely blind student (>95% vision loss) was never able to write his name before because he couldn't see well enough from 3 inches away from the board to be able to trace the letters. Introduce a rear-projection interactive whiteboard that the teacher was able to have his name written in digital ink, thus allowing him to not shadow out the projector by standing in front of the screen and was able to write his name for the first time. mouse/slate/wiimote would not work in any of these situations.

2. Multiple-input gestures in a large format. Taking the functionality of advanced trackpad technologies and moving them to a separate device. three finger swipes and scrolls not possible on slates, sometimes wireless multifunction mice, not practical on wiimote.

3. Multi-user, Multi-touch technology having 4, 5, or even 6 students simultaneously collaborating on the same visual to collectively solve a task. Not possible on slate or mouse, possible but not practical with wiimote.

Finally, understand that while I work for a manufacturer, I am an educator first. I am not in sales, nore receive any commission. I spent 10 years in education and 6 of those as the district tech coordinator. I welcome the dialogue and am engaged in the dialogue to further the discussion and understanding. As I stated above, these are just tools. Tools that have been tried and tested for over 20 years (in some cases) in education and have been refined to offer the best ease of use and depth of possibilities.

Just as ever situation is different so are the needs of the teachers, and the students. Blanket statements generally produce positive results, so I encourage you to applaud those that for their reasons have chosen to go with an IWB just as they should applaud you for choosing to go without one. Different strokes folks, different strokes.

This post was written solely using textedit (because that's just as good as Word) while talking on my rotary dial phone (because those shiny cellular models are just all flash and no substance) and no, I won't be ready for the Digital TV conversion:)

Keep smiling, and keep teaching guys, we'll keep trying to help along the way.

chris
Chris, I enjoyed your thorough response. I agree very much with your point about the different needs of students and teachers. Certain technologies won't help all teachers or students.

One of the reasons I dislike broad purchases of IWBs for schools is that many teachers are stuck in a one way transmission style of teaching (PowerPoints, worksheets, read these pages). For them to be better teachers, not just better users of IWBs, they need to change their entire pedagogical style. This is especially challenging for entrenched teachers, and even new teachers who are used to the "see the PowerPoint, read the article, write the paper" style of teaching prominent among college professors.

I was fortunate to have a professor in one of my programs who helped me get away from this model and some other bad habits early in my teaching career. He pointed out that just because you did a neat activity with students didn't mean it actually helped them learn. The activity needed to have purpose. During the course, I'd show him some things that I'd taught the previous year and he'd comment "...bells and whistles Mike, bells and whistles." I've carried this statement with me throughout my teaching career and think about it anytime I have a new idea. With this in mind, I offer my rebuttal to your 3 points above.


1. Great activity, but the same thing could be accomplished with any rear projection system, iboard or not. It could also be accomplished with an old fashioned overhead projector. One could also put the computer image on a tv screen with a wiimote setup for the tracing. The IWB just adds some bells and whistles.

2. Doesn't dragging the corner of a picture make it bigger or smaller the same as swiping two fingers does? If I want to scroll down a page, can't I just use the scroll bar? If that isn't good enough for you, there is an iphone/itouch app out that lets you control your computer screen with the device. Multi-touch for $200 instead of $2000. (Wiimotes do multitouch too, though I agree it wouldn't be practical.

3. Why not have students work on individual computers to collaborate on a project. You could buy 10 netbooks for the price of a single IWB, use Voicethread (free), google docs education edition (free), or make podcasts (free) and have 10 students work on a single project at the same time - together. Examples here, here, here, and here.
Ahh Mike, here we go again:)

Okay. The funny thing is that at the core, we are both agreeing on the same thing. Whatever technology goes into the classroom it should be effective and transformative. "Doing technology" for the sake of doing technology is in nobody's best interest. I want the schools to try out the products and then make their decisions based on what they find. With regards to the bells and whistles, I completely agree. As a former video broadcasting teacher I have the capability to create some great multimedia presentations/productions, but if you've ever seen me present, you'll find I'm very low-key, not a lot of flash at all because if it doesn't add to the solution it detracts from the message. So, less is more in a lot of cases.

Now, a volley back your way.

First of all, the 3 scenarios I threw out there before:
1. No, the activity could not be accomplished with any rear projection system, as it would not allow the student to ink onto the surface. Sure, if we REALLY want to get crazy we could take a rear-projection system, place another surface in front of it that was able to handle dry-erase markers and allow the student to work like that, but again...practicality? No, an overhead projector would not work as the shadow would be blocking exactly what the student was trying to see to trace, and as for the wiimote setup the requirement is that the visually disabled student would not be able to keep the pen in a location that would be visible by the wiimote the entire time, which defeats the purpose. Again, the goal here is on the student, if the focus shifts away from that and only focuses on whether it can be done a different way you are shortchanging the experience for the learner. The IWB doesn't provide bells and whistles, it simply allows the students to annotate digitally in a medium that none of the other solutions will allow without extreme overengineering.

2. Yes, dragging a corner makes it bigger and smaller, scroll wheels are amazing things as well, but you are looking at the technology of today leaning backwards. Our students are growing up in a world that touch and gestures is becoming the norm, and there is an expectation that tools they use in schools will mimic what they use outside of schools. Look at the progression of desktops->laptops->tablets->netbooks with styluses (stylii?). The goal of bridging the divide between wireless students and barely-plugged in schools is to meet them on their medium and capitalize on the modalities they have grown accustomed to on their phones, their computers at home, etc. Large format direct interaction via touch is a key element in the technology landscape in the near future, we can choose to ignore it or try to progress with it. As for the ipod touch scenario, yes I have that problem, but again, there is a lot to be said for large form-factor versus a 3.5" screen. I think the iphone/ipod touch is a phenomenal device (have one of each) but it is not a panacea for education. Let the tools do what the tools are meant to do, otherwise we have square pegs (not the TV show) and round holes.

3. As for the 10 netbooks the bottom line is that your pricing estimates seem to be a little out of whack. If we assume that a netbook costs $250 (which is hard to find) comparing that to an IWB of approximately $1,200 changes your scenario somewhat. Now we are talking about 5 netbooks which more heavily impacts the usability of the scenario you've countered with. The other big factor is that the netbooks are probably running a version of Linux on them or a stripped down version of XP (Home edition). Not many schools or districts are ready/welcoming to changing their network infrastructure/protocols/support structure for this particular initiative.

There are always soft-costs associated with any technology purchase. What is the support for the hardware/software that we are talking about? Open-source is an exciting body of work, but the price for support/maintenance/warranty is built into the cost of whatever technology you are using, so if something breaks, are you on your own, do you have to wait for a forum response from someone or do you have a direct contact with the company that can provide replacement products, phone support, knowledge base articles, etc.? This is the number one reason that open-source has not taken off in large force in the states. Lack of overall support. Teachers want the product to work, because if they have something planned and it doesn't work they don't have the time for troubleshooting etc. in front of a class of 20-30 sets of eyes.

This also brings up the concept of professional development. Whether we like it or not in most schools/districts it takes big waves to rock the boat. I wish every school had multiple PD days set aside for technology purposes, but this just isn't the case. There are a handful of days and those are usually reserved for school-wide/district initiatives. A teacher with a slate in their classroom is not generally going to be able to get a release day for PD for them to learn how to use the slate. A school full of teachers that all got a tool (slates, boards, etc.) is more likely for the administration to build in that PD support that they need to get moving. Will this work for everyone everytime? No. But because the research shows the gains in learning happen with PD, it is more likely to be able to sell the idea of proper PD to those building/district administrators.

That is a final point I'd like to make. There is research that supports the use and shows longitudinal gains in classes using Interactive Whiteboards. Where is the research that supports the longitudinal gains in the use of a wireless mouse, or a wireless slate? The research can speak for itself on that note.

Again, a tool is a tool. The bottom line is that in this forum we are speaking amongst some of the technology leaders in the various institutions across the world. What I will propose is the thought of how tech-savvy your users are and what is the cost associated with coming in with a not-perfect fit but it kinda works for me approach to classroom integration? I can tell you that with my staff if it required more than 3 steps to do something, it wouldn't be done. Period. Anything I put in would collect dust if it required more than 3 steps for it to work. I don't want to worry about hand-eye coordination, lighting conditions in the room, bluetooth batteries wearing out, etc. Even though I can do it and make it work in no way means that the majority of teachers can do it, feel comfortable enough doing it, and have the timely support if something goes wrong to keep them from getting burned and them stopping the use of the tool.

That is when it is harmful to the students and costly to the schools/taxpayers/parents. The worst piece of technology is one that is sitting there not getting used.
This is a pretty interesting conversation to me because while I think that IWBs CAN be a student-centered learning tool, most of the time that I've seen them used, they're not. Teachers use them as nothing more than digital chalk----and kids tune out to digital chalk pretty darn quickly. You might get enthusiasm for awhile, but it's short lived.

I think the term that is the most appropriate for IWBs is a "bridging technology," or a tool that is designed to move a traditional board-and-chalk kind of teacher towards some kinds of digital applications. My problem is it is one seriously expensive solution to a poor pedagogy problem!

I'm with several of the other commenters----give me a handful of slates/tablets/airliners and an LCD projector. You'll spend less and facilitate more responsible, student centered pedagogy at the same time.

Does anyone else think that schools buy IWBs for the "Wow the Community" factor? Is it possible that leaders are attracted to the idea of thousands and thousands of dollars worth of technology hanging from the wall of every classroom whether it really changes teaching and learning at all?

Bill
IMHO teachers have no need to ever touch the SmartBoard except to demonstrate. At my school they are used for interactive websites, where kids go up and answer questions and the other kids are 100% tuned in.
I can't even think of a reason why a teacher would be touching it? Some teachers use them to write notes on like a blackboard? Is that possible?
I agree, I have used both and there are so many more cost effective alternatives to interactive whiteboards. Interactive Whiteboards are small (unless you get the very, very expensive ones) not easily portable and take longer to configure. Ever since I got my interwrite pad I have been sold on NOT using a IWB. To me it seems like IWBs are the trendy thing to get and not very practical compared to the alternatives.

IBWs still require someone to be at the board... a pad allows movement everywhere.
I guess it depends on how you use the 'board. I have one teacher who uses her Smartboard as the computer - puts up lots of links and embeds video and audio into her notes. I'm not sure you could accomplish that with the tools you've mentioned here - cool as they are. (And WOW are they cool - thanks for sharing!) It seems our math teachers would be set nicely with the wireless pad and the aforementioned tools. Can you tell me what wireless pad you're using, and how the kids can manipulate things on the screen themselves?

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