This is a pressing issue in our district. We have passed a bond, and are looking at creating a template for our classrooms, a set of technologies for each classroom.
One key piece is the use of presentation devices.
The Interactive white boards are one option, while the writepad, (the mobile teacher held pad) and projector is the other.
There is much discussion on this, with our classroom experts generally favoring the writepads, the argument being that they encourage interactivity, moving around the room, sitting with students, and therefore increase explicit instruction and active engagement strategies.
There are others pitching for the interactive white boards, they are quite attractive, and create interest.
While I have put more attention to teachers successfully using the interactive white boards, I do know a teacher who couldn't afford a white board last year, so purchased a writepad. He sings the praises for all of the reason that you noted in your original posting.
Now, I believe he has been able to add an interactive white board to his set of classroom tools this school year. I will get in touch with him and ask for his updated opinion on the two.
I concur with Susan: If you can afford it, both would be great.
Ok, so you heard about Smart Boards and think you have to get them for your school 'cause everybody else is. Well, think again. They may not be the best idea for your school.
I am not a Smart Board advocate per se. Here are 5 reasons why:
Reason # 1: You need to also buy a video projector so you can use the Smart Board. You knew that, right?
No not really.
I have spoken with more than a few teachers and admin who were dismayed to find out Smart Boards do NOT project images on the screen. They ARE the screen. The board interacts with the software on the computer through a wireless signal. This allows you to manipulate objects by touching them on the board. So when do they usually find this out? AFTER they have spent all the money they budgeted for technology purchases! So remember that. Now you are aware that buying the $1200 Smart Board also involves a $750 projector. (Actually about $1000, cause when the bulb burns out in the middle of your reading lesson, you will not want to wait two weeks for a purchase order and replacement.)
The SmartBoards I have seen purchased have always been without casters (wheels), 'cause everybody thinks they can just mount them on the wall like hanging a conventional whiteboard.......which is why, no lie, a large percentage of schools have had SmartBoards on site for months before their district or custodial staff could get them up.
This is especially in true in schools that had enough money to buy 25 SmartBoards, but not enough to mount them, so unless they do it themselves, which in some districts is against collective bargaining agreements, they aren't going to have them going until January. (And if it were an easy thing to do, I wouldn't have heard so many complaints from colleagues about them sitting around.) In addition, if you are using video projectors, you either have to mount those in the ceiling (around $1000) or purchase some kind of cart for them.
Now the educational issues: We have both at my school. The boards are ok for when the kids are in close proximity to the teachers (usually primary classrooms.) The teacher can hand a pointer to a child for immediate access to move things around on the board. I have seen this work well.But when it comes to the child writing on the board, that's where you run into time investment issues. In other words, is it worth the time to have a child up there writing on the board.....I mean, they can do that on a regular white board. When it comes to older kids, that becomes a larger time issue. As the kids slouch up to the board, by the time they get up there, the rest of the class has lost interest.
With the interwrite tablet, the teacher is out interacting with the students, can hand the the tablet to a kid to use right there at the desk...that has proved very effective at my school. Since you can buy about three interwrites to one smartboard, then add the mounting costs...well there ya go.
After having these capabilities for 5 years in all my classrooms, I can honestly say the tablets make the boards superfluous in the long run. I am trying out flat screeens now ...with the tablet and the better picture, longer life and visibility, I think that is the best combination.
Jack...this is great. Blog it on TICAL even if it is not your scheduled time. You speak from the voice of experience and take a side. This would be a great one to get comments on. You started with five reasons...keep that up. I was looking for 2-5 even though they were embedded. You go Jack!
I've spoke with a variety of groups, teachers, administrators, vendors, etc about this and it seems that the tablets/pads are much more practical for instruction due to the "work the crowd" fact you mentioned. However, for more student interactivity the whiteboards seem to be much more of a draw because of the size and options you have. The pads are much cheaper, but check out this TED talk about creating an interactive whiteboard with a Nintendo Wii remote! http://www.ted.org/index.php/talks/johnny_lee_demos_wii_remote_hack...