We just moved into a new school: a shiny new school with polished linoleum floors, skylights for natural light, a beautiful new theater, and wired classrooms. Each classroom has an Eno board and a Polyvision projector at its head, flanked by two good ol’ fashioned whiteboards (and I’ll admit, as an aside, that however anachronistic they may have looked, I miss my chalkboards, though I’m not writing much on the boards themselves these days).

The Eno boards and projectors greeted us with predictable glitches, both entering a new school with who-knows-how-many whiteboards to manage / launch and as a technology with which few of us were familiar (any interactive white boards in the old school were Promethean or Smart), but I was for the Eno boards when we were considering which board to order. I can say with assurance now, not that I’m against the Eno board, but that the interactive white board as a generic tool is anachronistic, at least in the higher grades.

I’ve spent the last school year getting to know Doceri and Splashtop, two apps for the iPad that allow you not only to control your computer from the iPad but also to annotate your desktop and project a blank screen for notes (and I’ve posted on each of them elsewhere). And, to be frank, they’re great. I prefer Splashtop at this point, but they both do exactly what you want them to do, each with strengths and weaknesses. But what they really do is eliminate the need for an interactive white board.

When I first got my Promethean Board all of its whistles and bells were a hoot: look, I can make a built-in car crash noise when someone gets a question wrong; there are 5 different clip arts in the jam subfolder (under the food category; not making this up); I can roll not one, not two, but five virtual dice at the same time. And my students and I had plenty of good chuckles over all this. The whistles and bells engaged them, but I’m not sure taught them anything. What did I really want? A place to easily provide modified notes (i.e. different colors, thicknesses, etc.) without having to change pieces of chalk or markers, and, more important, a way to store and distribute these notes. (And this is where the different levels / grades come in; knowing not much at all about elementary / primary pedagogy, I can imagine that those whistles and bells would be much more integrated into a class / curriculum.) The iPad with Slashtop or Doceri, plus a projector and a computer, does this.

So, if you’re building a new school, consider the math: assuming every teacher has a computer either in the classroom or has a laptop (which I know isn’t the case, but if it’s not the case, you’ve probably stopped reading already), and every room is going to have a projector, which seems preferable / more economical? a $500 iPad for each teacher? or a $1500 (or more) interactive white board? Unfortunately for us, we were a couple months too late figuring this out; by the time I realized what Doceri and Splashtop could do, orders had been placed and contracts had been signed. But at this point it doesn’t seem like much an argument: an iPad can do everything you would want an interactive white board to do, do it more easily, and with fewer glitches. Skip the board and go with the iPad.