My school has interactive whiteboards installed in every classroom. This is a fairly recently upgrade. It was just in the last few years that this “initiative” was completed. Every classroom, K-12, has a interactive whiteboard and projector (unless the teacher asked to be excluded, and a few did)
Now don’t get me wrong, I think that as opposed to nothing, having a interactive whiteboard in your classroom is a great improvement. It helps teachers engage children, it jazzes up your lessons, it allows you to save what you write, and adds some interactivity to your classroom. These are all positive traits, and things that teachers are trying to do everyday.
My argument here is that if the school district is going to spend the money to install a interactive whiteboard, that money could instead be better spend on something else that does the job better… AppleTV & an iPad. I am speaking as someone who has used both tools in his classroom. In fact, at the first school that I taught at, I purchased an interactive whiteboard one year with my entire budget allocation. After I began to showcase the tool at professional development sessions, my school decided to put one in every classroom.
So lets compare these two devices in terms of function, cost, and extras. I will look at what the devices do similarily, how much the average cost is for the devices, and what other advantages one tool might have over the other.
An interactive whiteboard needs a computer and projector in order to be used. it allows the teacher or student to manipulate the computer OS from the touchscreen whiteboard. For example, to open a folder I used to have to walk over to my computer and double click the folder with the mouse. Now I can simply double tap the folder on the screen and it will open.
All interactive whiteboards also come with their own software for creating and sharing lesson and notes with your students. The best software, in my opinion, is SmartNotebook, and that can be used to make interactive lessons with parts that can be manipulated by students to engage them more in the lesson or process.
However, it is really up to the teacher to determine how innovative this product will be. I see things on twitter all the time about teachers who are doing amazing things with their interactive whiteboards. At the lowest end of innovation, the interactive whiteboard is simply just a remote control system for your desktop computer, allowing it to be controlled from the projector screen.
Lets examine the AppleTV/iPad solution now. First you need to know what it does. the AppleTV is a small device (it has the footprint of a drink coaster, and is approx 1.5 inches high) that connects directly to your projector. It does not require a computer to be used. The AppleTV will allow you to mirror your iPad screen to the projector. So whatever is on your iPad will come up on the projector screen. (The device does more too, but this is the main functionality that I’m looking at here today.)
Whatever I do on the iPad is shared with my entire class. I can present lessons, I can handwrite notes, I can control my computer, and find and open files from it. I can search the web, I can draw and complete graphic organizers. All of the things that an interactive whiteboard can be used for, the AppleTV/iPad solution can also do.
If both of these setups do approximately the same thing in my classroom, then why not go with the solution that costs the least? Lets look at the costs. I am not going to include the cost of the projector or desktop computer here because they are used with both installations.
AppleTV – $99
iPad – $329 (cheapest) $499 (average)
HDMI to VGA converter – $40 (only needed if your projector does not have HDMI input)
Powered Speakers – $50-$150 (personal preference)
SmartBoard interactive whiteboard – $1380-$7100
Promethean interactive whiteboard – Starting at $1300
Panasonic interactive whiteboard – $1100-$2100
(pricing with all of these interactive whiteboards varies with the size of the interactive whiteboard, some additional functionality, and the higher priced systems come with their own projector)
If we look at these costs alone, the AppleTV/iPad system is drastically less expensive than the interactive whiteboard installation. And these costs do not include installation of the interactive whiteboard, or wall mounting hardware or a stand for the interactive whiteboard.
Now imagine if this was an entire school installation. If we take even a small school, say an elementary school with 25 classrooms, installing the AppleTV/iPad solution would cost $14,500 less than the interactive whiteboard solution. Is this a no-brainer?
Not only does the AppleTV/iPad solution do everything that the interactive whitebaord does, but it can be used to do so much more too!
The iPad is mobile, it can be passed amongst your students in your classroom. No one has to get up and walk to the board in order to interact with your lesson… you can bring it right to them. Give them a stylus and they can write on it, and sketch.
The mobility also means that you can bring the device outside with your class, and capture videos or photos, or on a field trip. Then immediately share them through the AppleTV when you return to your classroom.
The AppleTV is a great device though, in that any iOS device can connect to it. How many of us have students with their own iOS devoices? What if Jimmy brings in his iPod and has found a website that he wants to share about dinosaurs? He can mirror his devices screen to the AppleTV just as easily as I can. Does your class or school have a few iPads that you can borrow? When your students work in groups researching something, they can then share their results with the entire class right to the projector.
Finally, the iPad has so many content specific apps for the device on the app store online. This past November (2012) Apple approved its 1 millionth app. Many of these apps are educational and practice reading or language skills. Tons more are content specific apps that teach about the stars, or local trees, or animals. There are so many good apps that having an iPad in your classroom literally puts this content at your and your student’s fingertips.
The comparison is an easy one for me. The interactive whiteboard is a great tool, but its functionality has now been surpassed by the AppleTV & iPad. Combine that with the fact that the installations are considerably less costly, and I hope that we begin to see this technology creeping into our classrooms more and more as interactive whiteboards need to be replaced.