What I’d Buy Instead of an Interactive Whiteboard

This week was a real humdinger for me.  I spent the better part of it buried under hateful emails from a district technology director in Louisiana who had read my recent post arguing that Interactive Whiteboards were a waste of money. 

I was really taken aback by the venom and spite in his words.  His first email expressed “shock” that “someone like me” could ever be named Teacher of the Year in any district.  He called me “self-centered and self-serving” and suggested that my writing was a “poison” corrupting conversations about technology.

He went on to suggest that my resistance to learning “modern technology” was failing students and that I should be ashamed of myself for my ignorance.

Me?  Resistant to learning modern technology? 

I’m assuming he’s never looked through my Digitally Speaking wiki, my monthly column on technology in Educational Leadership, or the stand alone articles that I’ve written on technology for Educational Leadership and Solution Tree.

I’m also assuming he won’t be buying my upcoming book—Teaching the iGeneration:  Five Ways to Introduce Essential Skills with Web 2.0 Tools—which is due to be published in June. 

Now, his central argument throughout the week was that Interactive Whiteboards can revolutionize learning in the classroom for students with learning disabilities.  I’m just not going to rehash that argument, considering how many times I’ve written about it recently (see this post or this post—and read the extensive comment sections in each—if you want to learn more). 

Instead, I wanted to show you how I’d spend the $5,000-$6,000 that a good IWB package—including a board, data projector, set of student responders, mounting kit, and a tablet for the teacher—will cost you.  From that point, you can decide whether IWBs for every classroom are worth your investment.

Give me $5,000-$6,000 to spend on a middle school classroom with 25 students and I’ll buy:

5 Netbook Computers  Cost:  $1,250

The most motivating lessons that I’ve ever taught give students the opportunity to interact in small groups around content.  There’s something about social interactions and communication that results in engaged students and more learning.  Yet we continue to invest in tools like Interactive Whiteboards that don’t enable any kind of group work or social interactions.

Give me one netbook for every 5 kids in my classroom and I can create instant workstations for groups.  I can also create remediation and enrichment stations for students.  Both are responsible models of instruction that we say we want to see in our schools.

The best part about having sets of netbooks is that you don’t even need to buy student responders.  Instead, you can use free polling tools like Poll Daddy to administer quick surveys designed to collect formative assessment information on your classroom instruction.


5 YEARS of VoiceThread for my Students   Cost:  $300

While I haven’t done as much with Voicethread this year as I typically like to do, it remains one of my favorite tools for structuring asynchronous conversations between students.  With little digital skill, kids of all ages can interact in Socratic style conversations on school related topics with one another both in and out of school. 

Essentially, Voicethread allows teachers to steal the online attention of their kids.  Given a meaningful school based conversation, they’ll turn away from the junk-food browsing that they do every afternoon and start talking with one another about content. 

As an aside, I don’t think this investment should even count against my $5,000. After all, if you decide to buy the IWBs that everyone loves, you’ll have to replace the bulb in your data projector every 4 years.  That’ll cost you $400. 

Wouldn’t a never-ending subscription to a constantly improving tool that encourages conversations between kids be a better use of that cash?

And in the interest of full disclosure, this purchase is a bit frivolous.  After all, you can get a completely free educator account for Voicethread that works just as well but doesn’t allow for individual student accounts.  I spent the first 18 months of my Voicethread experience working with a free account.  It was no sweat. 


5 YEARS of Brainpop Access for my Classroom  Cost:  $731

Brainpop is a service that creates short (3-5 minute) animated videos on topics across the curriculum.  Each video is paired with an activity and a review quiz, allowing teachers to easily monitor progress. 

There are math videos covering concepts ranging from ratios, proportions and percentages to graphing and statistics.  The social studies section is full of videos covering important events in World History.  Science videos on concepts ranging from the Carbon Cycle to Natural Selection and English videos on tricky grammar principles round out the ever-growing collection.

And while Brainpop videos aren’t designed to be the primary tool for in-depth studies of any topic, they make GREAT tools for remediation and/or enrichment.  Teachers with access to Brainpop in their classrooms can easily extend or reteach concepts without the burden of tons of extra planning. 


(If you’re adding along with me, I’m at $2,281.  That’s just a bit more than what you’d pay to buy this PolyVision Whiteboard WITHOUT any kind of projection tool, student responders, or slates for teachers.)


5 YEARS of Access to Poll Everywhere  Cost:  $645

Now, this is another frivolous purchase for me considering that there are PLENTY of completely free polling tools that teachers can pair with computers to collect information about their classrooms, but considering that I haven’t even come close to spending the $5,000 that I’ve got to spend, I figured I’d throw 5 years of Poll Everywhere into my shopping cart.

What makes Poll Everywhere—an online application that allows teachers to create and deliver quick surveys—unique is that students can respond to surveys via text message from their cell phones, making the need for student responders obsolete in most middle school classrooms considering the number of students carrying cell phones to school each day.

You can also track responses in Poll Everywhere at the individual student level, providing the EXACT SAME level of feedback that you’ll get from a class set of clickers. 

I also think that this price shouldn’t count against me if you’re planning on buying student responders with your whiteboards either simply because you’re going to have to replace batteries and broken devices over time.  I’m not. 

What’s more, my tool is going to constantly improve as Poll Everywhere adds new features.  Yours will be a dinosaur in no time.

That’s got to be worth something, right?


A Mid-Range Data Projector   Cost:  $595

Now, I’m not foolish.  I know there are going to be times when direct instruction to an entire group of kids is an important teaching strategy in every classroom.  As a result, I’d definitely want to have an LCD projector in my room. 

That way, I could show Brainpops to the entire class, we could instantly see the responses to Poll Everywhere surveys and we could look at interesting strands of conversation in ongoing Voicethread presentations together.

But I don’t need any high end Cadillac projector—and unlike classrooms where you’re planning on pairing a projector with an IWB, I don’t need any ceiling mounting hardware.  That’ll save me about $125—which I’d use to buy another year’s worth of Poll Everywhere.


Camtasia Screencasting Software   Cost:  $179

This is another frivolous purchase considering the wide range of completely free screencasting tools that are available online.  I’m not even really sure why I’m putting it on my shopping list.  After all, Screentoaster is free and it works fine. 

But considering
that I’ve still got money to burn, I figured I’d add it to the list.  Camtasia allows teachers to create easy tutorials that they can post to the web. 

Want to show kids how to diagram a sentence?  Work it out on your computer screen and record it with Camtasia.  Want to talk kids through the elements of a great essay?  Work it out on your computer screen and record it with Camtasia.  Want to show kids how the order of operations work?  Work it out on your computer screen and record it with Camtasia.

Do I need to go on? 


At this point, I’ve spent $3,680—just over the price that you’d pay for this Smartboard/refurbished projector combo which doesn’t come with any student responders or slates. 

For the same price, I’ve gotten computers that I can use for group work or stations, services to promote ongoing conversations beyond school, services to collect formative assessment data on my students, services to provide remediation and enrichment to my struggling students, and a software package to record tutorials from my computer screen.

Now, I’ve still got anywhere from $1,310 – $2,310 to spend before I get to my $5,000-$6,000 ceiling.  My temptation is to continue to add years to my Poll Everywhere, Voicethread and Brainpop subscriptions or to buy a few more netbooks.

But I think I’ll put that money in reserve.  After all, who knows how technology will change in the next five years.  I don’t want to drop tons of taxpayer cabbage on tools that will be antiques in just a few years.  That IS one of my criticisms of tech directors who are drinking the IWB Kool-Aid, after all. 

Better yet, maybe I’ll give my remaining cashola BACK to the taxpayers.  That’ll catch ‘em by surprise!

Any of this make sense?  What would you add to my list of purchases?  What would you take away?  What am I forgetting about here?

51 thoughts on “What I’d Buy Instead of an Interactive Whiteboard

  1. Nick_Walz

    It’s 2012 now and technology is here and it is here to stay! I think some classrooms are going a little overboard with buying ipods and ipads for the classroom, but I think having interactive whiteboards are a great tool to use in the classroom. My girlfriends school district just installed these interactive whiteboards for her kindergarten class. At first you would think it may be an unwise decision to place them in such a lower grade level, but she said they have been working great and have been students have been getting something out of it . Scholastic is a great place to check out IWB programs for the lower grades too. I don’t think it should replace teachers being able to teach and learn from their own practices, but I’d rather a IWB be placed in my child’s classroom then having new textbooks replaced every other year just because two sentences in the book have changed.

  2. Amanda Youngblood

    You should check out Microsoft’s new tool for teachers: multiple mice. It’s an add-in for Office that allows multiple mice to interact with quizzes (the ability to easily create these are added to PPT). You’d need a couple of USB hubs and wireless mice (unlimited if you run Win7, 5 if you run XP), and you could have your kids take quizzes mid presentation, or even draw something on the screen. I don’t work for Microsoft, but I’m going to see if I can do this in my room. I don’t have an IWB, or classroom computers, but this would be a way to get kids involved.

  3. Jeremy Burton

    This is a very thought provoking post about a subject that is close to my own heart. I work as a teacher educator in the UK and spend quite a bit of my time trying to encourage student teachers to look beyond the IWB. I’ve just written a post on my blog that picks up on some of the themes that you’ve raised here and in your previous article. Your post and many of the comments that follow give me hope that teachers are starting to recognise the limitations of this technology and consider how they could spend their money more wisely. My post is at http://jeremysblog.co.uk/education/interactive-whiteboards-is-the-writing-on-the-wall/

  4. Lora Holt

    Um, this is a bit much on this rant. First of all, most people who have IWB’s only have the projector and the IWB and maybe some speakers… Realistically the cost is about $1700.00. Student responders, etc are not part of the package and usually arent purchased as part either, especially when a district is equipping a classroom, the cost would be way too high.
    I like the suggestions that you have made about what you would do instead, but I wouldn’t waste my money on Brain pop when there are many free alternatives out there, as well as most districts purchase a video clip service like Discovery Education.
    You seem like a very innovative educator as far as content, its too bad you can’t lend your creativity to using a free IWB if you district or school buys you one. It’s almost like you are being an elitist, like, “only the clever people would refute having one” instead of thinking, “I wonder what my kids could do with this if I told them that this was one of their tools that they could use. Could you imagine if you put the IWB software on the five netbooks that you purchased for your groups to see what they would create to present to the class? I bet their unlimited creativity would surprise you.

  5. Samuel Fye

    Man, I am so glad to hear people talking about this! I just don’t get Whiteboards, and I have been afraid to say anything, since they have been dubbed a panacea. I asked at a training once, as a teacher demonstrated some game or other for kids to play, “what makes this activity better than just using construction paper?” She responded only that it held kid’s interest. I am probably not as anti-whiteboard as others, but I do agree that there is some danger in the faith people put in it. It is beyond ironic that this “interactive” tool is leading to an increase in passive learning in many classrooms!

  6. Rae

    Mr F. I knew that you blogged but i didn’t know that you blogged THIS much. I was on the computer and decided to Google your name, (oh the things that kids Google these days) your blog popped up first out of 95,800 results. If that didn’t make my jaw go slack then your writing did.
    It sends chills up my spine and it makes me glow with pride knowing that Bill Ferriter yes, THE Bill Ferriter was my teacher.
    Keep doing the things that you do best (writing and teaching)
    Rae S.

  7. Cath from Oz

    Great to see you so passionate Bill, but remember that not all of us have the luxury of a whole class all the time. In Secondary education ( three 70 minute lessons per class per week)I use my IWB as one of the workstations and as one of the many tools to engage students. The I in IWB is misunderstood by teachers who engage in death by power point and like any pedagogical tool it is up to the teacher to use it wisely. In the secondary science classroom it is a great tool.
    (The set up for IWBs is not as expensive here it would seem.)

  8. Laurie Wasserman

    I’m so sorry to read how rude folks can be; would they put up with this kind of behavior in their students? I doubt it!
    As a 30-year learning disabibilities teacher who would kill for an LCD and extra computers, an interactive white board isn’t even on my list of technology tools. Why? for starters, as cool as they appear, most of my students wouldn’t benefit from them. They need help with getting their thoughts down on paper and so having voice thread, voice recognition software and all the other cheaper goodies you suggested would benefit them much, much more. Thanks for suggesting a much better way to use this money.

  9. Bill Ferriter

    Neil wrote:
    “I am an Inst.Tech.Facilitator, and I have watched, first hand how the IWBs have improved instruction.”
    Here’s the thing, though, Neil: No matter how many times I ask, I don’t get very many good examples of what effective integration of IWBs actually looks like in action.
    When people say that they’ve seen IWBs change instruction, they typically refer to things like responders being used to collect formative assessment data or screencapture software being used to record lessons and tutorials.
    Both of those examples ARE effective practices, but neither is IWB dependent. Instead, they can (and should) be done with cheaper alternatives.
    And while I think that IWBs might change “instruction,” I wonder whether they really change “learning” at all.
    Neil also wrote:
    “No matter how many times we (teachers) try to push student centered, most instruction will be delivered as teacher centered.”
    This may be true in a world where we spend all of our resources on teacher-centered tools like IWBs, Neil, but what if we started to invest in the kinds of tools that made student centered exploration possible?
    I think that direct instruction is common in most classrooms because the tools that we have support that model of teaching, and until schools take their limited pool of cabbage and invest it into tools that facilitate collaboration, we’ll never see change.
    Does any of this make sense?

  10. Neil

    Your original article could be seen as an attack on those who do use IWB, I am an Inst.Tech.Facilitator, and I have watched, first hand how the IWBs have improved instruction. No matter how many times we (teachers) try to push student centered, most instruction will be delivered as teacher centered.
    Your follow-up is a much better piece on your thoughts. Maybe a comparison of what $5,000 would do for a classroom or IWBs Vs. ???.
    When I first read the article, it wasn’t very well received, but your follow up has some very strong points.

  11. Nick Counts

    Great article. i agree that IWB’s a working in the wrong direction of where classrooms need to go. I’d add to your list a convertible tablet computer and a wireless projection devise such as the InFocus Litshow 2. The Tablet allows the teacher to ink and save work, but the wireless adapter allows the tablet to be passes around the classroom while still projecting. This makes the projector more of a student-centered tool.

  12. Wesley

    You might like to throw in a free or paid for Dabbleboard.com subscription.
    Dabbleboard gives you a collaborative whiteboard that students could interact with from the netbooks you gave them to the projector in the classroom.
    Great article. I appreciated your view on how to make a better classroom instructional setup the involves the students more directly.

  13. Brian S. Friedlander

    Hi Bill:
    I have been working with a new product called PaperShow a presentation tool that takes advantage of digital pen and paper technology. Teachers can write on paper and what is written can be sent to the computer for everyone to see when the computer is connected to a data projector. It can replicate the functionality of writing on an IWB at a fraction of the cost. In fact teachers can use their PowerPoint presentation and print the on the interactive paper and then annotate on top of them. Please let me know if you are interested in learning more about this technology.
    Brian S. Friedlander, Ph.D.
    AssistiveTek Blog
    Skype: assistivetek
    Twitter: twitter.com/assistivetek

  14. Michael Bone

    I very much appreciate your article questioning the efficacy of electronic boards. I have many teachers using the Tablet PC to instruct lessons as I’m sure you are familiar with. However, I have had great success in helping teachers increase the benefits of Tablet PC by using a wireless accessory that sends the video via Ultra Wide Band to any projector. There are several vendors that sell this accessory for around $160 which works great in a classroom with any projector and Tablet PC. Every teacher I demonstrate this configuration too, showing how you are freed up to move around the class and annotate on lesson plans on the Tablet PC, find it intriguing and are successfully using this solution instead of electronic boards. With this configuration, the teacher can control the content and does not have to fiddle with another layer of software (IE: notebook with Smart Boards). Moreover, the collaboration directly with students to participate using the teacher’s Tablet PC anywhere in the classroom provides added benefit over electronic board slates where students must look at the screen at the front of the room as they annotate on their lap or the table where the slate is which is awkward.

  15. Ben K.

    Instead of Voicethread, which you have to pay for, try Moodle. I’m new to Moodle but it has the sychronous and asychronous communication tools covered.
    As for the tablets, I have a Promethean slate and love it. I can sit at a table with students and add things to our note page. I can give the slate to a student and have them work. I can have them pass it around.
    The software, which is free, is the real value for Promethean and Smart.
    This is a great post and I’m glad that it keeps getting brought out in Twitterverse!

  16. Sue

    For those who really, really want an IWB, buy the eBeam from Luidia. Cost is under $1,000, and you can still write on your whiteboard with a regular marker. Other thing I’d buy is Student Response Network. It’s a software “clicker.” Cost is $169 per school—once, not every year.

  17. Don_iain

    Hi there Bill,
    Thanks for the comment on my blog (The H-Blog)on IWBs. Have responded to your comment there, and have enjoyed reading what you would spend your IWB cash on. Going to back you up on the use of VoiceThread, a fantastic resource – especially for pupils with additional support needs who may find responding in writing exceptionally difficult.

  18. Adam

    Thanks Bill. I would add e-pals for global connections and projects and I would also consider a free resource like Brain Honey from Agilix to organize all of your digital content.

  19. Selena Woodward

    Thank you for asking teachers to evaluate why they would want an IWB in their clasroom. Such a very interesting post and comments. I have so much to say on this that I ended up responding to your post with a post of my own. I hope you find it useful?

  20. Jackie Jacobs

    Thanks, Bill for posting ideas on how to integrate technology into classroom instruction that incorporate cooperative learning and that can be accessible to a majority of classroom teachers. As an educational materials developer, I am currently struggling with how to create materials that incorporate technology and:
    1. Encourage the social and emotional growth of students through cooperative and collaborative learning;
    2. Are accessible to any classroom teacher;
    3. Won’t be outdated by the time materials are published.
    Thinking about ways to include free applications available online seems like a tangible solution that is worth investigating.

  21. Jackie Jacobs

    Thanks, Bill for posting ideas on how to integrate technology into classroom instruction that incorporate cooperative learning and that can be accessible to a majority of classroom teachers. As an educational materials developer, I am currently struggling with how to create materials that incorporate technology and:
    1. Encourage the social and emotional growth of students through cooperative and collaborative learning;
    2. Are accessible to any classroom teacher;
    3. Won’t be outdated by the time materials are published.
    Thinking about ways to include free applications available online seems like a tangible solution that is worth investigating.

  22. Bill Ferriter

    For whatever reason, Typepad isn’t showing me all of the comments added to this post right now and I’m too tired to figure out why!
    One commenter, though, asked for examples of how people ARE using IWBs productively in the classroom. I’d be interested in hearing examples as well.
    Most of the times when I’ve asked the same question, people have given me examples that are not exclusive to the IWB. I often hear about the ability to record and post lessons later—something that can be accomplished with screencasting software.
    I also hear about using student responders to collect formative assessment data a lot. Again, this can be done with a ton of other cheaper tools—or with a stand-alone set of clickers. The whiteboard just isn’t needed.
    And don’t forget, I had a whiteboard in my room for over a year. It’s not like I didn’t try to find ways to make it worthwhile!
    The best that I could come up with was a sorting activity where kids dragged and dropped vocabulary words associated with concepts we were studying in class into the right places on a graphic organizer. The whiteboard became a sorting station.
    The hitch is that the same work could be done without a whiteboard.
    Any of this make sense?

  23. K. Borden

    You should budget $3.49 to buy two dry erase posters. The mobility really is worth the price :).

  24. Bill Ferriter

    I’ve taken a bit of flak for adding Brainpop and Voicethread to my list today, y’all. A critic found them to be simple at best and basically useless.
    Here’s my thinking for spending cash on both:
    1. Brainpop: I’m constantly bombarded by messages from my bosses that I need to provide remediation and enrichment to my students. In fact, the implication is that if I can’t individualize instruction for every kid, I”m not a very good teacher.
    Now, I believe in remediation and enrichment, but as a full time practitioner, I can say that those who pound the remediation/enrichment drum rarely realize just how hard that is in a classroom with students whose ability levels range from far above to far below grade level.
    Brainpop is a simple tool that I can turn to when a student doesn’t have the basic content knowledge required to move forward. It’s also a tool that students can use to practice new vocabulary. Finally, it’s a tool that students can use to study new topics connected to personal interests.
    And I haven’t got to design any lessons or any materials to create these experiences.
    That’s worth it to me. It makes remediation and/or enrichment seem doable again. While it won’t solve every learning problem that my kids have, it can certainly take care of the needs of a handful of students who would have otherwise taken a ton of time to plan for.
    Make sense?
    2. Voicethread: There is no tool for asynchronous discussions that is easier to use than Voicethread. There’s literally nothing intimidating—for teachers or for students—about it.
    Which means that it is far more likely to take hold and be used on a regular basis by everyone.
    Having watched schools waste money on complicated products and tools for decades—think Dreamweaver for classroom websites—I’ve become a believer in the old mantra, “Less is more.”
    All I want is a tool to extend conversations beyond school. That’s it. Nothing less and nothing more.
    Voicethread does that job well—and for a remarkably affordable price.
    Are there more complex tools that can make asynchronous conversations possible? Sure.
    But until teachers have the savvy to work with more complex tools, let’s start with something that everyone can manage. That way, there are no excuses for integration of asynchronous conversations into classroom instruction.
    Hope this explains my additions.

  25. Bill Ferriter

    Teacha wrote:
    This blog is not about the cheaper alternative tool and how fiscally responsible Bill is with his $5,000. This post is about what Bill is asking his students to do. The term interactive is to get away from the teacher-centered learning and move towards student centered learning.
    Brilliant comment, Teacha—puts the focus of the conversation directly on where it should be. Until we start to ask what it is we want to see students doing in our rooms, it’s impossible to make responsible choices on how to spend our cash.

  26. Karen

    You have to have a doc cam. I use mine every single day and couldn’t imagine living without it. And a webcam is NOT the same. You can’t capture images or record videos with a webcam.

  27. Susan

    Whether students are using paper and pencil, construction paper, posterboard, chart paper, PowerPoint, web 2.0, blogs, 1:1 laptops, etc., STUDENTS must be collaborating and presenting their ideas to others. IWBs are teacher centered and don’t allow for that. With unlimited funding IWBs would be great for every classroom as they allow teachers to easily present, add to, and save whole-class lessons. With the current fiscal crises in districts, IWBs cannot be justified. No matter what, we must not lose focus on the fact that students must be researching, collaborating, and presenting ideas to their classmates. If we are to fix the low graduation rate in tbis country we must let students be collaborative problem-solvers – that’s where our money should go.

  28. Teacha

    All of these posts have definitely jumped on the “down with IWBs” bandwagon, which I agree with and continue to ride on as well. However, I want to point out that several readers have suggested the wiimote version or the interactive slate such as the Interwrite Mobi as a more budget conscious alternative. Please note these options are still an opportunity for the teacher to be the “sage on the stage”. This blog is not about the cheaper alternative tool and how fiscally responsible Bill is with his $5,000. This post is about what Bill is asking his students to do. The term interactive is to get away from the teacher-centered learning and move towards student centered learning.

  29. John H.

    Before you set aside the money and give it back, consider putting some of that $$ away for projector bulbs and repair costs for the netbooks. You might also consider a software solution that allows screen sharing (students could each come up with a solution to something, and then you could project the 5 screens on the wall and then choose one to highlight). In addition, students could present their ideas to the class without using your computer directly.

  30. Pbhanney

    Personally I think if you really want an IWB you should just use the tablet piece. I use my eInstruction Mobi everyday in my class without the whiteboard (which is actually in the back of my room gathering dust). I like being able to move around my classroom without being tied to either the IWB or my computer (although sometimes I have to type something and using the keyboard is the easiest way). If every teacher had an LCD and a tablet (whichever flavor you want to use), this would be more useful and cost effective. Usually these cost between $300-400 each. I don’t know about all of the tablets, but I know the Mobi will allow several Mobis to be connected to the same computer at the same time. This then allows students to use the IWB features at the same time. Most IWB only allow one or two pens to be used at the same time.

  31. Andrew Douch

    I’d not go as far as saying that I hate IWBs. Actually I quite like them in and of themselves, but agree that they represent misdirected funds – I’m also convinced that they will in no way revolutionise education – in fact I think they probably have the opposite effect, because they lull a teacher into feeling that she is using up-to-date, cutting-edge technology in her classes, without actually changing much at all in the way of teaching practice.

  32. Gmacattak

    This may have been inspired by a critic, but it’s brilliant. I was having this conversation with someone a week ago (based on one of your previous posts), and I found myself a little over matched by a true believer. I am still learning and I didn’t have the rationale to support my arguments (which began with you). Thanks for bringing it back to what really counts for most, money.
    I will admit to having been wowed by Smartboards in the past, but no more. I can’t think of how much we could do by saving that kind of money in a class. Even $1000 is real money in some schools!
    For the record I’d by more netbooks (probably 7 with a longer battery life than the $250 dollar version), but I’d still save money!

  33. Jose

    Man, you’re a real jerk. I can’t believe you actually have a cost-cutting method for teaching students besides the overhyped IWBs that people think are revolutionizing teaching when it’s just making it easier to get by with a little more flash.
    Come on.
    I love your suggestions, but do you really think they’re a better solution than having a pretty whiteboard to show everyone that you’re teaching something in big font with PPT? Huh?
    hahaha, this was good.

  34. Suz Arnott

    fantastic… I think reading the comments we all know where you are coming from…
    they can be handy – nice to not have to run to the laptop/computer to change pages, but no real biggie… Some people make them work fantastically… but they seem to be few and far between.

  35. twitter.com/concretekax

    I like the free versions of the software so I would probably buy more netbooks instead. I would buy 10 netbooks, projector, quality headphones, a couple of microphones, and a high-end wireless hub. The wireless would let students bring in their own internet devices.
    My district is very excited to have implemented IWB’s in every elementary classroom and adding secondary next year. It is hard for me to hide my disappointment that they don’t choose computers instead.

  36. Shawn Moore

    I am in the process of installing a wiimote whiteboard in my classroom. The projectors are already in all the classrooms, but with about $100 worth of hardware and free software, I’ll have an interactive whiteboard. I’m right there with you on the netbook/tablet purchase. Hoping to see tablets in the $300 range. Advantage being that students can’t pop the keys off of a touchscreen keyboard!

  37. Paul Villavisanis

    I’m going to point my principal to this post. When I read this I immediately thought of the IWB in the corner of my school library gathering dust, lonely from a lack of use. Glad someone is thinking of spending tax-payer money wisely.

  38. Dan

    Thanks for the list bill, good stuff. I think you are on to something with the purchasing of premium subscriptions to online tools. I agree, the free version is generally enough but the premium versions offer better security and more functionality, PBWorks is one I have a premium subscription for and as far as wikis go it’s worth the small fee. Plus, you are only on the hook for that year…until something better or free-er pops up 🙂

  39. ginnyp

    very good to read your recommendations, as our principal just last week invited a vendor to show off the “make-your-white-board-into-an-IWB” doohickey to clamp onto my whiteboard. Document cameras I find semi-useful but not enough to warrant a big outlay, and since I have 35 (not 25) desks in my room I don’t have room for the power strip, cords, and table or cart needed for the laptop, LCD (not mounted) and camera. I’m cramped now with the cart for the LCD which cannot be bumped unless I want to rejustify my IWB every 10 minutes.

  40. Penny

    I would also add a wireless keyboard and mouse to the list – coupled with the data proj and in the hands of students, they can interact with the “whiteboard”.

  41. Linda704

    You forgot 1 very important item in your shopping cart: professional development. Even if it’s nothing more than funding a few hours of release time for teachers to discover and share, without it, any amount of money saved on hardware/software is meaningless if teachers don’t know how to use it. If you add up your proposed savings over many classrooms in a school or district (and maybe forgo a few of the extras you “splurged” on), you could possibly fund a “technology coach” for “just-in-time” support, which can make a huge difference in teacher adoption. And,ultimately, it’s about the teaching, not the tools. [Please see my blog http://bit.ly/9tMm52 ]
    That being said, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not, in *any* way, against my district’s decision to install IWBs in each classroom. I am simply responding you your query. In some ways, less is more. If we want adoption, we need to not bombard teachers with tools. If you had a school with a staff of educators like yourself, your suggestions make a lot of sense. Please see my blog post link above, especially the comments by Joe, for a better description of what I mean.
    Thank you for sharing your thinking. I find your list helpful, as I have heard of some of the tools, but not utilized in the ways you mentioned here, and others are new to me, so I will check them out!

  42. Kimberly

    This is actually a conversation we are having at my school. My principal spent money on multiple projectors and document cameras rather than buying 1 Promethean board/projector for 1 classroom.
    A couple of teachers are interested in AVerPens http://www.avermedia-usa.com/presentation/product_averpen.asp
    Have you or your readers used this tool? We are an elementary school.
    I ticked off a presenter at a staff development -by pointing out that they were paying tens of thousands of dollars for a website to do something 95% of the teachers on may campus could do with just google and no $ spent.
    I recently used google docs in a class assignment. I have a 3 students: 1 computer ratio if with a combination of laptops and desktops. I also have my own laptop with an AT&T card.
    It blew the minds of one group that was fooling around when the words. “Get Busy With The Assignment” showed up in red on their doc. Also blew the mind of the principal who was doing a walk through. (I admit I did it for the effect – and to drive home the fact I could see what the kids were doing).

  43. cprofitt

    I agree with other tools being more valuable than IWBs. The main issue for me is that IWBs reinforce the ‘teacher centered’ teaching model more than moving away from it. Certainly you can make learning student centered with an IWB, but it is far easier to do with several netbooks and asynchronous on-line tools.
    I would also like to see a focus on teaching be centered on the teacher while the focus on learning is centered on the students. Students should be allowed a certain amount of choice in choosing the tools that help them learn.

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