Interactive Whiteboards going cheap…

Interactive Whiteboards have become a hot topic of conversation in Irish primary schools. They have brought ICT back into the heads of teachers. Everybody wants one. So what’s stopping them? I have been using Interactive Whiteboards since 2002 and have been training teachers on their usage so would feel that I know a thing or two about them. I hope the following article helps you to decide which one suits you or at very least opens your mind up to all the options out there.
Whenever I attend evening courses or any other teacher courses, near the end there is the obligitory “whisk through the web sites” section of the presentation, where the presenter ticks his ICT inclusion box by listing 5-10 web sites. Inevitably during this, the following happens:

  1. The PCSP and Scoilnet web sites are listed
  2. The presenter says, “if you have €5,000 to spare, you can put these up on your interactive whiteboard.”

At point two, my bottom lip feels my teeth’s wrath as I prevent myself from groaning too loudly.
So I’ll type in capital letters as it is as good a way as any of shouting without annoying the neighbours:
ALL INTERACTIVE WHITEBOARDS DO NOT COST €5,000!
Maybe that’s not clear enough….
ALL INTERACTIVE WHITEBOARDS DO NOT COST €5,000!
That’s better…. so how much do interactive whiteboards (IWBs from now on) cost? For a full set up, the following are approximate prices.

  • Promethean IWBs cost about €6,000 €4,995
  • SMART IWBs cost about €5,000
  • Other permanent fixture IWBs costs about €4,000
  • Rainbow Roamer IWBs cost about €3,000
  • Onfinity IWBs cost about €2,000
  • Mimio IWBs cost about €1,700
  • E-beam IWBs cost about €1,500

So why doesn’t everyone go out and buy eBeams or Mimios? I have absolutely no idea. I have been using an eBeam for the last 3 years with no problems. I believe I will be using my eBeam for many years to come even if I change classroom or even building. I’ll explain later.
I guess it’s a good idea to delve into what these IWBs offer. I mean, surely a product that costs €6,000 must be a lot better than one that costs a quarter of the price. Perhaps I’m being biased because I own one of these cheaper devices, (I hate referring to them as cheaper as it suggests worse in quality), or maybe I’m bitter that I haven’t all that money stashed away for a “proper”, (I’m just quoting what I’ve heard), IWB.
The best way of dividing these IWBs up, in my opinion, is by whether they are permanent or portable.
Permanent IWBs, (Promethean, SMART, etc.), once installed, cannot be moved from the room they are in. This can have its advantages:

  • The IWB only has to be set up once
  • It never leaves the room so no one can borrow it
  • It’s all yours!!!! (well until you have to leave your classroom the following year)

Portable IWBs, (Mimio, EBeam, etc.), also have their advantages:

  • They can be shared between classrooms
  • They are much cheaper than permanent IWBs
  • You can bring yours with you no matter where you teach.

However, for me, the thing that sells it to me moreso than anything else, especially if the advantages of the permanent IWBs have swayed you, is:
If you don’t move portable IWBs, they have all the advantages of permanent IWBs.
This usually is good enough to convince most teachers that a portable IWB is even better than the permanent ones…. but there’s always a few and they always ask:
What about resources?
So here comes the science bit…
The concept of an interactive whiteboard isn’t rocket science. They all consist of three parts:

  • A computer / laptop
  • A projector
  • The thing that makes the projected image interactive

That’s it. Anything else is just bells and whistles. It is true that some of the very expensive IWBs have excellent clipart resources that come with the package. It is true that some of the inexpensive IWBs don’t. However, I don’t think the difference of €4,500 in price makes up for this.
I guess I left out a 4th part, which isn’t a bell or a whistle, to an Interactive Whiteboard… the teacher.
The teacher is the part of an interactive whiteboard that makes everything gel together. He/She is the person who must collate / collect the resources to make sure the lesson goes well. Whether or not the IWB has all the clipart in the world does not make the lesson any better. I have quite happily spent three years teaching with an IWB without ever saying: “I wish I could get… “, because a Google search will provide anything I need for my lesson.
I hope I’ve been of some help to prospective IWB purchasers. I know that whatever I say will not convince some people as they will always believe the market leader and always believe that the more money you spend, the better the product. It’s important to note that I have not said that any of these IWBs were any better than the rest. If you break down an IWB into its 3 basic parts (excluding teacher), they all do exactly the same thing. I just feel that I’d rather have four Interactive Whiteboards for my €6,000 rather than one.

0 thoughts on “Interactive Whiteboards going cheap…”

  1. Wonderful post. Really appreciated. Thanks Simon,
    I have an IWB (Promethean) and am a secondary school scince teacher, but don’t quite see the advantage of this system over a data projector and wireless keyboard and mouse.
    But I’m open to persuasion!

  2. Hi Simon,
    As always a thought provoking post! I agree with much of what you’ve said. I’ve joined a new school, which has two expensive Prometheans. I’m hoping to convice others of the benefits of the cheaper models mentioned in your article.
    Two questions… does the Mimio and/or EBeam have a sound system built in like the more expensive models? Also has anyone viewed theschoolhub.ie (from Rainbow Education) Tried to get a trial but no joy!
    Lastly I saw the Rainbow Roamer.. but I still do not like the idea of a data projector sitting on a trolley.. …shadows were a bit of a pain and asking people to be careful not to bump into it would drive me mad. I think data projectors should be up high out of harm’s way!
    Anyway that’s my tuppence worth.. Good luck in your efforts to change the world!

  3. Looks liike Promethean have droppped their price to €5,000 for their IWB. Still way too expensive IMHO. If any of the companies I’ve mentioned have dropped their prices or I’ve got it wrong – please feel free to respond.

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