The 2013 MACUL Conference in Detroit, MI featured myriad sessions on the use of interactive whiteboards in the classroom as well as iPads in education. Vendors in the exhibit hall tried to show the most appealing features of their product while teachers shared their best uses for technology. An interesting question arose during the conference: which is a better choice in 2013 – an interactive whiteboard or an iPad? If you could have the choice for your classroom or school, which would be your pick? Educational technology consultants and integration specialists are frequently scrambling to make this decision, and not always with teachers and students in mind. A broader understanding of the comparison may help elucidate the best choice for classrooms, teachers, and students. Keeping budgetary considerations in mind, making a selection between these two may be surprisingly easy.
Though many classrooms and conference rooms are already equipped with interactive whiteboards and projectors, if there is still a decision to be made for your organization about choosing new technology, perhaps the best choice isn’t an interactive whiteboard. The actual interactive whiteboard device isn’t much more evolved than a traditional whiteboard, or worse yet…a chalkboard; however, it does have some appealing features such as simulations, games, integration with (proprietary) student response systems, and lesson/assessment templates.
Notwithstanding these software features, the actual hardware has many setbacks, especially for classroom teaching and learning. Its one-user-at-a-time limitation and fixed position in a room requires a presenter to be tethered to the board, unless you have a slate, such as a Smart Airliner. It’s main functionality is the same as that of a chalkboard or traditional whiteboard, which blocks the view of the audience from any content being displayed. The fixed position of an IWB on the wall also limits the user based on their height. Elementary school children may have a challenge using an interactive whiteboard for this very reason. Ultimately, the limitations prevent a dynamic workflow from emerging; however, there is something better–the iPad!
The iPad, coupled with either some additional hardware (Apple TV) or software (wifi network and computer running the Reflector app, for example,) can put you anywhere in the room projecting your display and interacting with students for a fraction of the cost of an interactive whiteboard. In addition to this basic functionality, the nearly interminable number of applications for teaching and learning amount to a compelling argument for why you want an iPad instead of an interactive whiteboard.
The iPad setup for a classroom has much more versatility and plenty of comparable features to outweigh any interactive whiteboard, including that other iOS and OSX devices can interact with the same setup and allow audience members to participate with their own device on the display. Do you know of an IWB that lets students wirelessly show content from their device or computer? The iPad can play the role of a document camera, run a free student response system using students’ own mobile devices, and access all the content on the web (even Java or Flash) while the user can be anywhere in the room and quickly share the activity with others.
With the untethered freedom that comes from using a tablet, the ever-growing variety of apps available on iOS, and the ability to act as a roaming document camera as well, the iPad wins out over the interactive whiteboard, advances classroom technology, and promotes collaboration instead of mere presentation. If you need more reasons to consider the iPad as your next classroom technology, or need some details on how to make it work for you, check out this presentation from the 2013 MACUL Conference.
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