According to Henry Ford, back in 1909, if you wanted to buy a car, you could have it in any colour as long as it was black. In the early days of motoring, one had very little choice if they wanted to buy a car as there weren’t that many models available. Nowadays there are dozens of manufacturers of cars in all sorts of bright shiny colours to choose from. They are also more affordable so people have a choice about what car to buy.
There’s a number of reasons why people buy certain cars. I’m no expert on cars – I can’t even change a tyre – but from my own experience of buying a car, the following 10 factors may go through someone’s head when making a decision on buying a car.
- loyalty to a brand
- petrol or diesel (or bio-diesel or hybrid for hippies!)
- after sales service
- safety features
- public opinion and reputation
- what your friends and family say about the car
Of course this list isn’t exhaustive and there’s an infinite amount of combinations of decisions that are made by potential car buyers.
It’s a similar story with Interactive Whiteboards. Back in the early days of IWBs, there was very little choice. One particular company more or less had the monopoly on IWBs in Ireland. They were extremely expensive and only some schools could afford to buy them. It was only in 2006 that things started to change a little. Up until then, choice meant either a Promethean Board or a Smartboard. They both cost around €6,000. One day I came across a little device called an eBeam, which promised to turn any whiteboard or hard surface into an Interactive Whiteboard. All of a sudden, it was possible to have an Interactive Whiteboard for about €2,500. Within four years, the market has become completely saturated with different models of Interactive Whiteboards available. Each one claims to have its strengths be it cost, functions, software, training or service and each one claims to be the one that schools should buy. There are so many varieties that it is very difficult to know what to choose. Everyone has their own opinion on what others should buy and everyone has their own reasons to why others should buy particular boards. This is much in the same way that a person is aghast when they hear someone has bought a particular model of car while another person will shower praise upon such an excellent decision.
For example, a few years ago I bought myself a new car. My old car was ok but I was travelling about an hour to work each day. I found that I was filling up the petrol tank twice per week and every time I went over a bump in the road, I felt it. It was also a very basic car without power steering and without gadgets. I upgraded to a Toyota Prius because I was looking for a car that I would only have to fill up once per week and it had lots of cool gadgets like a built-in computer screen with Sat Nav. Before I bought it, I made sure to read as many reviews on the Internet as I could, I spoke to the Toyota salespeople and took a test drive. As a non-expert of cars, I think it was important to do these things before jumping head first into the deal.
Although most people love my car, many people hate the look of it and because it’s a hybrid car, they feel the need to compare my miles per gallon to their car. Interestingly, they always win. However, because I feel I did my research, I got a reliable car with the features I wanted.
IWBs can be judged on lots of levels. Sometimes they can be judged by the quality of the board, other times by the quality of the company selling the board and yet more times by people’s own perceptions of what they think quality is. My opinions are no different and no less biased. There are a number of factors, I believe one should consider before investing in the IWB.
First, for me, is value for money. These days one can buy a fully installed Interactive Whiteboard for anything between €1,400 to €4,500. Like cars, you don’t always get what you pay for…but sometimes you do.
How do I get the board to work? Can I use my finger or am I restricted to using a magic pen? Is it a hybrid? Does your board allow you to use dry-wipe markers on it, thus doubling up as a normal whiteboard saving space on the wall of the classroom?
3. What are other schools using?
Are there any success stories? Are there schools who find their board has transformed the way they teach? What about the unfortunate situations where some schools are left with an IWB that is unreliable and doesn’t work? Furthermore, should you believe the schools? Are they simply being brand loyal?
Everyone loves to get free stuff when they buy something. In a car, it might be a free service or insurance paid for a year. With whiteboards, it’s usually in the form of software or a lightbulb replacement for the projector. Should you buy a whiteboard based on the software that comes with it or is it better to buy the software separately? Is the free software useful or is it just a mish mash of randomness? Does it matter if the projector comes with a free replacement lightbulb or is it built into the price already?
5. After-Sales Service
Most cars come with a warranty and IWBs are no different. These range between one and one hundred years! However, while the board might have a long guarantee, the projector that comes with it will usually have a guarantee of no more than 5 years. A long guarantee can be worth a lot of savings in the long term.
Also, what happens if your board breaks down? In the world of cars, we’re fairly lucky that a call to a company like the AA or RAC will have someone to your car within a couple of hours. Not so with the IWB. While some companies guarantee to the door service within 24 hours, I would guess that many companies would struggle to provide this at all. At a guess I would say that telephone support will be no problem but it would take at least a few days before someone will travel to a school. This can be very frustrating for teachers and thus buying a board within your locality, even though it may not be a first preference, may be a better option.
Like cars, there’s plenty of factors that ultimately decide what boards people buy. However, I do think it’s important to find out the features you want from a board then test drive them at conferences or other events. Buying an IWB is an investment and you don’t want to spend thousands of euro and find out a couple of years later that you’ve bought a lemon. There are almost 30 different models of IWB in Ireland for sale, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Your job is to find the board that suits you, your personality and your budget.