We use a smart board to teach in the school’s computer lab. Basically, a SMART whiteboard turns the image from your digital projector / LCD projector into an interactive whiteboard that you can write on.
The SMART Board itself is a giant, touch-sensitive screen that is connected to your computer. You use your digital projector to display your computer screen on the SMART board, and the software allows you to touch and interact with your computer.
As more and more school boards and teachers invest in data projectors, the question arises as to whether SMART Boards are a good investment. After all, an intuitive touch interface plus the ability to write on digital documents (with digital ink) would help us move beyond whiteboards, flipchart paper, and overhead projectors.
- With SMART Board, you can control any application through the touch panel. So instead of working behind the computer keyboard, you (or your students) can be at the front of the classroom physically interacting with the screen.
- You can use any of the 4 colors of markers or the eraser to write in digital ink over moving apps, web pages or videos. The SMART board will continue to function if you lose your pens. (There are 4 colored pencil holders and an eraser. When you pull the pen out of the slot, you select the color or the eraser. When you touch the screen, it uses the selected color or the eraser).
- Like other digital ink software applications, you can save your work to a binder file, and you can convert handwriting to text.
- Difficult to write. The biggest disappointment with digital ink comes from the fact that a SMART Board is a front projection screen. This means that your data projector is set up in front of the screen (like an overhead projector). Which means that when you stand between the projector and the screen, you cast a shadow on the screen … right where you’re trying to write. Sure, it was great to interact with the shows by tapping the screen, but it was difficult to write notes because it was constantly blocking the image.
- Hard to write neatly. To be completely honest, it was a bit disappointing how our handwriting turned out on the SMART Board. Better than our experiences with the other digital pens (i.e i-pen), but the type was still large, blocky, and cluttered. One of the things you should train yourself for is not to lean on the SMART Board. When you write on a whiteboard or blackboard, you usually rest the edge of your palm on the whiteboard. If you do it on a touch screen, the cursor jumps to your palm and it doesn’t work. You have to prepare to write with the tip of the pen. The bookmark worked fine if we wanted to underline or circle key ideas, but if you wanted to edit or revise in 12 point, double-spaced Word document, you would find it difficult to get the required control.
- You still have to move back and forth from the keyboard to the screen. We could start our web browser by tapping on the SMART board, but when it came time to enter the website address, we had to go back to the desktop to type in the URL.
- Expensive. The total cost of ownership of a SMART Board whiteboard can be prohibitive for the classroom teacher. 77 retail cost? The front projection (195.6 cm) SMART Board interactive whiteboard costs $ 1,399 (USD) with a grant from the SMARTer Kids Foundation of Canada. (www.SmarterKids.org)
- You must provide your own data projector. A decent new projector will cost between $ 500 and $ 1000. The SMART Board is just a giant touch panel. You need to provide your own projector to display the image on the smart board. (Software, connection cables, and bracket are included.)
- You may want to upgrade to a wireless connection ($ 199 USD) to eliminate cables and tripping hazards in the classroom. The screen image and the SMART Board touch screen may be out of alignment. This means that when you try to click a button, the mouse pointer appears a few inches to the side. You will have to realign your hardware, which would interrupt the lesson.