Dec 17, 2015

Alternatives to the Interactive Whiteboard

With so many schools going 1:1, Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs)have begun to take a backseat to laptops, iPads and Chromebooks.  Recently, Epson and Smart released news that all Epson Brightlink interactive projectors would be bundled with Smart Notebook software as a standard install.  This drastically changes the playing field given the downturn in sales that IWB companies have faced in recent years.  To see info on the Epson projector with Smart Notebook, click here.

All this discussion made me think about use of IWBs in the classroom and options available to teachers.  Most of these thoughts come from classes I created on Differentiated Instruction and Gaming in the Classroom.  In a perfect world:


  • Any content in your lesson you can interact with increases student interest.
  • Students - NOT Teachers - should be using the IWB.  
  • As a general rule, 33% or more of your students are kinesthetic, and should have ways to interact with content.
The problem with IWBs is that you can typically only allow 1-2 students at the board at a time, mostly because older boards only allow a single touch, and newer boards -although they have multitouch options - are not broad enough to allow too many students at a time.  So what do you do with an IWB?  Most teachers relegate themselves to using the board for instruction and as an input tool to navigate while teaching.  So since the world isn't perfect, and since there are still - yes, STILL - teachers out there without an IWB, there ought to be cheaper options.  

Obviously, having interactive software built into a projectors saves time and money.  And having options such as the Epson Brightlink, the Mimio, and, not to forget, the fact that SmartBoards and Promethean ActivBoards are now available as TVs, there are several options ranging from the expensive to the less expensive.  

But if you are like me, you like the super cheap or free options available to you.  That is why I think it is still too early to abandon the idea of the Wiimote Whiteboard.  

Several years ago, I put together a class on using the Wii in the Classroom.  One of the segments discussed the use of the Wii as an IWB.  Back then, the freeware was a bit clunky and the LED Pens used with them were still a bit simplistic, but times have changed and if you're willing to put the time and effort into exploring this option, it really works well.  Watch this video about the Wiimote Whiteboard:



If you're interested in setting up a WiiMote Whiteboard, here is a link where you can buy all the pieces you'll need to get started - http://teachwithtech.com/Wii-Remote-Interactive-Whiteboard-c28/
In a nutshell, though, here is what you'll need:


Why does this work? All Wii Remotes have a camera inside them that can register video feeds of light and dark images on a TV screen.  This is reported back to the Wii and helps the console track movements.  That, coupled with the fact that a Wii also has bluetooth capabilities, means that it can be linked to a bluetooth device.  With a little hacking and a little ingenuity, you've got the ability to create your own interactive experience.  

While this concept is not new, the software and the pens have come a long way in getting better.  It is not a free solution, but hopefully, if you are willing to spend $50 to $100, you've got the interactivity you need to free yourself from your desk.