Types of Interactive WhiteBoards

The electronic white board connects to a computer. The computer connects to a projector which projects the image onto the board. The whiteboard can be touched and manipulated with fingertips or with accompanying markers. SMART Boards is a brand name for one manufacturer of electronic white-boards. Interactive White Boards can be Front Projection or Rear Projection. Front-projections IWBs have the problem of the user's shadow obscuring the image on the board. Some front-projection whiteboards have the projector mounted on the top of the board which helps with this issue. Rear-projection units do not have this problem.

SMART Technologies




Mimio is a cheaper alternative that uses a regular dry-erase board in somewhat the same way.

eBeam is another of the alternative approaches.

eInstruction/Interwrite -

Comments on brands of interactive whiteboards

Retrieved from ISED-L list-serv 3/09, CC3.0 a, s-a, nc license

We are a SmartBoard school. Our teachers (LS teachers included) REALLY like their SmartBoards and use them a lot. Frankly, for quite a while, I didn't fully understand the importance of the SmartBoard Notebook software. I was viewing the things as hardware devices and didn't focus on the software. The Smart Notebook software is far from perfect - especially the latest Mac version (they are working on fixing this)- but it is really a very pedagogically powerful and appropriate program, and should become an increasingly valuable resource as they refine it. So don't just compare boards, compare the software too. We invested a significant amount of time and effort in training our faculty how to use the software. Five of our faculty went through the week long training needed to become certified SmartBoard trainers. Three of the five went on to complete the certification process. So we have really good inhouse support for our teachers. Because it is really more about the software than the hardware it is important not to slight the support process.

I have worked with Smart and Promethean, so those are the only two I can comment on. I think Promethean's software suite of applications is far superior to Smarts. Promethean spends a lot more money and resources on their software. The trainings that I went to by Promethean instructors focused almost solely on using their software rather than focusing on the hardware. I am now at a school that chose to go with Smartboards. I actually like the boards a little better than Promethean, primarily the ability to use your finger to move things around. The down side of Smartboards is the Notebook software is not that great. In addition, I have gone to several training classes and the trainers seem to want to focus on the hardware rather than how to use Notebook and the other curriculum resources. If I had to go with one, at this time, I would select Promethean. The power of interactive whiteboards is the tools you use with them, and Promethean has such a great set of tools available you can use right from day 1.

We've been discussing whether to purchase the SMART Board 680i or the 3M Digital Wall Display Plus for some classrooms. My observations: A distinct 3M Wall Display Plus advantage over the SMART Board is the retracting arm, which would not protrude in the classroom. Also, the board seems to be physically more durable. Both boards can also serve as dry-erase white boards when the projector is off. We noticed a slight touch/see delay on both boards; the delay seemed more exaggerated on the 3M board. The projectors that come with both boards seem bright enough to work in a classroom with lights on. Several 3M disadvantages: You can't interact with the board using your finger (if, say, you lose the stylus). Also, the stylus menu is not intuitive-- we'd all need training or time and practice to learn it. In contrast, the SMART Board requires that you pick up a "pen" from its tray and start writing, or tap the board with your finger to select something-- it therefore seems more intuitive.

The biggest reason why faculty are hesitant to use a Smart Board is that we can't use it as a white board. That's why I've been looking into other solutions such as the Polyvision and Promethean. Smart Boards are great, but you can't use them when the projectors are off. Also, when they went to version 10 of their software, things went downhill on the usability. They added more features, but it made it more bloated.

SMART Board Resources

Interactive whiteboard vs. Tablets

In my opinion, tablets & projectors (with wireless networks) are a better investment than interactive whiteboards (with the possible exception of primary grades) because the tablet offers the same capabilities but with added benefits. The wireless tablet allows the teacher to move anywhere in the room and still be connected to the screen. The tablet can be handed around for students to write on, or a screen-sharing program can be used to project any particular student's screen. When you write on an interactive whiteboard your back is to the class; not so with a tablet. For younger short students, they may only be able to reach the bottom portion of the whiteboard; not so with a tablet- they can use the full screen easily, and their writing can be large and legible. -demetri

We have installed SMARTBoards in 11 Lower School classrooms, all Upper School classrooms and will soon have them in all Middle School classrooms. Faculty now have tablet PCs and dock them when they wish to use them with a SmartBoard. We considered the option of providing only tablets and projectors, but we have decided that there is a huge difference between interacting with material in front of the class by touching it physically, and watching the material, notes, etc. appear from a distance. Yes, one's body blocks some light from the projector, and yes, small children must reach a little (the tool bar can move to the bottom of the screen, so they are not all that disadvantaged). But I recently watched an Upper School science teacher interact with his online text book, quickly shift to a large graphic that he marked up with his pen and saved in the Smart Notebook as a lecture note, and then refer to material on a related website, which also went into the lecture notes. These were all posted online for students to review. Having him in front, talking as he physically touched the graphics and notes he was referring to was far more dramatic and effective than it would have been had he been on the side, making them appear from a distance. The whiteboard is an excellent tool to brainstorm with students. There is also a neat tool that spotlights important information.

Part of what makes the SmartBoard so effective is the dramatic upgrades the company has provided in the Smart Notebook and its gallery of resources, such as graph paper, maps, and other graphics and templates. Teachers can prepare and add their own to the gallery and these are readily available when the Smart Notebook is open. The company's constant (free) upgrades of this software has been one reason we are supporting their product. - Jenni V.

I have both [tablet and smartboard] in my room and for the most part last year, I used the tablet over the smartboard. I saw the smartboard as a way to mark on top of art work but found a utility I downloaded for tablet that could do the same. I like the wireless tablet because it does give me the chance to move about for classroom management and to observe students doing work as I present it.

An anecdote wishing for a SmartBoard in kindergarten...

"Today, I worked [with my laptop connected to a projector] in a K classroom that had read "The Wakeup Machine" - basically a Rube Goldberg book. I copied 4 "Rubes" from the official website, put them in PowerPoint (at the bottom of the screen) I put my projector down low, so the K kids could reach the whole graphic. I got down on my knees up front, and we talked about the machines. Then I ran an old piece of software called "The Incredible Machine" and the kids helped me 'build' the various solutions to the puzzles. [Note: wish I would have had a SMART board with me so the kids could have dragged the parts to the machine themselves with their fingers!]. I expected to do 1 or two of the images, and 3 or 4 of the puzzles. But we ended up doing ALL 4 of the images, and 12 puzzles! The 20-30 minutes I planned turned into an hour! 5 year olds for an hour - focused! The teacher was thrilled. (I kept checking with her to make sure it was OK to keep going! Cause/effect was EXACTLY what she wanted her kids learning in science, so we were right on!)"

Our school is 1:1 for 7-12 grade and about 90% are tablets, we will be 100% next year. Our faculty is 100% tablets as well. We also have two carts of tablets for use in K-6. We have projectors mounted in all of our 70 classrooms and 30 of them have been converted to wireless projectors and 20 more will be next summer. We have two mobile interactive whiteboard that are for the most part collecting dust at this point. We have found that the tablet allows for much greater range of use both during class and outside of class compared to the limited use of a smartboard. Also we liked the flexibility of a projector and screen versus the expense of interactive whiteboard.

I have one and used it very little last year and am having it taken out this week since I never use it as anything but a screen. There is NOTHING I can do on that board that I can't do with my projector and very good Power Point or Word or Inspiration or Internet or Vernier skills. Plus the white board ties you to that board and makes you have your back to the class - not good in middle school. I can have a Power Point roll in, insert graphics and pictures in a heart beat, sequence, animate their arrival (my speed/motion graphics come in a appropriate speeds from appropriate directions) and view embedded videos. I set up links to web sites and other pages, have circles and lines fly in in various manners and with unique sounds. All of this is coupled with my 3 way remote that I bought from Best Buy that can be used a Roller Mouse with right and left clicks, a Power Point only controller or as a device to Play/Pause DVD's and control volume from ANYWHERE in the room. The technology I would recommend is the "clicker" technology. We are buying a bunch more from CPS and I haven't seen such an advance in pedagogical technology since man discovered chalk would leave a mark on slate. I can dipstick my kids any time I want and really see if learning is taking place!

We are doing something a little different. We are playing around with using the wireless tablet instead of a whiteboard. In our approach, we are remote controlling a workstation with the tablet. The workstation is actually sending the video to the projector via a cable. This gives us super fast performance without the cables. We are still trying to evaluate when to use this idea and when to use the interactive whiteboard.

Scott Getter - Hopkins Public School (

Technical Definition or Types of IWB

Interactive whiteboards can be classified on the basis of technology they use or on the basis of their arrangement. On the basis of technology, an interactive whiteboard can be classified as:

  • Resistive interactive whiteboard
  • Electromagnetic interactive whiteboard
  • Capacitive interactive whiteboard
  • Ultrasonic interactive whiteboard
  • Laser interactive whiteboard
  • Ultrasonic and infrared interactive whiteboard
  • Optical and infrared interactive whiteboard

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