Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Why I don't want an IWB (Interactive Whiteboard)

Recently, I have been asked quite  few times about IWBs and which ones are best etc. My usual answer is 'none' and then I have to explain, so I thought, instead of explaining I would write this post so that I could point people towards each time they ask.

So this is my classroom set up of preference and these are the key components.

1. Data projector - I'm not really bothered which one as long as it produces a good screen resolution (There's a reasonable article here on how to choose one:
How to Buy a Projector)

2. A Laptop - My preference here is for a MacBook, but I can understand why some people find that extravagant and don't feel they are worth the extra financial outlay. Personally, I think they are worth the extra money, because they work faster and so save time (the most valuable commodity we have) and because they are pretty durable(The Apple products I've owned have lasted at least twice as long as their PC counterparts I've had and are still going strong.)

3. iPad - Again my preference here is for the iPad mini, because it is so light to hold in one hand and pass around, but still big enough and powerful enough to fulfil my storage needs and to operate without squinting (also quite a bit cheaper)

4. Reflector app - This is a key app that you download onto your laptop. It then enables you to project your iPad screen onto your computer (and so through the data projector) as it wirelessly receives signals from the iPad's Airplay function.

For those who aren't familiar with Airplay, it's an Apple function that allows you to use the wireless to project sound and vision from an iPhone, iPad, iTouch etc of to Apple TV. You can find more information here: Airplay

Why I like the Airplay enabled set up
  • For me this allows the best of both worlds. I can use the laptop for any software that's native to computer world and very quickly and wirelessly switch to the mobile environment of the iPad.
  • This set up is portable so you can use it in any room with a data projector and computer, as long as the Reflector app is installed.
  • This also has the advantage of allowing your students access to the data projector if they also have iPads, in fact the Airplay function combined with Reflector can allow your students to project onto the screen from a number of iPads simultaneously, which is great to get students showing and comparing work for the whole class to see.
  • Controlling the projection screen from the iPad means that you can move around the class and control it from wherever you are.
  • To hand control over to students you just pass them the iPad
  • You can store all your materials on your iPad and use it to do all your preparation / marking etc at home.
  • You don't have to fiddle with replace or try to find those awful IWB pens.
  • The iPad gives you access to the vast range and variety of apps that you just can't run on a computer or IWB environment. 
  • An iPad and a $12.99 app are hugely cheaper than the cost of an IWB and far more flexible.
  • You can also use the Reflector app to record screen activity so you can easily turn parts of your lessons into flipped learning or useful revision.
  • The iPad and laptop set up provides an authentic digital learning environment so digital literacies can be developed, whereas IWB software is an artificial digital environment which students will only encounter within schools.
There are of course some downsides to this arrangement. 
  • Hand writing on the iPad screen isn't so comfortable even with a stylus and a good whiteboard app (though if you want to try it I would recommend Bamboo Paper).
  • The Reflector app isn't free, but it is very cheap ($12.99) so much cheaper than an IWB.
  • This set up only works with Apple mobile products as the controller (Though you can use any laptop to install the app on), so if your students bring along Android or other devices they won't be able to access your projector (but they wouldn't on an IWB either).
  • The Reflector app runs through the wireless to connect the laptop to the iPad, so you may need to have some specific ports open if your IT manager has them closed.
If you don't have the choice and you already have an IWB, then that's fine, you could still install the Reflector app and start using an iPad too, but given the choice it's pretty clear. So, now hopefully I'll be getting asked this question a lot less often.

Do post comments and let me know what you think. I'd also appreciate hearing about any alternative apps you may have used to connect your iPad and especially your Android tablet to the projector

Related links:
Nik Peachey


Unknown said...

Hi Nik,

I agree that an IWB is probably not the best piece of kit to have in the Classroom, unless you are a primary school teacher and you and the kids can have access to it daily and share its use with the class rather than it being a tool that perpetuates instructional uses of ICT as the sole use in the classroom.

I have not got any Apple equipment as I find that most state schools in Asia can't afford such luxuries but as most classrooms don't have IWBs anyway but some do have projectors, do you know of a Samsung equivalent to the reflector app for its tab or whether it can be connected to a projector? It would be interesting to compare ...

Mr. Ackerman said...

I do wonder if schools have been seduced into spending loads of money on IWbs and not on putting powerful tools in kids' hands?

VanDerVaartPants said...

You don't have to fiddle with replace or try to find those awful IWB pens.

Actually, they're not really pens at all. Once the pens are removed from their place, you can write or draw with your finger.

I do feel that IWBs lead to teacher-centered, frontal delivery so as soon as there's a choice beyond Apple, I will be happy to see the back of them.

Larry Cuffe said...

The power of an IWB only comes when you delve deeper into them and have the students using them interactively at the front of the classroom. Oddly enough, adult learners like playing with them too!
If you are just using them as a glorified data projector which saves you the bother of walking to the computer and clicking the mouse, then you will get out what you put in.

Karen said...

Hi Nic, I have been quiet for a while but still "lurking" occasionally.. This is very timely for me. We have instructors who are experimenting with the ipads and Reflector apps and then other (with my help) pushing for IWB's at $8000 a pop! You have caused me to rethink this and I am going to talk to the provost about rethinking this as well. Thanks so much!

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