Horn or Halo Series – Interactive Whiteboards

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  • August 6, 2015

Interactive Whiteboards In The Classroom?From the educators:

“If anything the history of [IWBs] to date is still a case study exemplifying the misplaced philosophy driving a lot of IT in education, namely ‘introduce first and think about how to use it later.'” THE Journal.

“With proper planning, preparation, and training, it is a powerful instructional tool, which can be adapted for use with a wide range of subjects and ages.” -Dr. Mary Ann Bell for Teachers.net.


The first interactive whiteboard (IWB) was developed by Xerox Parc around 1990. More than a dry erase board, IWB’s display the screen of a connected computer and they allow you to manipulate the displayed content from the board. IWBs became the hallmark symbol of 21st century learning in about 60 percent of classrooms in the United States. That symbol however was defined in the late 1990’s and today, almost 20 years later, their instructional usefulness is in question. Are IWB’s needed in classrooms of the future that are filled with personal mobile devices and large flat-panel displays?

Horn – For the money, there are better edtech options.

Depending on the brand, accessories and installation costs, interactive whiteboards can cost between $5,000 and $15,000 per classroom. That range of investment comes close to a classroom cart of chromebooks or tablets which can allow everyone in the class to have a personal ‘interactive’ experience, at the same time! Further, given the vastly larger numbers of mobile devices vs IWBs in the world, new and innovative educational content is far more likely to be produced for mobile devices than for IWBs. As Valerie Quashie said, “The usefulness of the IWB is a function of quality of the materials used on it”. While IWBs showed promise in an initial surge in popularity, there have not been any notable uses that make it stand out from personal devices.

Halo – With the right content, IWBs promote student engagement and interaction.

A clear advantage IWBs have over simple whiteboard + projector combinations (no interactivity) is the empowering ‘get up out of your seat’ collaboration that IWBs are known for. Beyond being a giant video display, IWBs can help learners understand information through touching, expanding and dragging the information around the display. Studies show that engagement and information retention is increased when students learn through manipulatives.

The Verdict – In a world of affordable personal devices and large displays, IWBs are obsolete.

IWBs are expensive and they tend to promote teacher lecturing versus student directed learning (sage-on-the-stage vs guide-on-the-side). Often times used only as a large computer screen display, IWBs have not had the transformative effect on learning that so many had hoped. Was it all for nothing? Likely not. Tomorrow’s interactive surfaces may be whole walls and may interact much more fluidly with the world of personal devices. For now, let’s move past the ‘turn of the century’ definitions of education technology and make smart choices given today’s technology and desired learning outcomes. As we are in the age of personal experiences and mobile technology, large, immobile and expensive technologies are out of date.

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