The Whiteboard Revolution

from Technology & Learning

Teachers are clamoring to have interactive whiteboards in their classrooms. What is it about this technology that is so useful and so appealing? Let's look at some of their capabilities.

Output device

Being connected to a computer and LCD projector, whiteboards allow all images on the computer screen—text, photographs, drawings charts, diagrams, and video—to be shown. Similar to a monitor, it is an output device to view information from a computer.

Input device

It can also be written on. Combine these two simple features (input and output device) and you have a mashup, where teachers and students make annotations, draw, take notes, circle important points, and so on. Not so easy to do on a regular computer monitor.

Finger as mouse

Control the connected computer right at the board—your finger becomes the mouse. Scroll through pages, access menus, run programs, all while standing at the board.

Save and print it

Want to keep the annotated output? Whiteboards give you the same options that you'd have with content on computers—print it out, save it as a file (graphic file, PDF, sometimes even a Word file), e-mail it, or post it on a blog or Web site.

Record it

Unlike a screen shot, you're able to save an entire sequence of events in a video. Imagine you are showing the class how to find common denominators. Record the lesson for later review or to share with absent students. Record it and show it to parents during a conference.

Size

Find interactive whiteboards in many sizes (and for many budgets), from as small as 2 feet by 3 feet to more than 8 feet wide.

Connections

You'll need to connect your computer to an LCD projector as well as to the whiteboard itself. Make sure you run the whiteboard control software supplied by the board's manufacturer.

Projector

The most common projectors used with interactive whiteboards are front projection, with the projector placed about 10 feet in front of the board. This necessitates wires running along the classroom floor to the whiteboard. There are a number of solutions to this problem: certain whiteboards have wireless access (RF or Bluetooth); there are whiteboards with rear projection; and short-throw projectors that are mounted on an arm atop the whiteboard are also available. These solutions are more costly than the basic setup.

Mounting

Purchase whiteboards as either freestanding or wall-mounted.

Jeffrey Branzburg is a contributing editor and columnist for T&L.

A guide to the latest in whiteboards.

Dukane

The Dukane LeaderBoard 77H and LeaderBoard 77S include permanent keys on the board for quick access to annotation, images, and presentation tools (12 on the 77H and 15 on the 77S). Each has an optional stand; the 77H also has an optional RF wireless adapter. ( Windows compatible; 5-year limited warranty.) 77S $1,295; 77H $1,395. www.dukcorp.com

Hitachi

Hitachi's new StarBoard FX-Duo-77 offers class rooms the "next generation interactive whiteboard" by allowing up to two points of contact and multi-touch gestures. Exactly what does that mean? Similar to an iPhone, StarBoard zooms into a specific area when you spread two fingers apart or use two hands at once. Designed to work seamlessly with Hitachi's CPA100 short-throw projector. In addition to the FX-Duo-77, Hitachi offers three sizes (63 inches, 77 inches, and 82 inches) of its StarBoard FX-Series of interactive whiteboards. (Windows compatible; 5-year warranty upon registration.) FX-Duo-77 $1,999; StarBoard FX-Series $1,395–$1,995. http://starboard.hitachi-soft.com

Interwrite Learning

Interwrite Learning's Interwrite Board features the Interwrite Workspace that includes thousands of images and resources to create interactive lessons. It also includes programmable softkeys that provide one-touch access to applications, Web sites, or files. It can be wall-mounted; a floor stand is optional. Interwrite Learning has recently been acquired by eInstruction. (Windows/Macintosh/Linux compatible; 3- year limited warranty.) $1,995–$2,395 for Bluetooth-compatible boards. www.interwritelearning.com

Numonics

The Numonics Intelliboard uses digital pencentric electromagnetic technology; by touching the board surface with an electronic pen, the presenter controls the computer environment. All program functions are transferred to the pen, enabling the presenter to stay in front of the audience without touching the computer. Annotations can be made directly on the projected images and note-taking software automatically saves written notations. (Windows/ Macintosh compatible; limited lifetime warranty.) The PI-1500 LCD tablet monitor allows presenters to both present and annotate using an electronic pen while facing the audience. IntelliBoard $1,399–$1,599; PI-1500 LCD tablet monitor $1,500. www.numonics.com

PolyVision

Walk-and-Talk boards may be used with any PC or laptop, with PolyKey technology for instant plug-and-play. PolyKey technology replaces the software that is typical of other interactive whiteboards, enabling you to use the software of your choice. (Windows/Macintosh compatible; up to 5-year warranty.) $2,141–$3,084. www.polyvision.com

Promethean

Promethean's Activboard was designed "by teachers for teachers," unlike other brands originating in the corporate world. Durability for the classroom environment is built in; built-in RF technology lets it communicate wirelessly with other products (like the Activslate mini-board) without additional computer ports, receivers, or drivers. The Activboard + 2 includes an adjustable mount, short-throw projector, and interactive whiteboard. The new Activarena upgrade enables all Promethean Activboards to support the use of multiple users at the same time. (Windows/ Macintosh compatible; 10- year warranty.) $1,795 for the Activboard package; $4,695 for the Activboard + 2 package. www.prometheanworld.com

Smart Technologies

Smart Technologies offers a full line of interactive whiteboards, from its 600 series (freestanding or wall- mountable) in a variety of sizes. Wireless access for front-projection models is an available option, as are integrated USB speakers. Senteo interactive response system (a clicker response system) is one of its newest features. (Windows/Macintosh/Linux compatible; up to 5-year warranty.) 600 series $700–$2,100; 600i series $3,299– $4,199, including projector. www.smarttech.com

The next two manufacturers offer kits to add interactivity to your existing whiteboard; Luidia's product works with any flat surface.

Mimio

Mimio approaches interactive whiteboards in a different manner—the company sells add-ons that add int e ractivity to your existing whiteboard (Mimio Interactive + Capture). It is a portable device, which can be used with or without a projector (when used without, anything written or drawn on the board is saved). $729–$899. (Windows/ Macintosh compatible; up to 3-year warranty.) Mimio also sells traditional interactive whiteboards (Mimio Board) from 78 inches to 110 inches, for $1,499–$2,999. www.mimio.com

Luidia

Luidia's eBeam Projection transforms a wall or other flat surface into an interactive whiteboard. The system weighs less than 1 pound and includes an eBeam receiver, interactive stylus, and software. It is compatible with Windows or Macintosh. $750 for the USB version; Bluetooth version $1,200. (Windows/Macintosh compatible; 2-year warranty.) www.luidia.com/

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