Friday, May 14, 2010

Erase Unnecessary Costs by Getting Smart about Interactive Whiteboards

I was at a presentation yesterday where school leaders and teachers were led to believe that the key to addressing the Achievement Gap was in part through purchasing Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs). Dr. Robert J. Marzano lead the presentation where he shared what has been called questionable research that showed how IWBs and response systems (srs) lead to student achievement. Egad! I wanted to shout out a warning.


You can save about $3500 hundred dollars per classroom if you buy a tablet and projector rather than an interactive whiteboard and get the same results, but you don't know that because this and other research (almost always commissioned by IWB companies) is purposely misleading you, comparing classrooms with IWBs to those without technology rather than comparing classrooms with IWBs to the much less expensive projectors/laptop or projector/tablet combo.

There's an incentive to mislead schools. It equals more profit for the IWB companies who have brainwashed educators into believing you need their $5000 device to increase student achievement. But once you know the truth about interactive whiteboards you'll realize, YOU DON'T!

Myth 1: You need an interactive whiteboard to show videos.
: You don't need an IWB to show videos. You just need a laptop/projector.

Myth 2: You need an interactive whiteboard to capture/record your lessons for playback later.
: You don't need an IWB to capture/record lessons. You can do this for free with a number of screencasting programs that require no downloads such as Screentoaster or ScreenJelly.

Myth 3: An interactive whiteboard is necessary if you want students to be able to interact with the content.
: An interactive whiteboard is not necessary if you want students to interact with the content. They can go to your Tablet and interact just as easily.

Myth 4: You need an interactive whiteboard to have access to interactive lessons and software.
: Interactive whiteboard software works on any laptop. You do not need the IWB and you can present the lessons equally effectively with a tablet and projector.

Myth 5: The kids and teachers just love interactive whiteboards and they keep them so engaged.
Truth: IWB companies spend big bucks to trick you into thinking you need the fancy and expensive gadget to educate innovatively. They want you to spend the big bucks that make them big profits. When you teach the same content with a tablet and projector they also love the lesson, interact, are engaged, and the added bonus is you can use that extra money to put much more interactive tech into the hands of every student.

Myth 6: Interactive whiteboards are necessary for tactile learners and students with special needs.
Truth: A tablet serves the same function for tactile learners and students with special needs.

Myth 7: The large size of the interactive whiteboard is necessary for student engagement. Students can't manipulate a tablet-sized device nearly as well. Especially young children or those with special needs.

Truth: What? Really? Have ya seen What Happens When you Give a 3, 4, 8-Year-Old an iTouch? Kids are perfectly happy on a tablet-sized device and if you've watched a teenager you've seen them use their phones like they're masterfully conducting a symphony. Small is big for kids. Big is big for adults...not kids. For visually impaired students or those with special needs laptops have a whole suite of free accessibility options available.

Myth 8: An interactive whiteboard enables you to connect with the world.
Truth: The interactive whiteboard is not connecting you to the world. Your computer with internet is connecting you to the world.
Myth 9: Interactive whiteboards are easier to use for educators because they combine everything into a single device. You don't need to worry about bulbs, speakers, extra wires, laptop, etc.
Truth: Interactive whiteboards don't combine everything into a single device. With all devices, you still need to replace projector lightbulbs and you still need a laptop. Speakers are an optional add on for computers and IWBs however with a computer you can get a nice set for under $40. This feature on an IWB raises the price hundreds of dollars and they often have issues. Additionally, the sales pitch that they're easy to use, often is not realized in schools. For instant recently during a visit to I school I asked a teacher how she and her colleagues like their Smartboards. Her response, "Well, when they work, I guess they're okay." At that school I visited three classrooms an every teacher needed assistance with using their Smartboard during my visit. As far as requiring less wires. Not true. Wires done right are the same whether you use an IWB or laptop/projector. It takes proper consideration of how to accommodate your device, but either way you need a few wires that you can run through walls, ceilings, or tape down to the floor.

Myth 10: You should get an interactive whiteboard because it's easy to use.

Truth: An interactive whiteboard is not that easy to use. In fact when they are not used or not used well, you always hear, that it is because teachers didn't get the proper professional development. Of course the IWB companies will be happy to sell you thousands of dollars of training to learn to use the devices. The training runs at a cost of about $1800 per day and that doesn't include the cost for substitutes. You'll also find that IWBs have a lot of technical issues. In most of the classrooms I visit I find teachers need technical support to get the devices going.

If I've succeeded in helping you see the truth and you realize you don't need to spend this much money to create a 21st century classroom, take a look at the numbers and see what you can instead put in the hands of children once armed with this knowledge. First is a breakdown of costs with and without an IWB.


Note: These are approximate numbers for items that you can purchase for a slightly higher or lower cost depending on if you select the high-end or low-end model.

Projector/Tablet Combo:

  • Projector - 748
  • Tablet - $1,098
Total Cost: $1,846

Projector/Laptop/Slate Combo:

  • Projector - 748
  • Laptop - $817
  • Slate/Airliner: $281.00 (gives the tablet function in a mobile format)
Total Cost: $1,846

Interactive Whiteboard/Laptop Combo:

  • Interactive Whiteboard - $4300
  • Laptop or Tablet - $1000
Total Cost: $5300

Total Savings - Tablet/Projector combination:
Now,with the interactive whiteboard myths dispelled you can spend your money on putting technology into students hands without sacrificing functionality.

In essence, you could buy one IWB or any of the bulleted items below:

  • 9 netbooks
  • 9 iTouches
  • 3 Tablets or Laptops
  • 2 class sets of student response systems
  • 28 Livescribe pens
  • 4.5 projectors

Now imagine schools that are considering purchasing ten IWBs. Instead they could furnish their school with any of the below bulleted items:

  • 90 netbooks
  • 90 iTouches
  • 30 Tablets or Laptops
  • 20 class sets of student response systems
  • 280 Livescribe pens
  • 45 projectors
  • 1 technology coach or technician

Those are the numbers and facts you should have in mind when making this purchasing decision. Whether you're an educator or a leader, it's important to make informed decisions, especially if those decisions can result in additional, or fewer, resources in the hands of children.

Related Posts:

Why Smartboards are a Dumb Initiative
The Ten No Nos of Teaching with a Projector or Interactive Whiteboard


  1. Re: Myth 2 - Use Screentoaster instead of Screenjelly. Why? Screenjelly limits recording to 3minutes.

    So teach quickly, Screenjelly-ers!

  2. @Ken Rodoff, they are two products by the same company. Screenjelly is the simpler to use version. What I like about is the very fact that it limits the video to three minutes. That's often the perfect amount of time to convey morsels of learning that then direct learners to do a hands on activity.

    In the best case scenario it's the kids making the lessons as I wrote about here

  3. Addressing Myth #6 and #7 -

    Touching a big screen with your hands/fingers is a very different experience compared to using a pen (stylus) on a tablet (understand that not all IWBs have this "touch" feature), especially for younger students and students with special needs. I call it the “Vanna White” phenomenon. When you’re up on the board touching the letters and the words and dragging them to form words or sentences with your fingers and hands, it’s very different from a student using a digital pen on a small screen. It’s different for the user and different for the audience of learners. I would compare this “touch factor” to using an iPod Touch, an iPhone, or an iPad as opposed to a “non-touch” device or one that requires a stylus. Similar, but definitely not the same.

    Our school did have some Tablet PCs and projectors before we got the Smart Boards, and the teachers did not grab onto them as they have the Smart Boards. This might be because every time they wanted to use it, they had to take out projector, hook it up to the Tablet PC, and have long enough wires to project it onto the projector screen.

    I bet if we conducted a survey with teachers and students who have tried both technologies (Smart Boards vs. Tablet/Projector) and compared the two, most would say the two experiences are different.

  4. Addressing Myth #1 -
    Videos/multimedia need sound, and laptop speakers are not going to cut in in the classroom. You're going to have to factor in the cost of a nice set of speakers. Those carts which allow you to store away and secure your Tablet PC or laptop and your projector, and which include the power strip and set of speakers cost about $1150, believe it or not.

  5. TimeOutDad, IWBs work well for all because it replicates what we're used to. The teacher or student in front of a room at a big ol board.

    The direction we're going is personal learning devices for all and the teacher is not always at the front of the room nor is the teacher always the adult in the room.

    What I recommend doesn't require all those wires, nor does it have to be attached to the front of the room. I generally sit very close to my students/participants up close and personal and teach with information projected behind me.

    This information is sometimes created by me, but the best information is when it is the students information and they are the ones teaching. The teaching doesn't happen in this environment from the front of the room. It happens all over the room. No one needs to get out of their seat and go to the front of the room. It can happen from anywhere in the room but the information we are all discussing is projected onto a screen. The focus moves from the board to the people in the room mostly, and to the board sometimes.

    Projectors today are teenie. So are speakers. I have a small lunch bag that holds my laptop, projector and speakers. I have one powerstrip that goes to my laptop, speaker and projector and only one cord on the floor. Same as with an IWB.

    As I write in this post, there is indeed more than one way to teach with this type of tech, but I prefer the one that also lets me put more resources in student's hands.

  6. Myth #4: You will need to buy the software separately unless you use free online whiteboard collaboration tools with decreased functionality. However, there are many free online interactive resources if teachers don't want to create their own lessons, it just takes a lot of time to find them.

    Myth #7: If you use a slate instead of a tablet the kids can not see the computer screen on the slate and must use a pen rather than having touch functionality. As TimeOutDad shares, it is not the same ease of use for students.

    Why does your laptop cost jump from $817 to $1000 in the slate vs IWB comparison?

    You can purchase a mimio wireless IWB for $749.

    A 64" SMARTboard is $1195. A 77" SMARTboard is $1485. (Can save money by buying your own projector and mounting it on the ceiling.) You would still have the installation costs or the cost of a rolling stand.

    I'm sure your IWB quote above was for a Promethean w/ attached projector. That is the most costly brand I am aware of.

    I understand your point that even w/ the above price options, you would still also have to purchase a projector and a computer which you would already have if you chose the projector/tablet combo. Just wanted to share my thoughts on some of the info. above.

  7. @Lizzie4353
    ... Myth #4: Software. There are many free lesson options and many schools have great interactive curriculum packages in place. However, if schools want the software, then I'd recommend using the money you save from not purchasing an IWB and instead purchase student response systems. This way every kid has valuable tech in their hands and classrooms have the software.

    Myth #7: Slate. The computer screen is still projected when you have the slate. Or, if you have a wireless Tablet you can pass that around and use the touch screen that can still project to the front of the room using a number of collaborative tools such as Google docs.

    Laptop cost: These are ballpark numbers, but here's where I came up with them. They could easily be adjusted by a bit in any direction. You can get a basic laptop for the $817 price and a tablet for $1100. If someone has an IWB they can have a basic laptop, high end laptop, tablet, etc, so I selected a price of what a standard device may have run. It could be more or less. This was ballpark.

    Projector installation: I don't agree with all these pricey options we're selling to schools. I carry my projector, laptop, and speakers in a small lunch tote and can pop it out and teach with it anywhere, anytime. There's always a wall or screen to find to project on.

    IWB cost: Yes, I was at a Promethean presentation and I took the middle end number from their price sheet.

  8. @ Lisa - Another thought-provoking post! Genius! ;)

    I totally agree with you about the dangers of "sage-on-the-stage-itis," and that it's going to take a lot of "unlearning" for some to get used to stepping to the side.

    But in my experience, especially with the little ones and students with special needs, there is a need for good modeling, whether it is from the teacher or fellow students. When I'm doing a mini-lesson, before sending my students off to innovate, I need that stage for about 10-15 minutes. That's when I see the Smart Boards and the touch features coming into play. If I'm up there too long, they'll let me know, one way or another. :)

    The biggest irony I find is from those who preach most loudly against the "sage on the stage." Guess what? They're usually preaching it from pulpit (standing on that big ol' stage), while we, the teachers, have to sit and watch and listen about how "bad" and "wrong" it is to teach our students from the front of the room.

    As teachers, we need to perform and entertain and model and tell our stories on that stage, every now and then, in order to get our students focused, engaged, and learning. It's all in a day's work... ;)

  9. @TimeOutDad - I agree with you and the workshop model of a short mini lesson, worktime, share, but I can do that without the IWB and my learners can play a role in that teaching from their seats, from the front of the room or all the way in another state or country.

    I recently held a class with teachers and students and some of the best learning happened when the teachers listened and the learners taught.

  10. I would add to those IWB costs. Unless the school is set up for a projector to be mounted it must be put onto a cart. This means additional costs for materials and let's not even start on the labor/time to put them together. There are over 12 IWB's here at my school and only 2 are being used properly. The rest are not even connected to a computer, let alone being used in their intended format. If you go to ISTE and I have the opportunity to meet you in person, remind me to show you photos of those IWB's in "action." LOL

  11. @K. Shelton, I won't be at ISTE, but I'll be at BLC. In the meantime, I'd love to see the photos. I took a few myself at a school yesterday. Do you have a link?

  12. Just sent you a DM on twitter with a link to the photo

  13. I agree with most everything you said.

    However, I agree with the counterpoints, too.

    The reality (for me) is that the SmartBoard combines everything into a single device, and I don't need to worry about bulbs, dry-erase markers, speakers, etc.

    It's optimistic to imagine that all teachers are tech-savvy (or have tech-savvy students).

    But I definitely agree that technology can be overused. I once saw a teacher (with a packet of chalk and pristine chalkboard) fumble for five minutes bringing up the SmartBoard so he could type out info on upcoming study sessions. And of course it was a student who said, "Um, why don't you just write it on the board?"

  14. @Student Handouts, Inc., that's not accurate. Yet another myth to add to my list. The IWB does not combine everything in a single device. You do still have to worry about the projector bulbs. Many boards do not have speakers, some do, but many computers have speakers already attached, and a simple $20 investment does the trick if it doesn't. Dry erase markers? Huh? That has nothing to do with either device. Save yourself thousands, and don't be fooled into thinking this device is easier to use.

    I was recently at a school and asked teachers if they like their Smartboards. Answer: I guess...when it works. Teachers find them difficult to use, awkward, and they're often glitchy.

    Your comment about tech savvyness makes my case stronger. The cop out for Smartboards used wrong is that teachers didn't get enough PD. Mind you this PD comes at a high cost of about $1800 a day that also goes to the IWB companies. If teachers aren't tech savvy, why get them a device that requires all this extra training?

  15. Couple thoughts:

    1) Mimios and Epson Brightlink are bringing down the costs tremendously... although I'm still not a huge stylus fan. Lose the stylus, lose the functionality. Dexterity of 4-5 year olds questionable.

    2) The number one device I see "technical glitches" for are wireless slates. Less than 10% purchased are utilized in my schools.

    3) I read the preliminary Marzano research quite a while ago... but I believe it aggregates the student response system data and the interactive whiteboard data. Student response systems greatly increase effectiveness in a classroom in multiple ways: 1) teachers may incorporate more formative assessment 2) Instructional decisions can be made in real time based on the data 3) (and often overlooked) When a teacher calls on a student, only one child is expected to "think." Other students may tune out or have unknown misconceptions. Giving a child a response device demands active participation from all children. Brain research shows that just the increase in active participation increases student learning/achievement.
    If we take away the IWB and leave the response system, how are the results effected?

    Lisa, any thoughts on the SMART (other brands?) tables?

  16. @shana, If the cost is brought down that's nice, but I still don't believe in the sage on the stage teaching. I believe what is projected is what the audience sees, but the people speaking about it don't need to be connected to the board. They can be any where in the room or the world. When we shift our mindset from place-based to people based, the desire to stand in place to teach will become less important. As far as wireless slates, that's good information. The stats sound similar to the number of IWBs that are actually used as they are meant to, so perhaps both devices are a waste of money.

    The tables...why? No! I think we should be empowering students to use devices they encounter in the world. Give them each a netbook instead and save thousands.

    Re: the Marzano SRS research, yes! I believe SRS's are really effective. I also believe we could save another $2500 per classroom if we lifted the ban on student-owned digital devices that served the same function as student response systems. But hey, if school systems listened to me, we'd save $6000 per classroom, our budgets would be in better order, and our kids would be more engaged.

  17. Yes, by all means, invest in technology that once a kid drops it on the floor by it's toast. Where's the money going to come from to replace a few broken netbooks or iFads?

  18. EDIT: Yes, by all means, invest in technology that once a kid drops it on the floor it's toast. Where's the money going to come from to replace a few broken netbooks or iFads?

  19. @marksrightbrain, teaching kids proper care and responsibility is a valuable lesson for sure. I do hope though that you're not suggesting we should keep tech from students and put it only in teachers hands because kids might break it.

    The teachers who want such tech in place in their rooms should have a plan in place to ensure the safety of equipment. I managed PD for a 1:1 laptop program in schools across NYC and when teachers and leaders explicitly taught students to value equipment and informed parents/families of the resources their children had access too, the kids stepped up to the plate and handled with care. They love using technology and love being given the responsibility to produce and create with these devices.

  20. @Lisa - I think one myth is that you have to spend thousands on PD to use a Smart Board. That's only true if you hire out for PD. If you have an administration that trusts its tech savvy teachers, there's no need to hire out.

    As the technology specialist at my school, I asked the principal if she could send me to a week-long training for less than $200. Then, I went back to my school to "train" the teachers. After a while, they were teaching me about things. When you have teachers that work together, everyone learns. ;)

  21. "I do hope though that you're not suggesting we should keep tech from students and put it only in teachers hands because kids might break it. "

    My parenting style informs much of how I teach, so my first instinct is to say, yes, that's how I'm thinking. I was raised in an impoverished post-WW2 immigrant culture where expensive items were luxuries and typically not freely entrusted in the hands of children until they were of a sufficient age. There has to be a vetting process where they can prove they can be trusted. I can't spend my whole day in mental turmoil worrying if little Johnny or Susie is going to break that $500 item due to their natural carelessness and who's going to pay for it. You can train kids until the cows come home. They are still going to be careless and forgetful. I internalize the responsibility for the expenses incurred by my school and often I become sickened when I see resources wasted or misused. I know teachers who don't care because it isn't their money. I find that attitude reprehensible.

  22. Your stats are a little shifty. Why is the laptop MORE expensive with the IWB? And who says an IWB needs a LAPTOP? a cheap desktop will suffice.

    Overall, your article is good, but you shouldn't screw around with numbers like that. Also, you should acknowledge that students do benefit from seeing the hand actually write -- there's something very direct about that kind of interaction that you don't get with the tablet, where ink magically appears on screen because the teacher is writing on the tablet.

  23. I just looked up some prices, and I shocked at your $4000+ pricetag for an IWB. Smartboards are WAY WAY cheaper.

    God, sounds like you have an agenda, with these kinds of lies. I am not reading this blog anymore.

  24. @Anonymous, I do have an agenda. The agenda is to get resources into our students hands and inform those making purchasing decisions of their options.

    As far as the lie accusation, there are no lies. I'm taking the prices directly off the pricing sheet from the presentation I attended. The low-end board $4,425, the high end 5,889. Actually, I gave the price estimate for the IWB a bit lower than the price which it actually listed.

    I'm not sure what about this upsets you so, but I'd be happy to read your thoughts.

  25. @Anonymous, I addressed the pricing for the laptop in a previous comment, which is that you can really get any type of computer, laptop, tablet, yes, so I selected a middle of the road price from my company's pricing sheet. And, yes, you can use a Desktop with an IWB or a projector, but the savings still remains regardless of the device you pair with a projector vs IWB. To clarify, I'm not screwing around with numbers. I'm taking a middle end number from our actual pricing sheet. As I state above it could vary a bit in either direction depending on a high or low end device.

    Re: your request that I acknowledge the importance of seeing a hand write, first, I haven't seen research on that, but I know many teachers and students that would make the case for the other side of the argument. One which I wrote about here in a mathcasting post. Additionally, regarding the seeing of the hand writing, more often than not I see the student blocking the view of the writing to the class by their body or shadow. To me this possible benefit would not justify the cost and trade off as far as putting more tech in students hands. Finally, I would like to see you replace "teacher" when you refer to the board writer with "student or teacher."

  26. @marksrightbrain, I don't think carelessness is age-dependent, nor is clumsiness. Unfortunately, I happen to often fall victim to both and I've fought a lifetime against it. I trip. I spill. I make messes. I leave things behind and frantically look for them the moment I notice...and I usually have success in finding them. I laugh at myself before others do, in part to preemptively strike on the make fun department. It's one of my handicaps. Another is more poor sense of direction. I am aware, and I do work on this, but I hope that someone wouldn't ban me from using technology because of these traits. In fact technology has become the very thing that has helped me overcome (partially) some of these challenges.

    As an educator, I believe we have to figure out ways to adapt to various learners and styles before we decide that only the privileged are worthy of using technology.

  27. @TimeOutDad, I should perhaps tighten the language on that. I'll reread and do so to clarify.

    It is not a myth that IWB companies charge thousands for PD. That is the truth and schools have an added expense when covering teachers or compensating them for their additional work time. As far as costs, on the pricing sheet I have the cost is $1895 for a 12-participant 1-day class and 4,275 for an 8-participant, train-the-trainer 3-day class.

    I agree building capacity in house is best. However, personally, I'd prefer to let teachers use a laptop and projector and spend the time they save not attending training with the students or learning something else.

  28. Lizzie4353 was right on with the SMART board prices. Our school district has a few tablets, but mostly SMART boards. We'd use more tablets but it is too costly. Every classroom has a mounted projector connected to the teacher destop computer. Also, a good tablet PC that will run on a school network costs about $2000. If you go cheap, you'll get what you pay for.

    I xo agree allowing students to bring in their own wireless devices is the way to go, but it's not as cheap as you make it sound. There is a significant cost on the back end to upgrade to install the wireless NAC. But yes, in the long run, it is a cost savings.

  29. Lisa: you may be all of those things, but the fact remains, you are an adult, which separates you from how children are and should be reasonably judged. Different rules and standards should apply for adults as opposed to kids. "Privilege" is really an inappropriate term to apply here, as it suggests that some kind of class warfare, which really does not exist in this instance. I get the impression your approach is attempting to turn the world into something child-centric, which would be completely disastrous and antithetical to traditional ideas of child-rearing. We already have too many spoiled and over-indulged kids running around with no sense of their place vis a vis adults.

  30. I find it puzzling that a blog devoted to utilizing technology in the classroom would so stridently condemn on form of tech that doesn't seem to fit the sexy pop culture/Madison Avenue imaged products out of Silicon Valley. Realistically, if you are that pro-tech, you should be championing ALL forms of tech and be pleased that teachers are using at least something rather than nothing. Promoting one at the detriment of the other leads me to believe that some malevolent motivations are possibly at play here. I'll leave it to the more clever readers to formulate their own theory as to why this could be.

  31. @Dan, As I mentioned above, the prices were taken directly off the price sheet from the IWB company and it is the price they are giving to school districts such as the one in which I work at the presentation I attended. I have no motivation to mislead on prices.

    Tablets at the same school district are 1100 making that combination a great option for schools more interested in putting resources in the hands of kids rather than in the pockets of big business.

    In the same districts netbooks are $350 and they all come wireless enabled. However, regardless of whether you're connected to the internet there's value in putting 9 of these in the classroom over buying one device for the front of the room.

  32. @marksrightbrain, my blog is devoted to engaging learners, educating innovatively, and supporting learners. There are no malevolent motivations. I just want schools to know they have choices in purchasing. They rarely here the other side. Those who believe students would be better supported by putting resources in their hands rather than purchasing a glitzy gadget should know this option. They should also know you can get similar functionality without the added costs.

  33. If someone is made to think twice about whether they should buy an IWB b/c of your post, that is a good thing b/c too many people go into the decision without all the information. However ultimately it is the choice of the school and the teacher rather than a one size fits all decision. You can do great things with tablets, projectors, and IWB's or you can do exactly what you do without them. Technology empowers teachers to make learning better as long as they choose and use technology with their eyes open and that is what your post does (open people's eyes).

  34. "rather than purchasing a glitzy gadget "

    I see, and an iFad is not?

  35. @marksrightbrain, The iPad is not something that I've suggested for educators, in fact, I believe like the IWB, it's another unnecessary gadget whose functionality already exists in other devices people own i.e. Tablet, iTouch, laptop. I've also shared this post with my PLN which provides smart reasons as to why this is not a device for education

  36. Okay - I've read though all of the commentary up to this point, and here's my take.
    1. There are choices to be made regarding best use of budget dollars. Anyone who says IWBs are the best way to bring schools into the 21st Century is a liar.
    2. Decisions should be made based upon how the spending will improve learning (not teaching).
    3. Investments should be evaluated. If learning is not being improved (however you'd like to measure it), then something isn't working.
    4. When expensive tools go unused, underused, or misused, then that must be addressed. However, often they go unused for very good reasons. Good Admin. will educate themselves on what has failed and been problematic elsewhere and budget/plan accordingly.
    5. Admins must not view the procurement of new "high tech" devices as a way to stick feathers in their hats, make their schools appear innovative in PR documentation, or bring about magical changes. Innovation can't be bought. Innovation happens when teachers take part in innovative teaching practices. Meaningful learning does not require technology at all in many cases. Too often, teachers abandon more effective practices for less effective ones that use technology.
    6. Children learn responsibility by being given responsibility. Don't underestimate children. Have logical consequences for patterns of irresponsible behavior. Students often fail to assume responsibility when they are not given the opportunity to have ownership.
    7. Provide a variety of tools for teachers to use. Don't force tools in situations or in classrooms where they will not be used or used well. Ask teachers what they think would best serve their students.
    8. For teachers who don't have a clue regarding #7, invest in opportunities for them to learn more. Don't force technologies on them that will be wasted.

    Thanks for providing food for thought in this decision making process!

  37. I am sorry, Lisa, that so many of your commenters have forgotten their manners.

    I know that you posted this to provide another option and/or viewpoint on a 'hot' issue. Many people got that too, and engaged you professionally. I, myself, feel that there is some truth to your argument in that IWB often perpetuate the sage on the stage style of teaching. I am not sure if I agree with ALL of ways you dispell the myths, but I appreciate them.

    As for the anonymous commenter, I would ignore anyone who can't put their name on a post. Especially since their comment was childish. Why would you stop reading a blog just because you disagree with it? Do you work for an IWB company? :-) (joke)

    Also, if you are going to reference digital tools, calling them by a nickname does not help the blog author take your comment seriously.

    Thanks, Lisa, for a provoking post!

  38. Lisa: Your Dad must be a great man. It's too bad you can't think more like him.

    What a shame you aren't above gossiping about other people behind their back.

  39. @marksrightbrain, I think you and my dad would get along well and I am sure you both have good intentions. I also know you both see the world in a way that is different than how I see it. Fortunately, I got access to all those things I was too messy, klutzy, etc. to have access to eventually and I do believe all kids should have a chance. There is a spectrum that goes from OCD to ME. We both deserve opportunity.

    And, how is commenting in public, doing so behind your back? It is not. I know you follow me, would see what I wrote, and expected a response.

  40. @Steve Ransom, wow! Honored to have such a thoughtful, intelligent and insightful response from you. Thank you so much.

  41. @mshertz, thank you so much for the input. I'm glad you don't agree with it all. There's definitely room to grow thinking on these topics and this is a great place to do so.

    I also love your intelligent blog commenting advice here and on your blog in this post

  42. How about using a $40 wii remote and $5 dollar LED pen and make your own white board. Check it out here.

    Spending Thousands on white boards make not sense.

  43. Very interesting. It does bother me that so many of my teachers love/want an IWB in their classroom. Here is a document that summarizes the research...

  44. Interesting post! I remember when Conan O'Brien once made fun of how lame Harley motorcycles on air are then received a free one from the company. Here's hoping!

    But seriously, a thought-provoking post. I second the wiimote comment, too! That is so cool.

  45. I've got a wiimote whiteboard in my room and it works wonderfully. I've got some videos at Blows the 1k tablet out of the water.

    I do agree that IWB vendors are creepy, creepy people whose products are ridonkadonk.

    No matter what product a school users, there needs to be ample training AND professional development, preferably in-house. Once that's done, then things can fall into place.

  46. Thoughtful discourse. I agree with Aaron Fowles, though. Not necessarily about vendors but that the Interactive whiteboard is a more useful product than the tablet. I've used both, and my students find the board easier than the tablet, and I do too.

    In the end, a teacher must use whatever hardware a district provides and adapt to it.

    It's more the craftsman than it is the tool.

  47. @Mark Barnes, aside from being a solution that is thousands less then an IWB, I find a Tablet more useful for a student because unlike an IWB it can become a personal learning device.

    Aside from generalities though, what transferable to real-life tools, does an IWB provide students more effectively than having them interact on a Tablet, laptop, or even an iTouch? You can buy at least four iTouches, by the way with the money you save on the IWB, and then install the Free Mouse capability to let students throughout the class interact with what is being projected. With that, they're becoming skilled in using a real personal learning device. The class also has additional resources that students can use.

  48. @Mark Barnes, one additional question. Is there any myth with which you disagree? This is a fundamental piece of my post and an issue I have with the fact that consumers are lead to believe they need IWBs for this functionality.

  49. @Mark Barnes, I woke up this morning and another part of your comment was stuck in my head, "In the end, a teacher must use whatever hardware a district provides and adapt to it."

    I hope this is not true and that informed and innovative educators can make the decision to use the tools that enable them to teach most effectively.

    Your comment reminded me of an excellent literacy teacher who was given a SMARTboard but she knew she could teach more effectively without it when modeling the writing process as the keyboard is key in doing so. By sitting at her laptop, facing the students she could demonstrate exactly how real writers write.

    An administrator came into the room with a technology coach and admonished her for not using her SMARTboard. "Come on! Get up. Go to the front of the room and use the SMARTboard we paid for." The teacher quit that year moving to a school that valued her knowledge and pedagogical skills over one that thought using the latest gadget equaled teaching success.

  50. @The Innovaive Educator, Hmm, you have me thinking about these comments. Not sure about disagreeing with myths (I'm troubled by the semantics); if I disagree with a myth, do I agree with your truth? Confusing. I'd say I agree that most of the myths are indeed myths, but I would say #6 and #9 are not myths.

    My experience is that IWBs are easier to use for tactile learners; they seem to do better with the large working space. I also think using the bigger board is better for many things. For example, I don't want to project images from my computer onto a wall, as they are often distorted by damaged paint or sun glare. I understand that the projector may be a separate piece, but I don't perceive it as such, because I use it only with my IWB.

    Although I appreciate the conviction of a teacher to leave one job based on her beliefs of what's right, I'm not a fan of too much sitting in the classroom. This is another part of the IWB that I like, even though I don't think a teacher should be attached to the board. I like to move around the room, so I use a remote, clicking from one slide to the next and activating many interactive features with my remote, from any place in the room.

    About your suggestion that "innovative educators can make the decision to use the tools that enable them to teach most effectively," with all due respect, I would bet you work at a very progressive district, which distorts the reality of what most teachers face.

    It may seem easy to say "I've got a new gadget or application I want to use;" getting it done is quite a different thing. Most teachers face administrators who are afraid of technology and Web 2.0. I fought for 6 months to get my district to unblock Delicious from our servers -- going as far as producing a video on the benefits and safety of Delicious. It took 6 months of cajoling principals and senior administrators, before I could use my Delicious bookmarks with my students.

    So, back to an earlier comment, I do believe that teachers, sadly, must adapt to what they are given or what they can get approved.

    We always need to keep fighting for more. . .

    This may be a different topic though.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response to my comment. You always keep me coming back.

  51. @Mark Barnes, Thanks for providing insightful feedback that makes me think.

    I’m not convinced of the real-world value to the tactile learner. First, few teachers even have student use the IWB, but even for those who do, supporting a student with technology that they don’t have access to outside of class doesn’t seem like a smart investment. I’d rather empower students with ways to learn using tools they can access in real life. If I have a few thousand extra to spend rather than an IWB, I’d get iTouches, iPads or Tablets and empower students with tools for learning that they can engage with in real life outside school.

    Regarding the justification of the expense because of distorted images, I’m not feeling it. There are all sorts of free or cheap ( surfaces on which an image can be projected.

    The story about the teacher leaving after being reprimanded for teaching her students using tech she found more effective then what the school imposed upon her…It really goes to the point of the danger that can occur when administrators believe that simply using the tech they imposed upon you (rather than the tools you believe will best serve your students) is key to 21st century instruction. I agree moving around the room is great, but when you’re demonstrating writing in a 1:1 school, during the mini lesson you students are generally best served by the teacher modeling how to write on their Tablet while sitting at their computer. However, to your point, after the mini lesson moving around the room is great and instead of wasting money on an IWB, a teacher could buy several iTouches and her and her students could use the Free Mouse app to interact with the Tablet from anywhere in the room making the lesson engaging and interactive.

    Regarding my suggestion about "innovative educators making the decision to use the tools that enable them to teach most effectively," and your assertion that my district being progressive, that’s not the case. In fact where I work students are still banned from using their personal learning devices in school, and I was nearly canned a few times for my use of tech including because I have a blog and because I taught educators how to harness the power of the phones they owned for learning.

    I’m not one to follow the tide of my school or district when I don’t feel it’s in the best interest of kids, teacher or leaders. I’m one to push for what makes sense to serve our students, teachers and leaders best. Principals often have some power over their budgets and fundraising. I suggest that with their funds “they” don’t make purchasing decisions on hardware, but rather bring classroom teachers and their students into the conversation and allow them to apply for the equipment that will best support instruction within the allowed budget allocation. This doesn’t require working in a progressive district, but rather a principal who empowers teachers and students to think about the tools that will best support learners. In all likelihood only some teachers will bother to apply to get tech for their class. These are the teachers the leaders should focus on.

    I also encourage administrators to take this a step further and provide those teachers who make an effort to innovate to share with their students what they are doing onsite and online so others can learn from them.

    Mark I appreciate yourthought-provoking comments and I hope I’ve provided some food-for-thought for you and others as well.

  52. My school uses interactive boards, not SB, not Promethean. Kids get to interactively go up to the board and all that at an average cost of $1,000 each (including overhead projector). Hasn´t anyone heard of

    Our school uses the Mimio Interactive and the Mimio Pad with tremendous success. Do all teachers use it? Well, that´s another story.

  53. I share this opinion.
    Fact is an interactive whiteboard only brings mouse functionality to the whiteboard, in fact it is just a computermouse, but a very expensive one. The rest of the show is software, and in fact you don't even need an interactive whiteboard to use this. There are a lot of opensource alternatives too, like 'Sankoré'....
    But if the interactive whiteboard would cost something like a computer mouse then it would add some extra value to your computer projection.
    In fact I'm an IT responsible at our school and I have build a solution that costs no more then a good computer mouse. No, not the wiimote solution, it is not good enough.
    Take a look a my project:,
    and it also supports multitouch, but you don't need it. :-)

  54. I got a quote for an interactive smartboard plus training over $11,000