In a year’s time, our district has placed interactive whiteboards in about 30% of our elementary classrooms and, in doing so, has made interactive whiteboard technology the envy of the district. I was absolutely amazed to see this happen—and to happen so rapidly—because we are a small, rural district in economically ravaged Michigan.
In the past 5 years, we’ve lost about one-third of our teaching and other staff through layoffs and retirements. Our student population is declining steadily and visibly as people move out of the district and the state in search of work. The threat of annual state government funding cuts looms over us.
Despite the difficult times, however, one or two dedicated teachers or principals per elementary school have gotten interactive whiteboards for a significant number of classrooms in each building. The funding has come in increasing amounts from PTOs (parent/teacher organizations), private donations, building budgets, and other sources. As teachers have seen the boards in action, they have become willing to give up other supplies to eventually get an interactive whiteboard for their own classrooms.
And, amazingly, the technology is actually being used. Although it took nearly 5 years for everyone in the district to start using email, interactive whiteboards have been implemented pretty effectively in a single year. It seems that even the doubters are converted, almost immediately, once they see a whiteboard in use in an elementary classroom. The technology does so many things and works so well that it seems to sell itself.
Different companies have taken very different directions in developing whiteboard technology. This roundup will take a brief look at several products that offer a variety of approaches, from full whiteboards to equipment that makes a standard dry-erase whiteboard become interactive. Keep in mind that costs can vary a great deal and will be based on the type of installation and the components involved. Contact the companies directly for pricing information.
The simplest and least expensive interactive whiteboards are the models that attach to an existing whiteboard. Most of these require a projector and a computer, although some of the more-expensive models include the projector. Purchasers should consider the size, weight, and flexibility of the system before purchasing. Interactive whiteboards can be bulky and may take up valuable classroom space.
Whiteboards can be purchased on moveable stands or, as installed in our district, they can be mounted to the wall. The mounting requires extra wiring and uses a projector that can be placed in the ceiling (with the right kind of ceiling) or on a mount that sticks out from the top of the whiteboard. Most types of whiteboards require a projector; all whiteboards must be connected to a computer.
Choosing the device that is best suited for a classroom can be tricky. Try to see the device in a classroom setting before purchasing it. Visit a teacher in the area who is already using an interactive whiteboard, or check the system out at a conference. Several vendors provide online videos that show how teachers might use an electronic whiteboard in class.
SMART Board SBD600 Series
SMART Technologies, ULC
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