The SMART board—the classroom fixture that has cemented itself as a long-sought pinnacle of educational technology. Instructional value aside, these devices have often been viewed as a status symbol simply due to price alone. Teachers dream of incorporating the boards into their lessons; programs dread incorporating them into their budgets. Thankfully, new innovations in classroom technology have made SMART board-style technology more affordable than ever!
In fact, “SMART board” is probably not the best term to use, as it refers to a specific brand that is no longer the only game in town. From here on out, I’ll be referring to these devices as “interactive whiteboards.” For those unfamiliar with these boards in the first place, an interactive whiteboard is a device that projects an image—typically a shared screen from a PC or tablet –and allows users to interact with the projected screen through touch alone. Since this concept is hardly proprietary, several new options have surfaced within recent years, many of which are rather affordable!
Without delay, here’s a budget-conscious guide to some interactive whiteboard alternatives:
Promethean boards – Hardly a new name to many school districts, Promethean boards are a direct competitor to SMART boards, offering a very similar design and functionality. Solidly built, these devices can often be cheaper (sometimes in the range of thousands) to their SMART counterparts. They also come with strong software support, as Promethean Planet has similar offerings to SMART Exchange when it comes to finding pre-made lesson plans for your new board.
Interactive projectors – These are all-in-one devices that consist of a single projector. Any surface you shine the image on—a wall, whiteboard, anything –becomes an interactive surface! The only real downside is that instead of being able to touch the display directly, you have to use a special ‘pen’ or ‘wand’ to interact with the screen. The mobility can’t be beat, however, as these short-throw projectors can be placed on a small cart and wheeled between multiple classrooms. Several companies offer these devices, such as Epson and InFocus, and the prices barely scrape above the $1000 mark from most distributors.
Mimio – A Mimio “interactive whiteboard” goes a step further, taking out both the whiteboard and the projector out of the equation! These devices function similarly to interactive projectors, but do not come with a projector themselves. Instead they are simply a small plastic bar you attach to your existing white board, and you use your own digital projector. This is another great mobile option for sharing between classrooms, and the lack of extra equipment often keeps its price just under $1000.
Those are some of the main alternatives, and most check in for a fraction of the cost of a SMART board! There are no specific prices listed as costs will vary between districts and distributors. Likewise, I am also not knocking SMART products—they’re pricey for a reason, and they are excellent tools if your school chooses to go the traditional route.
Of course, obtaining a board is just the beginning. Next week we’ll dive into actually making lessons that let students take full advantage of the technology!