Erase Unnecessary Costs by Getting Smart about Interactive Whiteboards by Lisa Nielsen

Erase Unnecessary Costs by Getting Smart about Interactive Whiteboards by Lisa Nielsen

Cross posted at The Innovative Educator


I was at a presentation yesterday where school leaders and teachers were led to believe that the key to addressing the Achievement Gap was in part through purchasing Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs). Dr. Robert J. Marzano lead the presentation where he shared what has been called questionable research


You can save about $3500 hundred dollars per classroom if you buy a tablet and projector rather than an interactive whiteboard and get the same results, but you don't know that because this and other research (almost always commissioned by IWB companies) is purposely misleading you, comparing classrooms with IWBs to those without technology rather than comparing classrooms with IWBs to the much less expensive projectors/laptop or projector/tablet combo.

There's an incentive to mislead schools. It equals more profit for the IWB companies who have brainwashed educators into believing you need their $5000 device to increase student achievement. But once you know the truth about interactive whiteboards you'll realize, YOU DON'T!

Myth 1: You need an interactive whiteboard to show videos.
: You don't need an IWB to show videos. You just need a laptop/projector.

Myth 2: You need an interactive whiteboard to capture/record your lessons for playback later.
: You don't need an IWB to capture/record lessons. You can do this for free with a number of screencasting programs that require no downloads such as Screentoaster or ScreenJelly.

Myth 3: An interactive whiteboard is necessary if you want students to be able to interact with the content.
: An interactive whiteboard is not necessary if you want students to interact with the content. They can go to your Tablet and interact just as easily.

Myth 4: You need an interactive whiteboard to have access to interactive lessons and software.
: Interactive whiteboard software works on any laptop. You do not need the IWB and you can present the lessons equally effectively with a tablet and projector.

Myth 5: The kids and teachers just love interactive whiteboards and they keep them so engaged.
Truth: IWB companies spend big bucks to trick you into thinking you need the fancy and expensive gadget to educate innovatively. They want you to spend the big bucks that make them big profits. When you teach the same content with a tablet and projector they also love the lesson, interact, are engaged, and the added bonus is you can use that extra money to put much more interactive tech into the hands of every student.

Myth 6: Interactive whiteboards are necessary for tactile learners and students with special needs.
Truth: A tablet serves the same function for tactile learners and students with special needs.

Myth 7: The large size of the interactive whiteboard is necessary for student engagement. Students can't manipulate a tablet-sized device nearly as well. Especially young children or those with special needs.
Truth: What? Really? Have ya seen What Happens When you Give a 3, 4, 8-Year-Old an iTouch?

Myth 8: An interactive whiteboard enables you to connect with the world.
Truth: The interactive whiteboard is not connecting you to the world. Your computer with internet is connecting you to the world.

Myth 9: Interactive whiteboards are easier to use for educators because they combine everything into a single device. You don't need to worry about bulbs, speakers, extra wires, laptop, etc.
Truth: Interactive whiteboards don't combine everything into a single device. With all devices, you still need to replace projector lightbulbs and you still need a laptop. Speakers are an optional add on for computers and IWBs however with a computer you can get a nice set for under $40. This feature on an IWB raises the price hundreds of dollars and they often have issues. Wires done right are the same whether you use an IWB or laptop/projector. It takes proper consideration of how to accommodate your device, but either way you need a few wires that you can run through walls, ceilings, or tape down to the floor.

Myth 10: You should get an interactive whiteboard because it's easy to use.

Truth: An interactive whiteboard is not that easy to use. In fact when they are not used or not used well, you always hear, that it is because teachers didn't get the proper professional development. Of course the IWB companies will be happy to sell you thousands of dollars of training to learn to use the devices. The training runs at a cost of about $1800 per day and that doesn't include the cost for substitutes. You'll also find that IWBs have a lot of technical issues. In most of the classrooms I visit I find teachers need technical support to get the devices going.

If I've succeeded in helping you see the truth and you realize you don't need to spend this much money to create a 21st century classroom, take a look at the numbers and see what you can instead put in the hands of children once armed with this knowledge. First is a breakdown of costs with and without an IWB.


Note: These are approximate numbers for items that you can purchase for a slightly higher or lower cost depending on if you select the high-end or low-end model.

Projector/Tablet Combo:
that showed how IWBs and response systems (srs) lead to student achievement. Egad! I wanted to shout out a warning. Kids are perfectly happy on a tablet-sized device and if you've watched a teenager you've seen them use their phones like they're masterfully conducting a symphony. Small is big for kids. Big is big for adults...not kids. For visually impaired students or those with special needs laptops have a whole suite of free accessibility options available.

  • Projector - 748
  • Tablet - $1,098

Total Cost: $1,846

Projector/Laptop/Slate Combo:

  • Projector - 748
  • Laptop - $817
  • Slate/Airliner: $281.00 (gives the tablet function in a mobile format)

Total Cost: $1,846

Interactive Whiteboard/Laptop Combo:

  • Interactive Whiteboard - $4300
  • Laptop or Tablet - $1000

Total Cost: $5300

Total Savings - Tablet/Projector combination:

Now,with the interactive whiteboard myths dispelled you can spend your money on putting technology into students hands without sacrificing functionality.

In essence, you could buy one IWB or any of the bulleted items below:

  • 9 netbooks
  • 9 iTouches
  • 3 Tablets or Laptops
  • 2 class sets of student response systems
  • 28 Livescribe pens
  • 4.5 projectors

Now imagine schools that are considering purchasing ten IWBs. Instead they could furnish their school with any of the below bulleted items:

  • 90 netbooks
  • 90 iTouches
  • 30 Tablets or Laptops
  • 20 class sets of student response systems
  • 280 Livescribe pens
  • 45 projectors
  • 1 technology coach or technician

Those are the numbers and facts you should have in mind when making this purchasing decision. Whether you're an educator or a leader, it's important to make informed decisions, especially if those decisions can result in additional, or fewer, resources in the hands of children.

Lisa Nielsen is an educational administrator and certified teacher with more than a decade's worth of experience working in various capacities in educational innovation at the city, state, and national level. Perhaps her favorite role was that as an innovative educator who while serving in the capacity was honored as Teacher of the Year and nominated by her district as Technology Educator of the year. Ms. Nielsen is a Google Certified Teacher, International Edublogger, International EduTwitter, and creator of The Innovative Educator blog, website, and learning network. An outspoken and passionate advocate of innovative education Ms. Nielsen is often covered by local and national media for her views on "Thinking Outside the Ban" and determining ways to harness the power of technology for instruction and providing a voice to educators and students.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of the NYC DOE.