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An Overview of Interactive Whiteboard Choices for Home School and Classroom

Interactive Whiteboards in the Classroom

Many classrooms in the state of Texas feature an interactive whiteboard. I loved my SMART Board. My students loved it far more. It transformed our classroom dynamic. I used it many hours every day and pushed it to the limits of its capabilities.

Our Reading team created games using the SMART Board software. We used relevant video clips to illustrate concepts. We created .pdf and .jpg files of a large percentage of the written materials used by our students. What they saw in their workbooks appeared on the screens during class discussions. We wrote all over the pages when checking work. We drew mind maps. We saved notes to be printed or displayed again later.

I know I was lucky to have the SMART Board. Not every classroom at my school had one.

The Quest

That was then, when I was a public school teacher in a Texas middle school. This is now, and I’m teaching at home. I also plan to teach in other venues where it’s up to me to supply the technology. I miss my SMART Board. So, I’m on a quest to find a comparable system that is more affordable and more portable.

In the last few days, I’ve used Storify.com to help me pull together notes and thoughts about available systems. I’m sharing my Storify below. But, first, let’s go over the basic components of an interactive system.

Basic Components

Keep in mind that all Interactive Whiteboards require the following components:

  • A surface for visualization.
  • A projection system.
  • A computer.
  • A sensor for detecting movement.
  • A “tool” for human-to-computer communication.
  • Software for interpreting interaction with the computer.

For example, the SMART Board’s surface is touch-sensitive (the surface and the sensor). Both the SMART Board and a projector are connected to the computer. There are multiple tools for human-to-computer communication: pens and/or fingers and an eraser. SMART Board software is installed on the computer to interpret the touches on the surface of the board. For comparison, I found a quote for a SMART Board 680 (77 in. diag.) for $2,190 which includes the software and tools. Also figure in the costs of the projection system and the computer.

Most technology buffs would disagree with me for classing the Kinect for Education system as an interactive whiteboard. For one thing, you can’t easily use a SMART Board for physical education exercises. There’s little doubt that it will eventually replace the interactive whiteboard in the classroom because it offers the same kinds of benefits and promises more. And, hey, it’s cooler. Still, all the components listed above are necessary for its operation so I’m comparing the two systems.

The surface for the Kinect is usually a TV or computer screen (which doubles as the projection system). The surface can be any flat area–say, a white wall, a projector screen, or a regular whiteboard–where a projection system throws the image. A computer (either a PC or the Xbox 360) runs the software to interpret interaction. The Kinect sensor includes the following: an RGB camera, a multi-array mic, and an infrared projector and camera working together to detect motion. The tools for human-to-computer communication are the human body and voice. The Kinect software enables gesture recognition, facial recognition, and voice recognition. The costs for this system include: an electronic screen or a projector, the Kinect sensor, a PC or Xbox 360, and the cost of Kinect software and add-on applications.

Less Expensive Options

Somewhere in between the SMART Board (or its direct competitors) and the Kinect is the much less expensive solution of the Wiimote Interactive Whiteboard. Since cost is a prohibitive factor in many classrooms (and homeschools) around the world, the Wiimote solution is the poor man’s choice. For approximately $120, plus the cost of a projector and computer, a system with much of the base functionality can be built.

The basic Wiimote interactive whiteboard system includes: any flat surface, a projector, a computer, a Wiimote and Bluetooth dongle (the sensor component), an infrared pen (the tool), and software (most commonly the Smoothboard software.) As a side note, the Wiimote, without a projector, can turn any computer into a touchscreen.

Other possibilities are mentioned in the Storify below, including:

  • now!Board
  • Interactive Projectors

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About the Author

Kathrese McKee started life as a Systems Engineer at EDS, spent time in real estate, taught middle grade Reading and ESL in Texas, and settled down to blog and write speculative fiction for Young Adults.

As a teacher, she fell in love with books written for Teens and Young Adults. Her favorite books are “coming of age” stories about young people on the difficult road of self-discovery.

Comments

  1. Paulette Britton says:

    We need a smart board via our homeschool program for our son with autism. I need something easy but not a huge cost. Do you have a recommendation.

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