I previously discussed whether interactive displays were a worthwhile investment for schools and what features you can expect in The How, Why, and Really? of Interactive Displays. You can find all the basics there. Recently though the New York City tech squad had a display event that demonstrated how several companies have made improvements and new alternatives have come onto the scene. Here’s an overview of the latest that they offer.
What to Buy
You should keep in mind though that regardless of the board (or any other technology), it’s all about training and service. No technology will be helpful without the proper structure and training which is why there are key questions you should ask before purchasing any technology. I’ve helped a lot of teachers whose schools have bought new boards, but they didn’t really know how to really use them despite the initial training they provided. Switching from a projector to any brand of flat panel is a worthwhile upgrade whether SMART, Promethean, or Triumph. They all have Airplay, Chromecast, and built-in operating systems. Whatever you do, schedule training for your teachers on how to use/manage the new tech. Most companies, when contacted, will offer to bring a trial board for you to test in your school. You should look into that and along with the other keys to successfully implementing technology in classrooms. Keep in mind upgrading to a newer LED display should last 10-20 years with the only update ever needing to be the small built-in computer on the side.
As I’ve said in the past, the one thing that sets SMART apart is the software. That still holds true even as other displays have improved their offerings. They have a number of great game-based learning options. SMART is set to take off with FoxCon investing massively in new board and software technology. That may mean some new innovations that aren’t here yet like multiple wireless displays or built-in cameras for video conferencing. Let us hope it goes in the right direction (i.e. improving student outcomes). There have been only minor updates to the Notebook since I last wrote, but the SMART Learning Suite Online continues to improve. For that reason, it looks like it won’t be free much longer. I do need to correct one error. The basic portion of SMART Notebook is and will remain free even with a code from an old SMARTBoard. The new SMART Learning Suite features though do require a subscription. My biggest annoyance with that is that a basic feature like Activity Builder which was previously free is now part of the subscription.
The latest 7000 series boards offer a built-in Android OS, Chromium browser, Smart Kapp iQ (shared whiteboard) for shared writing, built-in Notebook, a PDF viewer, SMART Lab, SMART Amp, Airplay, Google Cast, and Windows screen sharing. You can even write on those shared screens with an ink layer. You can connect multiple other inputs as well and the display allows for 16 touch points and at least 6 tools to be used simultaneously. Free lessons are still available on the SMART Exchange.
- Longer 5-year warranty
- 13% decrease in prices
- Online software improvements
- More built-in board software capabilities
I previously combined SMART and Tequipment since Teq is the New York City reseller of SMARTBoards, but they now offer much more including MakerBot and Ultimaker 3D printers as well as pi-top computers. Their service has drastically improved and they offer many special deals and service inside my DIstrict 75 in New York City. Their greatest offering though is Teq Online PD which provides the training teachers need to be successful with whatever technology the school uses. There is training on Google, Apple, and SMART products as well as basic educational practices. Many school tech upgrades have failed because of a lack of planning or ongoing professional development.
- Free PD sessions (including 20 hours of CTLE)
- 13% decrease in
- 500+ hours of content
- 20% reduced service turnaround
Promethean has always made great boards and has grown massively in the recently. According to some of my fellow teachers, this has affected their ability to keep service times down and maintain the quality of their complimentary training. They have some great trainers but apparently not enough for the demand. They seem to be catching back up and improving and Classflow offers online webinars. Classflow is great whiteboard software that offers the ability to push content to student devices as well as differentiate content amongst student groups. There are far more resources on the site, but not all are free. The boards also offer the ability to install ActiveConnect G-Series and some Android apps, but there aren’t many quality educational apps available left.
- Free 2 hours of PD per board
- All software comes with free upgrade
- Classflow is freemium
- Simultaneous multi-device mirroring
- Issues interacting with Office apps
- They insist they have the lowest cost of ownership
They are managed by their parent company VWR. Their boards offer built-in Android and browsers as well as screen sharing with annotation.Their software TB Comensius, DisplayNote, RM Easiteach, and Triumph Cloud function with the basic tools you would expect. Comensius is a standard whiteboard software, similar to Notebook, while DisplayNote, similar, to SMART Kapp, allows collaboration across devices. Triumph Cloud is their online whiteboard software that allows you to do everything from annotating on live videos to converting photos to puzzles. RM Easiteach has a number of helpful widgets like tangrams or measurement tools. The boards are open source though so you can run other company’s software as well.
- Offer a wider variety of screen sizes and types
- Offer a full Windows computer included
- Lower price point on some models
What Epson offers is the ability to replace old display projectors as well as set up new wall touchscreen options with 6 points of touch. The upside is price, but the downside is that it will only work on flat, clean, and undamaged walls which don’t exist in a lot of schools. Their moderator software can connect up to 50 participant devices to the projector and as many as 4 simultaneously. You can also use it to push docs and other content to students.
- An inexpensive replacement option
- 5000-hour bulbs for as low as $49
- A wider variety of projector options at low prices
- Laser projectors don’t require bulb replacement
- Screen share 4 devices simultaneously
The ScreenBeam allows for wireless touch ink layers across devices. It’s a good option for live video since the connection is point-to-point instead of networked. It also offers classroom management functionality through Classroom Commander.
- A Windows-only option
- Doesn’t require external network connection
- Can see student screens and manage devices
Apple TV & AirPlay are not new and Airplay is available on many of the new boards, but the device’s apps and voice-activation capabilities make it worth an additional look. You can connect via Bluetooth and peer-to-peer even when the network stinks. You don’t even need the newer Apple TVs so the price is cheap. The new Apple Classroom is also much easier for teachers to set up themselves
- Inexpensive screen sharing option
- An Apple-only option
- Several downloadable educational apps
- Voice-activated capabilities
- Manage devices via Apple Classroom
If you’re looking for an easy way to share to existing screens across a variety of devices, the Airtame is worth consideration. It allows for several wireless streaming options and the ability to set multiple signage displays. They also offer cloud management software for all of your connected displays. The offer chat and phone support.
- Device agnostic
- Only $243.72 on FAMIS
- Can access the screen’s background from other networks
- Stream to multiple screens
- Free cloud management software
- Good for digital signage
Mimio is by no means new to me or to the display world, but they haven’t been available to New York City teachers for several years. I decided to include it though since I have had experience with it in the past. It used to be that they offered you the ability to create a touchscreen display on a standard whiteboard that is a less expensive and portable alternative. They still do that with the MimioTeach, but they now offer full 20-pont LED display solutions and interactive projectors. Their MimioStudio software offers many of the whiteboard and sharing features of Notebook and Classflow as well as a grade book for built-in assessments and the ability to import Notebook and ActivInspire files.
- Many display options
- Solid learning/display software
- Collaboration app
The eBeam Edge+ is similar to Mimio in that it offers an interactive display on the wall, but you aren’t relegated solely to interacting via the marker. Their eBeam SmartMarker will pick up your writing regardless of what kind of marker you are using. Just stick your normal dry erase marker in their marker cradle.
Their software is free and works across platforms. It includes a number of interactive tools, widgets, and the ability to connect and interact with students and staff on their devices. It allows for easy collaboration.
- Work on existing wall/whiteboard with projector
- No expensive markers needed