Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Are Interactive Whiteboards a Smart Idea when they Make Even the Most Innovative of Educators Look Dumb? – 10 Reasons to Ditch the Board

I had the good fortune to attend EdCampNYC this past weekend which was attended by passionate and innovative educators. All presenters were placed in rooms equipped with Smartboards. As I’ve witnessed at every other conference I’ve attended with interactive whiteboards (IWBs), they either weren’t utilized (such as at Alan November's yearly Building Learning Communities conference) or they made the sessions more difficult and glitchy.

Because the conference was held at a school, it had the usual IWB configuration. The Smartboard was front and center and not near the CPU/keyboard essential to effectively operate all necessary controls. What some presenters resorted to was a rather awkward set up with one person at the front of the room and another controlling the keyboard/mouse from elsewhere. Of course, teachers don’t have luxury of a second person or assistant, but this was what seemed to be most effective. In each session the board made these tech-savvy presenters (present company included) rather flustered and uncomfortable as a result of the glitchiness of them and/or awkwardness of having either two people at the helm or needing to run back and forth between the front of the room and the keyboard. Additionally, let’s face it. Smartboards just aren’t that intuitive. Folks often get frustrated as they intend to point to something on the board but instead the point results in unexpectedly being taken elsewhere or something they didn’t want to have appear on the screen pops up so the facilitators found themselves running back over to the keyboard and mouse.

I know all those people who feel the need to believe in the magic of the board are going to jump up and down saying how great they are at using IWBs and they will explain how they have transformed teaching with them, but the reality is they are doing that either 1) Because they begged their principal to get an IWB so they better stand up for the benefits it is supposed to provide or their school wasted thousands of dollars that could have gone toward personal computing for students. Acknowledging Smartboards are dumb is as difficult for them as telling a child there’s really no Santa Claus and the real stars are their parents. For all of those in this category, like the myth of Santa, you are attributing the magic of the board to the wrong player. While the board has tales of legend and lore behind it in reality
IWBs are Not the Stars. They’re the Overpaid Extras with A Great Agent.

Five problems with interactive whiteboards

1. The keyboard doesn’t get the respect it deserves
An IWB devalues the keyboard which for many is an important component in driving a computer. Innovative educators such as myself rely on the keyboard in our presentations and interactions. Using the virtual one on the IWB screen is not a good option because you're left tapping a board with your back to the room and it's SLOW.

2. The pen gets more respect than it deserves

More and more innovative educators find their digitally savvy students are ditching the pen in favor of producing text with a keyboard. Drafting more often is done by typing instead of writing. For many of the digitally savvy the keyboard is mightier than the pen.

3. Our eyes don't get the respect they deserve

As opposed to a set up with a laptop and projector that would enable the person facilitating to face the people in the room, the Smartboard, like the traditional blackboard results in teachers and students who are at the board often having their backs to the audience, or perhaps their side, to the audience. Additionally, because of this the person at the front of the room is often blocking what is on either on the board and/or the presenter often gets in the way of the projector.

4. The Promethean Shuffle and Smartboard Slide don't deserve respect on the classroom floor

While the shuffle and slide may look good on the dance floor, they usually have no place in the classroom, but educators are often led to follow this dance when interactive whiteboards are used to lead instruction. If you’ve seen someone use an interactive whiteboard, you know what I’m talking about as they slide from side to side to access the information they want on the board and shuffle out of the way of the projector. While interactive whiteboards are great at making a teacher feel like they’re taking stage, the front of the class is just not a place they should be doing that type of song and dance.

5. The time teacher's have for professional development does not get the respect it deserves

Time and time again when I point out that I see money wasted on IWBS I hear, oh…teachers aren’t using Smartboards well because they don’t have the proper training. You know what? I don’t know of any technology that people get more training for then Smartboards and they’re still not being used effectively. This is a result of two reasons.
  1. Useful technology doesn’t need all this training. Adults and students just figure out how to use cell phones, cameras, iPads, Wii’s, computers, televisions, projectors, etc. Sure, they may need help to get started, but then they’re off and running, at least with the basics…
  2. They are a catalyst for ineffective teaching. When you drop the board and let educators use just the laptop and projector the following happens:
i. Instruction can become people, rather than place-based,
ii. Instructors can have eye-to-eye contact with the students
iii. The focus is off the front of the room and on the learning.
iv. The class becomes more interactive when learning is happening around the room rather than with the one (or sometimes 2 – 4) people at the board.

When cash-strapped schools stop wasting money on training people on a mistaken expenditure they can put those funds to something more meaningful

5 Reasons Ditching Interactive Whiteboards is a Smart Idea
While being able to tap a board that will react has an upfront “WOW” factor, innovative educators instinctively know that it’s NOT smart to teach in the manner dictated by an IWB. Instead, they know that dropping the IWB enables them to do all the following which become difficult with Smartboards.
  1. Focus on the students, not the sage on the stage.
  2. Learning should come from anywhere, not just at the board in front of the room.
  3. When addressing a classroom it is better to look at students faces then have them look at your behind or side.
  4. Have access to the keyboard and mouse and be able to see where you are typing and clicking.
  5. Have access to any peripherals you are using such as when podcasting, Skyping, etc.
If you love your interactive whiteboard, enjoy, but if you are an innovative educator who hasn’t bought into the hype, don’t feel compelled to spend a lot of time learning to use something that many innovative educators believe just isn’t worth it in general and in particular because most people using IWBs look like those in this slideshow I created.

Getting Smart About Interactive Whiteboards (Smartboards, Promethean Boards) from Lisa Nielsen


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying what needs to be said.

    Use the projector and computer to show what needs to be shown, then get the focus off the front of the room and back on the learners.

  2. It's not the lack of a keyboard that's the problem. It's the Operating System being based around the keyboard/mouse combo that represents the issue.

    If Apple's iOS were to run on a giant touch screen, the problems you're talking about wouldn't be problems.

    So the issue isn't the tech per-se, but rather the implementation of that tech.

  3. I'm with you. I wrote about this very issue, from a different perspective just a couple of weeks ago. Not only is the technology hard to use when it shouldn't be, it isn't really interactive.

    However, Remi Collins pointed out one use of an IWB I hadn't thought of. Basically, they can be used as a giant touch-screen for your students with fine motor difficulties, allowing them to interact with text, images, etc... in a way they may otherwise not be able to.

    Here's my perspective on this issue.

  4. I'm not a fan of IWB. They really don't change education. Most teachers I've seen use them as expensive screens for PowerPoint or some SmartBoard notebook. The teacher is still the center of attention and the students are not interactive or engaged. Even when students do use them, it is still just one student using it.

    I'm more inclined to spend the money on some netbooks for student use instead.

    I took an IWB course and a train-the-trainer course, had an IWB in my room, and gave it away. I use a lot of Project Based Learning and the IWB did nothing for me. I do use a Mimio capture to capture things that I write on the board (doing example problems, etc) for students that are absent, but that's it.

    I see schools all over the place spending a ton of money on IWB and I truly don't see a return on the investment.

    It doesn't matter if Apple's iOS were running either. It is still the teacher in front of the room and the students sitting still in their chairs.

    Forget IWB and projectors. Let's go with a computer for every student and the teacher can share materials with them instead of lecturing.

  5. Our college has attempted to go the route of the Smart Sympodium - think IWB but you have a touchscreen tablet mounted by your computer. I somewhat liked the idea, but found something much more reasonably priced. Its called an Epson Brighlink - think IWB but you can use any surface to project onto. The projector is mounted on the wall rather than the ceiling and it does voice recognition to type as well as hand-writing to text recognition. The price is great as well - not a HUGE investment like the IWBs I priced up - more than 70% cheaper than a traditional IWB setup.

  6. As with any type of technology, it is a tool and not the answer. I think this blog applies more directly to those teachers that use the IWB as a replacement, front and center, for their regular whiteboards and teaching methodologies. IWBs, when used as PART of instruction and not a teaching tool not THE answer....have been found to be very effective.

    Another thing to mention is they are most powerful when they are student-led and not the teacher being a "sage on the stage" and using them to show Powerpoints and do fancy manipulations. Once a teacher steps back and lets the students use the board for interactive lessons and exploration, real learning can take place!

  7. @David (who responded at 12/8/10 8:27 am) First, I loved your post. Thank you for sharing the link. Re: your point that they are used as an assistive device. Yes. This is the one thing that I've heard teachers make a case for. Here are my issues with this. I think we want assistive devices that students can use independently in life and the world. Unless we think it makes sense to provide IWBs for students at home, I don't think it makes a lot of sense as a tool because the way it is in the classroom, they are hardly able to use it and generally can only use one at a time. For most, the less expensive iPad or iTouch, would make more sense and it is something they can use independently. For the very few cases where it must be a large device, then, yes, it makes sense, but this applies to a small percentage of the student population. In that case, the device is not used as the ineffective teaching tool we usually witness and it is used as a large personal learning device…which by the way, should be removed from the front of the room.

  8. @Michael Trump, I get what you're saying, but I disagree that they've been found to be effective. By who? Yes, the IWB-funded studies show they're effective, but I've never seen or heard about them used effectively, save the one example I responded in my comment above to David. In fact a critical review of the literature by the Center for Learning and Teaching, School of Education Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University found that there is insufficient evidence to identify the actual impact of such technologies upon learning either in terms of classroom interaction or upon attainment and achievement. Read more at (

    Regarding your observation that they are more powerful when student-led, yes, that is true, but the issue is still, just one (maybe two) student(s) are leading. I've seen this done and the rest of the class is BORED and not interacting.

    Save the money on an IWB. Instead put netbooks, iPads, or iTouches in the classroom. Use a truly interactive tech like Google docs and get the WHOLE class engaged and actually INTERACTING.

  9. I agree with Michael Trump. The Innovative Educator obviously has a biased opinion of interactive whiteboards and doen not understand that they are a tool with great potential when used effectively.

  10. Students today need to learn the way they live. Smart phones, computer games, and technology in general are the way of life for this generation. Many of the interactive whiteboard problems mentioned above focus on a “teacher centered” approach rather than a “learner centered” approach to education. Educators should prepare engaging lessons prior to the start of class, and not need to type more than a sentence using the IWB’s keyboard. The innovative educator only needs the keyboard for spontaneous searches; everything else should be saved and ready to go for easy, interactive access during a lesson.

    It’s not the teacher but the students who should be “on stage” demonstrating their skills and learning new ones with the help of the IWB. Creative teachers put students into teams and have them interact with the IWB. They have students leading lessons to develop life skills in addition to those being learned in that particular subject.

    Professional development opens educators’ eyes to the IWB’s capabilities. The SMART Notebook software is so dynamic, it is important to utilize all of its built-in educational applications.

  11. @The Innovative Educator and @David: You mentioned the IWB as an assistive device. An iPad or iTouch does not provide a large enough surface for a special needs student to properly maneuver. It cannot withstand a students’ body weight or recognize the difference between an intended touch and an unintended touch on the interactive screen.

    There is a new assistive device called TAP∙it™ that recognizes these needs and adapts to them. The commercial grade LCD panel is resistant to dust, grit, grime and other contaminants; plus, it’s made of shatter-resistant safety glass. Some people have purchased the Touch Accessible Platform for Interactive Technology for their homes.

    Here’s how it works:

  12. @Daniel Christian, Thank you for sharing this. Clicking through your links, I see that while it’s cool and has the wow factor, many of the issues still exist. For instance the first link has a guy standing in front of a large screen with his back to everyone. Good for the guy. Not good for everyone looking at his behind watching him has fun. Instead have either a doc camera or the projection adapter for the iPad and the screen is not obstructed and the participants and person upfront can see each other.

    With the second link, same thing. This is great for the person in front of the room, but why have it? I don't need a class full of other students looking at what I'm doing wishing they could actually be the ones getting to do something interactive. Use just a projector, give the students netbooks, in groups if necessary, and let them interact so it’s interactive not just for the sage who has the stage, but for ALL students.

    The next link too. I don't need software for an IWB or future board. I have it on my personal learning device. I can do anything from there or as in the case of the link you sent, I have the text on my computer and can move around chapters from there.

    In short, what I'm saying is that we know how to use our personal devices whether it be netbook, laptop, iPad, iTouch etc.

    When we tie instruction to our personal learning device rather than a board in the front of a room, true individualized, personalized, and interactive learning can happen for all and that’s truly educating innovatively.

  13. @João Alves, You are correct. I am biased against an IWB because I have heard people speak about the “great potential” but from what I’ve witnessed the potential is really in the personal learning device and projector and the boards promote place-based, rather than learner based instruction. Additionally, sure the IWB is interactive for the teacher or the student (maybe two) in front of the room, but not for the rest. So, you have my number. I am biased against promoting technology that fosters this sort of teaching and even more so when it comes with a large price tag attached.

  14. @Lindsey, while I respect your defense of the IWB, because your livelihood depends on convincing folks these expensive devices are worth the price, there is clear bias on your end that ends up with $$$ in your pocket. That said, I agree students need to learn the way they live. I also agree educators should prepare engaging lessons prior to the start of class. From your response though, I can see you do not have a background as a literacy / writing teacher as an important component of such work is demonstrating writing / think alouds. This requires a keyboard not just a finger. Additionally, as I mentioned in the post, many teachers are using peripherals and going back and forth between the board and the computer is a problem. Finally, I’d rather let students see my face then my back.
    You state that creative teachers put students in teams and have them interact with the IWB. I’d say innovative educators would save the money on the board and purchase some netbooks, iTouches, iPads, computers, etc. so that more students can interact with the technology learning life skills with personal learning devices all of which they can project from. Additionally, why do I need to go to yet more PD. Teacher’s time is valuable. Let them use the devices they know how to use and just project it. They don’t need to learn yet another piece of hardware or software.
    As far as the SMART Notebook software, I’m not surprised you’d promote that. Another thing for teachers and students to pay for. I’d recommend teachers forget the SMART Board PD and learn how to use Google Apps which not only are truly learner-centered and interactive, but also available for FREE.

  15. @The Innovative Educator and @David: You mentioned the IWB as an assistive device. An iPad or iTouch does not provide a large enough surface for a special needs student to properly maneuver. It cannot withstand a students’ body weight or recognize the difference between an intended touch and an unintended touch on the interactive screen.

    There is a new assistive device called TAP∙it™ that recognizes these needs and adapts to them. The commercial grade LCD panel is resistant to dust, grit, grime and other contaminants; plus, it’s made of shatter-resistant safety glass. Some people have purchased the Touch Accessible Platform for Interactive Technology for their homes. Here’s how it works:

  16. @The Innovative Educator, I am not in sales; however, I do enjoy discussing the educational technology advantages and disadvantages. I appreciate your opinions as well. I agree that the iTouch and iPads are great tools; I am all about FREE Google apps! However, does every teacher know how to use these tools, or would effectively incorporating them into the classroom also require some training? Additionally, it wouldn’t make sense for just the teacher to have the technology. Each student would need one, which would cost far more than the price tag on an IWB.

  17. No, the potential is not in the personal learning device and projector, the potential is what you as a teacher can do with the tool. It's not the IWB that promotes "place-based" instruction (whatever that might be)what promotes teacher-centered instruction is the pedagogy used by the teacher, and this has nothing to do with the technology that is being used.
    Besides, I don't understand what is wrong with teaching. Of course, I understand the virtues of learner-centered activities but what I don't understand is what's wrong with a teacher standing in front of a class explaining, showing, demonstrating something, as long as it's not being done all the time.
    Again, what's wrong with a student or two (or the teacher) standing at the board (be it an IWB or normal white/black board) while the class is watching?
    I also don't understand the argument about the price of IWBs. It's always present in discussion about this tool. As a teacher I don't care how much this or that technology or furniture or whatever costs. I just want to teach with the best conditions I can get.

  18. @João Alves, good points. I agree that the potential is in what the teachers can do with the tool and I’ll take it further and say the potential is in what the learners can do with the tool. The IWB does promote “place-based” learning. You have to be front and center to interact with the board. With learner-based learning, learning can happen from anywhere. Even outside the classroom. This happens when we take the focus off the place and into the hand of learners knowing that at any time there can be a transition in who is teaching and who is learning. For example if I have personal learning devices around the room and use a collaborative software like Google docs (which happens to be free) anyone can own the teaching and learning from any place in the room or outside the room.
    You are right. There is nothing wrong with teaching, but the IWB is promoted as something that is interactive for students too and that is the issue. It is mainly more interactive for the teacher, not the teacher and students. Even if you have the student or two at the board, the rest of the class is left watching rather than interacting. When we have a set up that allows teaching and learning to happen from anywhere, and enable everyone to participate democratically, then we are really transforming teaching and learning.
    The argument about the price is this. You don’t need to spend the money on the board and if your school has the funds flowing, I suggest you spend the money on personal learning devices for students rather than an IWB so they can truly interact.

  19. Links to some studies on this:

    Robert Marzano with Promethean

  20. @Innovative Educator, You're right. Learning can happen from anywhere. It can also happen at the board, in front of it, at the side of it, etc. as long as you, the teacher, can capture the students' attention (and here IWB are extraordinary) and can make them think. Watching can be interactive as long as the students are thinking meaningfully about what is happening. So, I don't think interactivity only happens when the students are actually manipulating something. This is even a kind of interactivity that I would rank at a lower lever of the Bloom's taxonomy.

  21. Here's my take: The $2 Interactive Whiteboard -- The word "interactive" means interaction among students. Students are working together to collectively construct knowledge, explain their reasoning processes, and get feedback from the teacher and each other. Teachers should be spending their precious lesson planning time designing lessons to engage kids mentally and push them to higher levels, not creating flashy Powerpoints and Notebook files.

  22. @João Alves, yes, it “can” happen at the board, but, the same thing’s can be done without the board and done better because you don’t have to do the IWB shuffle and you can look at your audience.

  23. @Frank Noschese, thank you so much for contributing to the conversation. Your post is insightful and might I even say really SMART. I encourage anyone who has read these comments to read your post and vote for it to win the Edublog award!

  24. @Martha, yep. I'm very familiar with the study Marzano did. I even spoke to him about it. In fact, I'm even on his tech advisory team and discussed it more in his offices in Colorado. The study was funded by an IWB company and states that IWBs increase achievement - no big surprise that a study funded by a product shows this. They commissioned Marzano to do a study that would come out with results favorable to them, however the study is flawed. What it compares is a tech-rich classroom that has IWB, laptop and projector to one without technology for the teacher. I agree that tech-rich is better than a classroom without tech. What I don't believe is that a classroom with an IWB, laptop, projector is better than one with just a laptop and projector. If the board is ditched there can be additional interactivity, the back doesn't have to be to the class, and all that money saved can go toward personal learning devices for students who can actually interact with technology.

  25. @lalexander, I think if you survey most who use Google docs, spreadsheets, drawing, presentation they’d tell you they didn’t need to go to training to do so. It’s basically the same as using the docs on their own computers but now it can just be shared with others. Educators need to take responsibility for their learning and use collaborative tools such as that when they do so. If they need help, ask a student or develop a personal learning network you can turn to. As far as the tech for students, while 1:1 is great, there’s still a lot that can be done if we allow students to work in pairs or groups. And, hey, if we let students use the technology they already own, we’d be even better off.

  26. Hmmmm...I seem to remember a participant at Club602Camp stating his opposition to IWB.

    Lisa, I can't recall you sharing an opinion of the topic. :)

    Thanks for posting this even though it won't be needed at the virtual school you've got me starting.

  27. I think you have missed completely what the IWB is, it is simply a MOUSE. The software and resources the tutor chooses to use should then be 'blended' in to lesson delivery and INTERACTION. The key aspect of the IWB is the interaction it enables. It enables learners to be part of the learning experience and the tutor to be the 'guide on the side' as learners participate in their learning journey by using the IWB.

  28. @styxuk, thank you for clarifying. If it's simply a mouse, then I'd prefer to save the 1 - 2K, just use the one connected to my computer and keyboard, not worry about all the extra training, be able to look my class face to face and use that extra money I saved on not getting a board for equipment for my students. Oh wait, I think that actually was the point :-DDD

  29. @Larry Fliegelman, yes, when we were at Club602Camp I didn't share but I knew I had participants at our little pre-conference who really get that innovation doesn't mean liking every gadget, software, and/or piece of tech that comes our way.

  30. @Lindsey, Yes, I agree for a VERY small percentage of the population who have EXTREME special needs, it is possible that IWB technology might be key, but that certainly doesn’t require purchasing an Interactive Whiteboard. Instead I’d train the student, his teachers, and his family to create a $40 interactive whiteboard with a WiiMote and this can be used at school and at home. For anyone who has this type of student you can find out how to provide this assistive technology at this link

  31. @ Lisa - I love your posts on IWBs! It always makes for great debate and conversation! :) Funny thing is that some of the biggest protesters and critics of IWBs still USE them when they're around... ;)

    I think I still kinda' like IWBs (despite all the bad press), namely because I use them and see MANY teachers using them who did not use ANY technology before they came along. And yes, computers and projectors were available before we got the IWBs. They weren't used because very few were willing to set them up. (Plus, we all know that anything that is constantly set up and put away has a much higher chance of breaking.) For a tech savvy person, setting up a projector, a set of speakers, and laptop is not a problem, but that convenience (one button) factor of the IWB has made all the difference in many of our classrooms, in terms of bringing technology into our classrooms.

    Do IWBs always create great teaching and learning moments? NO WAY. But, are there times when we need our students to focus and pay attention to what we're teaching? YES! Does an IWB sometimes make for more effective teaching/presenting? YES! Aren't some of the highest paying people "Sages on the Stages." who talk, present, or perform for a living? YES! YES! YES!

    WHY are we blaming the poor IWBs for ineffective teaching, presenting, or learning? Why are we demonizing a tool? Guess what? They cost a LOT less than an ineffective teacher or presenter. Poor IWB pales in comparison... Also, when you blamed the IWB setup in those classrooms at EdCampNYC, guess what? That was HUMAN error the way those poor IWBs were set up, not the IWB's fault. ;)

    I think IWBs are the "Fall Guy" for ineffective teaching or presenting. It's like blaming a rice cooker for bad rice, blaming a hammer for poor construction, blaming a car for bad driving. We are blaming IWBs for being expensive, blaming them for poor teaching, blaming them for being misnamed. I don't think they named themselves, did they? Where does/should the responsibility lie?

    It's similar to going into a kitchen, and blaming the microwave for the cooking that's going on in a household. Microwaves aren't evil, are they? We shouldn't use them for all of our cooking (although some might beg to differ), but even the BEST chefs use them sometimes, no? In the end though, let's not blame the microwaves for ineffective cooking...

    If an IWB enables someone who is not so effective to be more effective in a classroom, a conference room, or a corporate board room, then that IWB certainly deserves to be paid a few grand, no? Personally, I'd take an IWB over an ineffective educator or presenter any day of the week. ;)

  32. Lisa, what happened to you that you have developed such a polarized view of the smartboard?

    Knowing how optimistic you are about technology's potential to transform teaching, it has always surprised me how odd your position is on whiteboards. As you know our customers not only demand media in the mix of their learning experiences, but they refuse to be a patient passenger in their journey: they want to touch, manipulate, change the outcome of, their learning.

    The whiteboard in the most revolutionary way has become the first device that treads into this desire and lets us share the experience with each other -- everything else is too small to be shared. All this great content developed for individualized instruction is amazing when run as a group activity. Kids LOVE coming to the board and the smartboard ventures into the physical space as nothing has ever before.

    I remember loving the opportunities to put my answer to the math HW on the board and stand next to it as the teacher told me how good I was. The smartboard opens these types of activities to every subject with rich media interacting in ways only the kids will imagine.

    I really think you're selling this device short in a strangely personal way like maybe you were embarrassed in front of it one day and are punishing the device. Don't get me wrong, I have played the idiot in front of the smartboard so much that I can be syndicated tomorrow. But because it's the ancestor of tomorrow's most promising digital educational manipulatives, I overlook the stodginess of the response, the constant disorientation, and the outlandish way it forces me to position my body so we don't block the projection.

    So I'm asking you to put the knife down and step away from grandpa -- we need his children (*kinect*), and he's a modern marvel in his own right.

  33. Interesting topic! Thanks for sharing!

  34. @Jim McDermott,
    I didn’t develop this view of IWBs. I have had it since I first saw them in action close to a decade ago. Ask your former boss. As you know, I’m not unbiased when it comes to my love of technology. Just because its tech doesn’t mean I’m optimistic. It has to prove itself as something that can enrich teaching and learning. I agree media should be in the mix of their learning experiences and I think touch, manipulate, change is great! In fact in the early days I suggested Tablets and projectors would be fantastic. Other options make sense too. What doesn’t make sense is what an IWB does. You are incorrect in saying that the IWB is revolutionary in the desire to share this experience. The tablet and projector do that, the document camera and anything do that. A real frog, an iPad, iTouch, a hand, etc. etc. It’s nice that kids love coming to the board, but ya know how much that costs? Nada. And, without the IWB they can come to the computer for their work to be projected. So, for the few minutes that happens great, but the problem with the IWB it’s just that kid benefiting. For the rest, not so great. Without the IWB it’s better because if they’re at a laptop, tablet, iPad, etc at least the rest of the class can see what they’re doing.
    People, not place-based learning is key. Let the kid interact from the computer connected to the project, his seat or from another country, because you’re using an interactive platform with a site that everyone with a monitor or projector can see.
    As far as your reminiscing about sharing your work as a student, yes! That is great. But…you don’t need a 1 -2K piece of equipment to do so and, with technology, that interaction can come from any place. Not just front and center, with your back or side facing the class and blocking the board.
    Jim, you know my motivation. It is the same as yours. I want nothing more than to support schools in teaching and learning in the best way possible and if a school can save tens of thousands of dollars while doing so, all the better. Dig as much as you want. Explore my work. You will see that simple interest is at the core. I’m sure I’ve done many embarrassing things, but they have not been with the interactive whiteboards.
    Give me a platform that promotes real interactivity, any place teaching and learning, no paid for software…and I’m in. But I still think using a Smartboard is a waste of money that many of even the most innovative of educators realize is just plain dumb.

  35. @TimeOutDad - that is such an awesome and thoughtful response. I laughed, I cried, I raised a fist! It deserves it's own post. Unless you object, I'd like to feature it. A really SMART response indeed! thing ya know you're gonna be working for one of those companies!

  36. @TimeOutDad, have to follow my response up with this. The point is we really should know why we're purchasing equipment and who we're purchasing it for. If someone can plug in their own laptop/projector, perhaps they don't need the board. If you got them the IWB and they don't want to use it for ALL the reasons I stated, it may mean it's not because they're resistant, but instead because they're innovative.

    I am not totally against the sage on the stage either, but I'd like to look at his/her eyes and not butt. I also, like to use my keyboard.

    So...what you bring to light is one size does not fit all and before we spend tens of thousands in a school on such a device we need to determine WITH TEACHERS and THEIR STUDENTS if this is really the device that meets their needs.

  37. Lisa if you are lucky enough to have iPads iPod touches &therefore almost 1:1 technology for your learners then the IWB loses out hands down. These devices are far more effective for engaging learners offering personalised learning and sharing yours and their work.
    Unfortunately, most schools aren't this lucky and the implementation of an IWB adds value as it it provides the web etc via the projector and keeps the teachers ability to write on the board. The big plus however, is the ability to mix the two the web plus writing and the added benefit of being able to save & record this 'blend', which should also include interaction by learners. Recordings can then be used by the teacher and learners to reflect on their work in the next session or as revision.
    For the cost of approximately 1,000 for the board, with the other costs coming from the projector, fittings and software, I think it's worth it.

  38. @Lisa - NOPE, those companies couldn't take me out of the classroom. Not for a million... well, maybe... NAH! ;)

    I DEFINITELY agree with you that we REALLY need to think before spending the bazillions that we do on ANY technology.

    Thanks so much, Lisa, for providing a forum for us!

  39. Eck! @moodlemckean, you’re exactly the reason I write these posts. The IWB doesn’t provide the web or the projector and writing digitally via a keyboard is much more powerful than doing so via the pen. Get a Tablet/projector and ditch the board. For 1 – 2k less you’ll have the web, the projector, the digital pen and a couple thousand left over to buy an iPad, iTouch, and a Netbook for you students. Add to that you can look at your students while you teach and have access to the full functionality of your computer and…the choice is clear. Tablet / projector save you tens of thousands per school. And, when you say recordings I’m not sure if you’re talking about screencasts, but if you are, those are free too. So…now that you know this, you can get an iPad, iTouch, and netbook for each class and teach better if you’re innovative enough to just ditch the board.

  40. Lisa, thanks for your kind words and support for my post! I'll be sure to say "Hi" at the next EdCamp NYC!

  41. Lisa point taken in fact you I agree to a certain degree, I'm afraid I was talking in the past tense with references to choices made before tablets were as cheap as they are now.

    Can you clarify "writing digitally via a keyboard is much more powerful than doing so via a pen" I'm not clear how this is the case, unless you're a touch typist who can keep eye contact with the class.

  42. @styxuk, first, yes, I am a touch typist and I do believe that teachers who are not, should learn how to type. It's an essential skill that will save a lot of time in the long run and let you keep eye contact.

    Regarding writing digitally being mightier than the pen, I wrote about that here

  43. Lisa:
    ...For instance the first link has a guy standing in front of a large screen with his back to everyone. Good for the guy. Not good for everyone looking at his behind watching him has fun. Instead have either a doc camera or the projection adapter for the iPad and the screen is not obstructed and the participants and person upfront can see each other.

    Valid/good point Lisa. The issue we run into here is getting the iPad into our t&l environment and getting it supported by the Help Desk ($$ issues aside). But it's a nice direction to go in. I do wonder if the idea of projection should be thrown out...and going with devices that are in front of each student's face -- close up. So, for example, in astronomy classes you are losing entire stars or even galaxies when you project an image up on the screen.

    Lisa: With the second link, same thing. This is great for the person in front of the room, but why have it? I don't need a class full of other students looking at what I'm doing wishing they could actually be the ones getting to do something interactive. Use just a projector, give the students netbooks, in groups if necessary, and let them interact so it’s interactive not just for the sage who has the stage, but for ALL students.

    I have it on my personal learning device. I can do anything from there or as in the case of the link you sent, I have the text on my computer and can move around chapters from there.

    In short, what I'm saying is that we know how to use our personal devices whether it be netbook, laptop, iPad, iTouch etc.

    When we tie instruction to our personal learning device rather than a board in the front of a room, true individualized, personalized, and interactive learning can happen for all and that’s truly educating innovatively.

    You have a solid direction here. Thoughts about how you would fund this? Support this? Keep up with the next version of the Kno tablet, or iPad, or device XYZ?

    Don't get me wrong, I think you are definitely onto something here. But I need to play devil's advocate for such a potentially-expensive solution.

  44. The way to get more tech into the school is to allow students and teachers to bring the devices they own to school i.e. cell phones, laptops, iTouches, etc. etc. Partnerships can be made with hardware / phone companies to donate equipment make it available at low or reduced rates, or set up payment plans. Schools could supplement with devices when necessary. When student-owned devices are allowed, students can handle repairs and schools can set up student support teams ( as well to trouble shoot technical difficulties. Allowing and ensuring students can use personally-owned digital devices should not be something that is banned or a privilege. It should be a right and attitudes about requiring students to power down at school need to change. Innovative administrators like Eric Shenninger and Chris Lehmann and many others like those on know how to think outside the ban and provide such opportunities for students.

  45. Just buy curriculum, standards based IWB activities that keep students attention and include them. Ditching the IWB is a step backwards.

  46. @Kerrie, sage-on-the-stage, place-based teaching is a step backwards. So is leading educators to believe curriculum must be purchased rather than the reality that if we share, we can all have quality material. My advice to you is disconnect from the board which fosters learning that is tied to people not places. Once we embrace that we can guide students and ourselves into a more relevant and interactive learning environment for both students and teachers. With a bonus in that we save several thousands in the meantime.

  47. I agree on the IWB being a questionable use of funds.

    Here are my workarounds for many of the issues raise:

    1) Use a 2500 lumen or better projector. My district gets them for $489 a piece.
    2) Buy a wireless keyboard and mouse. $35. You can operate the computer from a podium and give the mouse to a student if want the interaction.
    3) Buy a 50ft VGA cable to run the video to the projector. $50

    No slate to learn how to use, no student getting up from cramped rows of desk to interact, no turning the lights off with a bright projector, and avoid being trapped at the desk, using laptop, or second PC. Save money, time, and face the classroom.

    That's a big thing to me. Teachers have to keep their eyes on the students to keep their attentions. If you turn your back on them you lose them.

  48. @haikunick,

    And, then a big ol, yes! yes! yes!

  49. I've been using technology to teach English (mostly at university level) in Sweden since 1981. Sweden's also had plenty of money to lavish on ICT, but, time and again, the money's been wasted on what I call 'spips', like IWBs (a spip is "something posh to impress the punters"). However, a spin-off effect has been that we've got ourselves a top-class fiber-optic network everywhere, that's also very cheap and a network of fully-equipped learning centers which covers every corner of the country. IWBs, incidentally, are mercifully rare here in Sweden (whereas they're so common in the control-freak environment of the UK that many teachers there think that ICT=IWB).

    There's a new book come out here recently by Jonas Söderström, called 'Jävla skitsystem' ( if you want to do a bit of Google translating). 'Ski-' is pronounced the same as 'shi-' in English … and 'jävla' is the 'f-word'! It's about how "a useless digital working environment just stresses us out - and how we can take back control". One of his insights is that it takes, on average, four years to implement a new digital system (like IWBs), but that the average tenure of a Swedish manager is only three years! The new man ('cos it's usually a man) sweeps in and immediately wants to build his own monument, sweeping away what's in place (which is three-quarters of the way to being implemented) … and there's no point in training the existing staff because "they're just negative, and, anyway, we're going to replace that system". Jonas is an 'information engineer', by the way, who tries to look at the whole picture when implementing technology, rather than the features and functions of one little system (like an IWB).

  50. Ever heard of a wireless keyboard and mouse?

  51. This article made me laugh out loud, see #4. I have to agree with you. I taught in a K-5 computer lab with a SMARTBoard installed. I was one of the teachers that paved its way into the building. I found that I didn't need an S-Board because the children were engaged with learning at a computer while I walked around the room providing individualized instruction. I rarely used the S-Board, but the children loved to do the huge circular swooping motion on the screen and follow that up with the finale of "the tap" in order to erase the virtual ink. I do have to say that the true color and clarity is superior over a digital projector. A few colleagues swear by it and they are very effective teachers. So hey, just like anything else, it becomes a preference. When I see so much more money wasted on consultants and new (really not, same game...different name) programs, why not have S-Boards available for those teachers who utilize them effectively? Thanks for the laugh.
    P.S. I am in the process of earning a masters in ed tech, this article is required reading.

  52. Lisa,
    I enjoyed reading your blog. I have a Promethium Board in my classroom for the first time this year and I have found many of the issues you mentioned to be true. Being told by administrators that my board must be on and in use the majority of the day and it being a potential catalyst for poor teaching practices are certainly valid concerns of mine as well. As with all instructional tools they are only as effective as the teachers using them. While I agree with many of your points, I would have to argue that there is a place for interactive while boards (IAW) in education. After all, we are working in the age of technology. We have to push ourselves to change and thoughtfully incorporate new technologies into our instruction to better suit the needs of our students and mold them for their future in the workforce. IAW should not take the place of good teaching; they are merely a tool to enhance instruction. Rather than using the boards to only present information, they should be used by students to access new information or practice new skills. Putting the pen in the hands of the students allows teachers to facilitate the learning. With this said, professional development in the area of technology, specifically IAW should focus on creating student centered learning opportunities not just presentations. As an elementary teacher, I have found my board to be a lot of extra work on my part but work I am willing to do because it has added an extra element of engagement to my instruction.