Interactive Whiteboards- Which? How? What?

My school is contemplating acquiring Interactive Whiteboards. It is my job to do the preliminary work of finding out our options, proposing the purchase and ultimately train and support our teachers and students in integrating them into their classroom, supporting their teaching and learning. So.. this sums it up nicely

Interactive Whiteboards- Which? How? What?

While at FETC last month, I wandered the Exhibit Hall to listen to vendors and see the interactive whiteboards up close.

I stopped at two vendor booths:

My first impressions were:

The Mimio’s low price tag and being able to use the existing dry erase boards in the classroom was encouraging. Smartboards being THE name brand associated with interactive whiteboard made me feel comfortable that we would be getting the support and resources associated with the name. I sat in awe of the possibilities that both models provided in writing, drawing, cover-/uncovering, image and video capturing tools.

Photo by plakboek

The main differences that I walked away from the vendor booths were that the Mimios were:

  • Less expensive (~ $900 including wireless, additional pens that can be used with normal dry erase markers)
  • Could be used on any EXISTING dry erase board
  • Company is trying to grow template and tool resources


Original photo by Old Shoe Woman

The SmartBoards were:

  • More expensive (different size boards available $2000 +)
  • Come as a permanent installed board or as a portable board
  • Company sells LCD projectors separately too
  • Can use Smartboard pens or fingers to manipulate and write. Change colors by removing pens off its tray (red rectangle in picture)
  • Notebook software & gallery
  • Huge resource and lesson plan site

I also turned to my Twitter network. Here are the responses that trickled in:

  • abaralt @langwitches Middle Division at my school bought 4 mimios two years ago; they hated them; always fell of the walls
  • Colemama @langwitches Have not heard any complaints – some use more than others & teachers in portables aren’t as happy w/ set up, but not mimio prob
  • Colemama @langwitches we use Mimio, but wasn’t in on the purchasing so don’t know pros/cons
  • woessner @langwitches We tried them a few years ago…they were “OK” but our teachers prefer the Smartboards (when cost isn’t an issue).
  • jepcke @langwitches Have you seen slate slike Qumo? Not super Mac-friendly, yet. There are others too. Can do many of the same things similar $$.
  • jepcke @langwitches I’ve used them. More problematic than a SmartBoard, for example. A cost effective intro to the concept of whiteboards, tho.
  • teryl_magee I have had both Smart and Promethean boards…I much prefer the ActivBoardjepcke @keytech I suggest SmartBoard. You can use your finger, rather than a stylus. Easier for the younger kids. Prometheon is a great product too

The next step in my research was to visit a school that just had installed 8 Smartboards and projectors in their classrooms and one portable Smartboard in their computer lab. Andrea Hernandez at the Martin Gottlieb Day School here in Jacksonville was so wonderful to allow me to visit and show me around her school. She even arranged to walk into the classrooms where the teachers and students were willing to demonstrate a few ways on how they are using it.

I learned from her that:

  • The portable SmartBoard is having a lot of difficulties staying calibrated, which results in reduced performance and repeated waste of time to re-calibrate and align the board and projector.
  • She loves the ability to share the current SmartBoard screen with another laptop or desktop in the room via the SmartBoard software.
  • The amount of resources (links and lessons created by others) that are available through the Smartboard website is incredible.

We watched a class of 5th graders interact with a FrogGut simulation and I saw how ALL eyes were on the SmartBoard giving suggestion to the one student who was manipulating it. The teacher also pulled up a wesbite about the United States and let the students drag and drop the puzzle pieces of each state into each correct position on the map. Again all students involved and interacting with each other.

The teacher had a question for Andrea about how to use the overlay function on a website. I was impressed how Andrea handled it by showing it to her AND the students. Even if the teacher were to forget how to use the tool again, I am sure that one of the students would be able to remind her. I have to remember to involve the students too in “professional development”. If the kids know how to use and are excited on how to use the equipment, they will be the ones who remind to integrate them.

Andrea also gave me the chance to “play” with the portable board. The projector attached to it was on a cart right in front of the board. This made it awkward, since one can not stand directly in front of the board. I was constantly fighting with my own shadow. 🙂

It was a great feeling though to be able to use my fingers and move, write, click, pull and drag. I did notice that I had to re-adjust and compensate for my high use of keyboard shortcuts that I use normally. No CTRL-C or command-V to do repeated tasks. I guess that is a small price to pay and go back to the icons or drop down lists on the toolbar in exchange of the satisfaction of physically manipulate the windows.

The next step for our school will be to contact the area representatives to arrange for a demonstration in our school. Once we talked with both vendors, we need to look at the budget and make the best decision we can. It would be great to at least have one interactive whiteboard installed over summer break for any teacher who would want to come in and play with it.
I am looking to find tips and ideas on how to TRULY make these kinds of boards interactive, not just a glorified overhead transparency projector.

Please let me know any anecdotes or projects that worked well with your students and made a difference in their learning.

Great collaborative Google presentation on “Interesting Ways to use your interactive Whiteboard