Interactive Whiteboard Recommendations

Intro

A teacher training organisation I work for ( www.nile_elt.com )asked me to investigate which interactive whiteboard would be most suitable for them. The teachers and the trainers come from all parts of the world for various types of teacher development courses.

I posted a request for recommendations to various discussion lists and friends (see bottom of page). This is an edited summary of the answers I received, plus some of my own observations. Please note, some of these are only opinions, so more research may be needed - I can't guarantee everything is true!

If you would like to add to the wiki, please contact me for membership at johanna.stirling@gmail.com

Promethean

Many Promethean users loved these IWBs.
Pros:
· online training courses for teachers – first level is free, certificated
· Promethean Planet - Good online resource exchange (down-to-earth), lots of free software and resources (free flipchart lessons) for teacher
· Teachers can download and use software at home
· software is easy to pick up - being a mix of MS Word tools and Photoshop
· one pen you ‘dip into inkwell’ to change colour,
· multi-touch
· One company had both Prometheans and Hitachis and when time came to buy more, both teachers and IT agreed on Prometheans
· British Council use Prometheans and have presumably done their research
· And more – taken from a reply from Promethean themselves
The latest software, ActivInspire, combines both Activprimary and ActiveStudio and the user can switch interfaces depending on their audience. The new interface for ActivInspire can also be changed to make it more familiar to people coming from a Windows app, SMART or PowerPoint background. You can download a free 30 day trial of ActivInspire from our Promethean Planet website (www.prometheanplanet.com) and it’s available as a free upgrade to current users of ActivPrimary or ActivStudio.
designed specifically for teaching,
extremely durable
responsive and accurate, without any lag which is important for ease of writing
stepped layers of complexity


Cons:
· a little over-complicated for basic use - too many features
· problems with Promethean's hardware - pens not working,
· can’t use finger
· Activote is expensive

Smart

Some were very keen on their Smartboards too.
Pros:
· Can use finger or 4 coloured pens
· Have biggest market share worldwide
· Used a lot in UK mainstream schools
· New software Notebook 10 user-friendly
· Good online resource exchange (“but a bit corporate”)
· “SMART is easier to use (than Promethean), maybe because it's simpler”
· Lesson Activity Toolkit, which also includes games. “There are plenty of colourful and interesting things to prepare and use with students (a bit like HotPots).”
· Teachers can legally download the software on a home computer
· Smart Recorder, allows you to record your interactions with the board
· They are working on including multi touch
· The 4 pens and eraser make it intuitive to start using immediately.

Hitachi

There was almost no mention of Hitachi boards except for one person saying their organisation preferred Promethean out of the two.
From my experience: some nice features. Can use finger or pen. It has (limited) multi-touch. Supposed to be very robust (they say it would still work if you drilled a hole in it)
Two types of pen. Teachers I know at another organisation who have them weren’t keen. The board is VERY sensitive – it read a touch from my sleeve! It is a hard surface with an interactive layer. This means the ‘pen’ will mark even when not actually touching the board. This can be a pain. Not widely used. Probably more corporate. Suppliers say used more for post-secondary education.

Considerations

We need to consider:
· who is using it and how/ what for
· life of bulbs and price
· For a teacher training institution – consider which is used more by our teachers (and trainers)
· According to http://andrewleggett.wordpress.com/2009/03/01/iwb-choice/ Smart is much easier to use and build flipcharts than Promethean but Promethean has more possibilities.
· According to http://nicholashughes.blogspot.com/2007/10/activ-primary-or-smart-which-iwb-to.html most of the extra tools that P has are also on S but you have to search for them.
· Somebody said they used Hitachi board with Smart software.
· Hitachi display looked ‘crisper’ than Smart in the demo we saw.
(Several people also suggested portable devices such as E-Beam and Mimio. These have several advantages especially portability and cost, but for this report we are looking at fully functioning IWBs.)

General Conclusions
Smart seems to be the best for an international teacher training organisation. It is the most widely-used worldwide and so teachers are more likely to know or need to know (now or in the future) this type. It seems to be a bit more intuitive for ‘newbies’ to get started with and generally be less complex than the Promethean.
Promethean would be a good second choice. It has the advantage of good online resources, facilities for sharing, training, etc.
Hitachi does not seem to be widely-used and where it was, not so highly regarded.

Thanks to:
The wonderful folks at the Webheads at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/evonline2002_webheads/
The IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LearningTechnologiesSIG/
Nik Peachey at http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/
Kate, Rebecca, James.


Johanna Stirling
The English Language Garden
www.elgweb.net
The Spelling Blog
http://thespellingblog.blogspot.com