OK, I’ll come clean. I probably should have written this article months ago. I get an average of 5-10 calls every week looking for advice on buying an Interactive Whiteboard. While I don’t mind chatting to people about IWBs, I’d much rather save people the bother of having to ring me and I’m hoping this article will help. I hope it will give a fairly definitive step-by-step approach to going about buying Interactive Whiteboards.
There are over 20 different types of Interactive Whiteboards being sold in this country and all of them have been sold successfully all over the world. Some IWBs have sold more successfully in Ireland (and all over the world) but it doesn’t make them any better than some of the newer models on the market. There is a type of IWB to suit every school.
You’ve probably heard of two or three different kinds of boards. Maybe more. There’s probably a few schools in your area that have bought boards and are delighted with them. Forget them. When you go and buy a car, you buy something that suits you and your lifestyle. It’s the same with IWBs. Your board should reflect what you like. However, if you don’t know what you like, don’t worry, and read on.
Interactive Whiteboards are very simple things. Essentially they attach to a projector and a computer. Despite what anyone tells you, that’s all they do. Don’t be swayed by sales talks about software or projectors. Essentially every IWB that is sold nowadays should always come with a short throw projector and installation. I wouldn’t get worried about types of projectors as all companies in Ireland sell decent ones. Certain boards have certain qualities and certain companies offer certain guarantees and services. That’s the only tricky bit. It is a bit of a minefield sometimes, but I’ll try to categorise the various types of boards out there into four types.
Board Type 1: Pen-based, infrared boards
These boards are usually the cheapest boards on the market. They work by sticking a special dongle onto an existing whiteboard and use a battery-operated pen to work. They come under a wealth of names, models and prices: EBeam, Mimio, Rainbow, VosaBoard, CleverBoard 3, 3M and Interwrite Board. You can usually use these boards as normal whiteboards and use dry-wipe markers on them. However, you cannot use your finger to interact on them.
Board Type 2: Pen-based, electro-magnetic boards
These boards use a mesh of copper wires on the board to get their input. This means they don’t need a battery-operated pen, which saves on buying batteries. However, these boards do not double-up as normal dry-wipe boards. Neither can you interact with your finger on them. They are also usually more expensive than the boards above. Promethean, Clasus and IMEX are examples of this type of board.
Board type 3: Touch-based, mesh board
This type of board allows the user to interact with their finger as well as a pen. Some of them allow you to use dry wipe markers on them too. They’re also reasonably priced. Examples include: Teamboard, Traceboard, Smartboard and IQBoard. Of these only the Smartboard does not allow dry wipe markers to be used on them.
Board type 4: Touch based infrared board
These boards have all the features of the above type board but just use a different technology. A lot of these boards are also magnetic, which is useful. Again dry wipe markers can be used on these. (UPDATE: April 2010 However, Prim-Ed have decided that they don’t recommend this on their Geneeboard.) Examples include: Hitachi Starboard, TouchIT, GeneeBoard, InTech Board, Imex Dualboard and Cleverboard Dual. These boards are usually cheap and are increasingly becoming very popular.
Once you know the type of board you want, it’s probably best to see what kind of service you’re going to get. Usually most companies will give you at least a three year service. I’m pretty sure this is something that can be haggled. Another consideration is finding out how much you trust a company is going to be around for. Since starting this survey, I have only had to take one board off the list. I don’t think many of these companies are going anywhere just yet.
I’ve written an app that will help you choose your board according to your own needs. To access it, you can click on this link here.
All companies will come to your school to install your boards so make sure the price includes these charges.
Once you’ve made your choice, you’ll need to choose software. The only software I recommend is Promethean’s ActivInspire. Go to http://www.prometheanplanet.com to download your copy. The software price varies but I would be happy spending up to €400 for it.
Once you’ve completed these steps, you are ready to enter the world of teaching using IWBs. If you can, avail of training; it’s certainly worthwhile but in fairness, these boards are very intuitive so you should be ok to start on your own. I hope this article helps you choose the board of your dreams and you have many happy years with it.
Last Update: August 17, 2017