SmartBoards vs. Promethean…the research starts and maybe ends here

Apr 23

Many of our schools are wanting to put interactive whiteboards in their classrooms. Currently the debate is which board is the best: SmartBoard or Promethean. I have no strong feelings about this but am usually the go-to-guy about all things technology. So I oblige and since I have limited experience here I go to my network. Here are the early returns:



I’m now asking either those folks or others to chime in with some thought via comments and I thank you in advance.

So here’s the learning lesson. Instead of doing a search for Promethean vs. Smartboard, I go to my network. These are the people I trust (see echo chambers have value too) and who use them everyday. I’m not smart enough to make this decision or establish an opinion of my own that carries much weight. The fact is I likely don’t care to but I still need the information and value it. The idea of the human network continues to evolve for me in both esoteric and practical,visible ways. I have a tremendous advantage over other technology coordinators who might have the same questions but don’t have a network outside of their district to draw from. And it’s not just about technology coordinators. What about doctors, lawyers, plumbers, cooks, coaches, candlestick makers, engineers, managers, or principals who have networks? How much more advantaged are they? A little bit? A lot? I sure hope that if my doctor looks at me with a puzzled look, I’m hoping that she has a network that she can tap into that’s both fairly instant and also very knowledgeable.

Building networks can happen in a myriad of ways. For me this little blog is likely the best way for me to build one. I can testify to that. Thanks for all the comments and insights you’ll leave me about IBW’s. You rock.

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  • http://edscitech.blogspot.com Jonathan Orr

    Next year will be my first year as a technology coordinator. I am trying to build up my network. But what I am having trouble with is getting people to respond to my tweets. I usually get 1-4 responses, but nothing like what you have. I hope to continue to grow my network.

  • http://mrssheldon.wikispaces.com Lori Sheldon

    I was tweeting on the road and did not get to elaborate. Our district has Smart, Promethean, and Polyvision. While each has their advantages and disadvantages, I am finding that the wealth of resources that come with the Promethean to be incredible. In fact, Promethean has partnered with Nettrekker so that you can search Promethean resources from their site as well. Promethean also has extra resource packs that you can download and add to your library. Although I like the simplicity of being able to write with your finger on the Smartboard, I like the precision offered by the Promethean board.

    Lori Sheldons last blog post..home

  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    @Jonathon,

    My network is 4 years in the making. It takes time. Twitter is simply one aspect of my network. Continue to contribute, engage and support others and it won’t take long.

    @lori thanks for expanding your ideas. Your points are ones I have heard before and appreciate the confirmation.

  • swvalley

    Perhaps I should elaborate on why the Activboard (Promethean) is better. Much like you used your network to create an opinion I have done the same, but my network is 138,896 members strong has 5,097 threads, and over 30,000 posts from experts and non-experts who use the Activboard everyday. My network is Promethean Planet, compare that to SMARTBoards 6,828 users who have contributed to 1,106 threads with 1,405 posts, and you’ll see that there is one product that gets better support from its users. My district made a decision in 2003 to abandon the SMART Technology we’d had and put an Activboard in EVERY one of our over 1,400 classrooms, a sizeable investment that was not taken lightly.

    SMART has a great product, I believe that, I’ve used it, I’ve seen it demonstrated and I’ve demonstrated against them in a “Dueling Technologies” forum. Promethean gets education, they may not be the first, but they have figured out what it takes to make an educational product that really works in our classrooms. Activboard wasn’t the first product out there, that’s true, but hey, you don’t drive one of Henry Ford’s Model A’s do ya?

  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    @swvalley,
    That’s quite a network! The support factor was certainly the “value added” piece apart from the preference about the technologies which seem to be debated either way. Thanks for the great input.

  • http://elementarytechteacher.wordpress.com Nedra Isenberg

    I will be keeping an eye on the comments here. There’s a possibility that we’ll get a new board or two next year. So, I’ve been wondering the same thing. We have an iwb in our lab and just purchased the Smart Notebook software to go along with it this winter. I’m still learning how to use it and keep encouraging teachers to come in and give it a try but not much luck so far. We’ve also just subscribed to Nettrekker and I have noticed on several searches that it comes up with activities for a Promethean, after reading Lori’s response now I know why. That has me leaning towards a Pro. if we get the resources to buy some. But I’ll keep checking back here for more responses. Thanks for posing the question.

    Nedra Isenbergs last blog post..Twitter Poll

  • http://mrmac.edublogs.org Angus

    A few weeks ago I spent an entire evening searching for comparison’s between the Smart and Promethean. (If only I had a network…Dean — you are going to have to get me up to date on this Twitter thing) I think I will post a full review to my blog.
    Here is the short review:

    I had the “demo” Promethean Board in my classroom for two weeks. When they took it away, I really felt like I was missing something. I was able to find many ways to use it in my daily teaching. Since then, I was able to round up a smaller Smart board for my classroom to take the place of the Promethean. ( It was sitting unused at the Board Office). I can hardly wait now for our Promethean order to come in.

    Smart Boards and Promethean Activ Boards are really just extensions of your computer mouse. They are input devices. To me, the Smart Board is like the old mouse with the ball. It was here first, probably had a 100% market share at one time, and they still work. The Promethean is like your “laser” mouse. Its easy to use, durable, and very accurate. Smart Boards CANNOT do everything a mouse can do. It cannot “rollover”, and right clicking is not available on the Smart (Well not that I could find…). Yes, these are minor issues, but I think it is indicative of the technology. Smart is basically an analog board. The thin membrane on the front get “pushed” by the markers or your finger or whatever to make contact with something behind it, probably a grid of some kind that sends the X,Y coordinates to the computer. The Promethean is a solid, durable whiteboard that uses an electromagnetic “pen” to digitally send the signal to the computer. It is very accurate and very quick in its reaction.

    Both the Smart Notebook software and Promethean Flipchart software are full featured, powerfull packages. I certainly am not an expert in either. The Promethean has some excellent tools. I particularly loved the protractor, ruler and compass. Smart has some similar tools. Promethean has an OUTSTANDING selection of resources. Smart also has some excellent online lessons and resources.

    After using both a Smart Board and the Promethean Activ board, I am fully convinced that Promethean is the overall better product because it can do more without the software. That is not to say that the Smart is a bad product, because it isn’t. If I had to choose between Smart or nothing at all I would take a Smart board in a heartbeat. Smart is just older technology.

    For more of my opinions and a longer review, check out my blog in the next few days….

  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    @Angus,

    Your opinion certainly will carry a lot of weight in our division and knowing you’ve experience both, is also an added bonus. One unknown for me but has been expressed a few times is that of support. Promethean appears more education focused and that has been expressed a few times. How did you feel about their support potential in terms of both PD and ongoing product support and care?

  • Peter

    The choice of purchasing a Smartboard or Promethian board are great either way, as long as teachers are provided the PD to make the devices an effective tool in the classroom.

  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    @Peter

    That goes without saying…..but I’m glad you said it!

  • K.M.

    Promethean is not only about education – that’s a false marketing statement they make for the United States. SMART is the premiere product in education in the US and nationwide. The scratch thing is just feeding into unwarranted fear! I worked in a district with thousands of SMART Boards and not a problem… the Notebook software is more powerful, the use of touch is more intuitive, etc. The comment about ‘netrekker’ supporting promethean is purely a marketing thing. You can find many, many resources on the web or just through SMART’s website. The ‘partnerships’ promethean has for the most part are purely marketing relationships paid for to promote their product where it has not been accepted widespread.

    The biggest consideration needs to be support & service – in your area, make sure whatever you choose that you trust the company you purchase it from and that they have the localized resources to provide tech support, training, etc. That is what will make you successful whether you choose SMART or Promethean or anything else.

    Personally, I prefer SMART Boards and for a pen based solution, I actually prefer Interwrite/eInstruction’s product more.

  • K.M.

    a few more replies to people’s comments on this site:

    1. The Promethean Planet site has more users because you are automatically registered when you register your board for warranty purposes. The SMART site is purely volunteer registration. The true key is the support sites and resource sites that are not managed/owned by the manufacturer – you’ll find the best resources that way!

    2. To back-up the ‘promethean using education as a US marketing tool’ – go to:
    http://www.prometheanworld.com/uk/server/show/nav.1702

    Atruger’s comment that promethean started as education is false… it comes from the sales people for promethean/logical choice making statements and nobody doing their research to dispel them.

    Not all sales people are ‘slimy’, but many are – and if you are trying to get sales where SMART has been for years, the tactic seems to be instilling fear of things that aren’t real occurrences (such as damaged SMART Boards and tearing the surface). What we find funny is that SMART reps talk about SMART products and that Promethean reps spend most of their time talking about SMART products too! If you get sold by a salesman telling you more about someone else’s product to scare you into buying theirs’, that is a tell-tale sign of a lack of substance.

    Nothing wrong with a company spanning multiple markets – do you not purchase Apple products because they also expand past education into some corporate markets? What about Dell or HP or other computer products and software products? There is a benefit to a product existing beyond just k-12 environment

    3. Your finger is not necessarily the ‘tool’ to use when writing – use the pens! Use your finger to more naturally navigate. You can right-click by hitting the button on the pen tray or by holding your finger on the surface for a few seconds.

    4. Notebook software is a better tool for content creation – promethean is good for canned ideas and lessons, but that is not what being a teacher is about. When I taught it was about the creation of materials and ideas, not finding the pre-created lesson that someone else made. If you desired the canned content, there is plenty available from SMART too, but their tools for creating lessons are much more enjoyable to use.

    Again, any interactive product will transform how you are teaching and students are learning – but if i had to rate all those that are out there:
    1. SMART Boards
    2. interwrite/eInstruction
    3. Promethean
    4. Numonics
    5. 3M
    6. eBeam
    7. Polyvision
    8. Hitachi
    9. Mimio
    10. Panasonic

  • atruger

    I was excited to read and learn your results. I always like to hear the banter and see if there is anything a) I didn’t know or b) Something to make me think. Imagine my surprise to see my own comment being questioned. I would like to respond to K.M. calling me out, which by the way I found unnecessary and kind of a personal attack.

    1) I am voicing my opinion and the facts as I know them. Promethean started as an education company in the UK it has since expanded into business. I don’t deny that. My point is that their main focus has always been education. It’s kind of difficult to explain yourself in 140 characters or less.

    2) Promethean Planet: I also need to make a comment about the “auto-register” statement. I don’t know if that is accurate or not as I voluntarily signed up the first week they opened the planet. However the use of the forum as resource has been amazing for me. I can post a question and usually have a response within an hour or so from people all over the world not just people who “work” for the company. The Promethean Planet resources are fabulous and are constantly being updated. On the flip side I do not belong to or know if there is a SMART Community location.

    3) They also have a website called PrometheanLearning where you can take online interactive courses to help you learn. The first one is free, but after that there is a fee. The courses are well organized and interesting and a great learning experience. I have no idea if SMART has the same.

    4) There are 2 versions of ActivStudio, the software used to create flipcharts for the Promethean Activboard. One is ActivPrimary, where the tools have more the look and feel of a primary classroom. The toolbar is less busy, the tools are moved to the bottom of the board so the kids can reach. All of the features are the same but the look changes. ActivStudio is the other piece. The other thing I like about Activstudio is the ability to import PowerPoint, SMART Notebook Activities and PDFs into a flipchart. I will admit I have no idea how the SMART software works as I have used the Promethean Activboard for the last 5 years and maybe their software can do the same things. There were things I was looking for at the time that Promethean had and SMART did not. I do NOT profess to know where SMART is now.

    5) Everyone has their own opinion about interactive whiteboards. Promethean boards are much more popular in the UK than in the US (although they are gaining), part of this in my opinion is that almost everyone I know has SMART hardwired into their heads when they think “Interactive Whiteboard” much like “Kleenex” and “tissue”. Perhaps because they have been on the market in the US longer than Promethean? I don’t know. However I personally believe that SMART has a true competitor in the Promethean ActivBoard and I look forward to what that competition means to our student in terms of innovation. The race is on! SMART has the lead, but Promethean is catching up quickly! Just my honest opinion : )

  • Fred Delventhal

    We have also gone with Smart Boards. Teachers that tried both found the Smart Boards and software to be more intuitive or have less of a steep learning curve. We were also looking at other costs including software, training, support, and lost or damaged equipment.

    We like being able to load the Smart Notebook software on every machine. The new version of Notebook was developed purely for the education market and our students and teachers are now choosing it to create their presentations instead of PPT. They find the Flash activities easy to use and create using the toolkit.

    The training options that are available also provide enough different ways to fit into almost all of our teachers’ schedules.

    • http://amscopub.com U Avalos

      Can you elaborate what you mean by "flash activities"? I just went to a SMART board demo and all they mentioned about Flash was that you could easily import a Flash activitity into the SMART Notebook. The sales person didn't know if you could also create them. If you could also easily create Flash apps that would be great!
      I work for a textbook publishing company and we're trying to decide the best way to get into "interactive whiteboard" technology.
      BTW, to the owner of this blog. The fckeditor didn't work for me on Firefox 3.5, but it loaded fine in IE…

  • john self

    In definately don’t want to get into a “which is best contest ” but would like to point out in response to KM’s post.

    1. The Promethean Planet site has more users because you are automatically registered when you register your board for warranty purposes. The SMART site is purely volunteer registration. The true key is the support sites and resource sites that are not managed/owned by the manufacturer – you’ll find the best resources that way!

    This is totally inaccurate information. Prometheanplanet is completely voluntary. There is no automatic registration when you purchase. It requires teachers to physiclly log on to the site and fill in an online registration form.

  • K.M.

    I apologize – was not my intention to ‘call you out’ in any way – I meant to just reference the earlier post. I re-read my post and I certainly did not mean for that comment to come out as it looks, so again I do apologize.

    The great thing about all of this is that everyone can benefit from whatever they choose! All of the ‘top players’ have excellent resource sites, have lots of support in the form of online training (both free and paid), lots of ‘fan sites’ with even more resources directly from teachers, both SMART and Promethean (as you mention too) can import/convert each other’s files, etc etc…

    You put it best when you say the part about what this will all mean for students in terms of the innovations we’ll see. I couldnt agree with you more!

    It really, once again, comes down to local support for the schools – those of us who dont need the constant support will always excel – it is about the support available to those who need it. I’d take the #10 product on my earlier list if it had the best localized training and support over the top 1,2, or 3 if I had not quality local support or service.

    Thanks for the replies you gave to my posts – i think between the two of us, we gave lots and lots of good info for people to consider!

  • K.M.

    in reply to John’s comment – yes, it is voluntary to join when you go to the site… BUT if you register your warranty on your promethean product you are also automatically registered into Promethean Planet too. So, there are people who go there on their own (i do – there are great resources), but there are people who are automatically registered because they register their product for warranty purposes.

  • atruger

    In response to K.M.’s apology….I truly appreciate the apology and in truth I probably would not have written so much and realized how passionate I am about the subject without your prompting, so thank you! : )

  • http://staff.prairiesouth.ca/~ally.abdul Abdul

    In fact Smartboard has right click and I agree with accuracy the Promethean has vs Smartboard. Smartboard is more friendly with the young kids as you can use your finger to write. Promethean uses a pen. If you lose a pen you may not be able to write or use the board . If the signal between the board and the pen gets weak that can be problematic. But if you have extra pen all the times for replacement this can be avoided . I liked the math tools as Angus said that means Promethean can be a better choice for Math teachers. The Smartboard has the gallery as teachers’ resources while Promethean has more tools like icons. The notebook feature for the Smartboard is the best. Mobile Smartboard are not good as teachers have to calibrate them everytime their moved from one class to another. Once their mounted and their accuracy is calibrated can be as good as Promethean accuracy.

  • Dave

    There’s always a mention of the Wiimote solution, but I’ve never met anyone else who actually tried it…I actually have setup a working “touch” screen using the wiimote method. Technically, it works, and is interesting. I could see it or a similar method working after adjustments are made to both the hardware and the software.

    - We built two IR light pens to use. The #1 problem of the entire project was placing the IR LED on the pen in such a way that it -always- has a clear line of sight to the Wiimote. Initially, we placed the IR LED facing the screen like the tip of a pen, which did not work. What did work was bending the connecting wires so that the LED stuck out and backwards to the right. It’s difficult to describe what we did, but realize that any implementation will need planning and adjustment of the placement and direction of the IR LED.
    - The second major problem was that there were only two (plus one) ‘commands’: IR LED turns on at point (X,Y) and IR LED turns off at point (X,Y) (plus IR LED stays on and moves AKA “click and drag”). There is no “hover” or right click or simple way to switch to on-screen keyboard input. This limitation makes most existing applications not usable.

    That said, the price is amazing for what you accomplish if you already have access to a computer and a large screen. I’m very surprised that there isn’t a commercial implementation yet — all you really need is a kit with well-designed IR pens, higher resolution IR camera, and a software CD.

  • K.M.

    Here is an IR solution – there are a few out there that are just IR LED ‘pointers’…
    http://avrover.com/onfinitycm2max.html

    but they are very limited in functionality

  • Otter

    I guess my only comment about the network is that the new smart community has only been around since Christmas and the Promethean community has members dating back since 1999, even though it “launched” in 2006. Also, Promethean signed up about 5000 people at BETT in London this year. You could do a quick registration and become an “Activ User” at the kiosk there. I wonder how many have contributed posts in the “network”? Well, a quick look shows only 2000 users out of that 138000 have ever contributed to the forum, so i think those 5000 have disappeared into the ether.

    Quantity does not equal quantity, but Promethean will throw the quantity in your face. Sure they have many more lessons on their site, but I’ve had to redo Promethean flipcharts because they’ve had factual and spelling errors. This is unacceptable. Check out the ActivAdvent lesson from Christmas, no way would I show that to 5th year students because some of the information is flat out wrong, or at least socially incorrect. I liken the quantity of Promethean resources to extra software you get when you buy a new computer off the shelf, from HP or Toshiba or what have you. I don’t use the extra software that comes with it, it’s bulky, unnecessary and of so-so quality, so it gets uninstalled right away so I can free up my HDD for the things I need.

    Take any product from scratch and just use it. Don’t listen to the spin from any company, don’t use it in the environment they will set up for you. Walk up and use it as you would, not as they would have you. If you make your decision on that, then you will be happy with whatever you buy. For me that was just smartboard, even though I have to use both.

  • swvalley

    I hesitated and started writing this a few times. First, any information you get whether it’s a lesson from Enchanted Learning a flipchart from Promethean Planet or an investigation from Foss, you have to make it your own, that’s what makes you a good teacher and not a spiller of information.

    The Promethean Planet users aren’t the part that impress me, it’s the contributions. It looks to me like people post something on SMART’s forum and it doesn’t get answered (based on data not observation – number of threads divided by number of posts), but on Promethean Planet each thread averages 6 responses.

    As Dean said earlier the debate will not go away. Hopefully, debates like this will force Promethean AND Smart to continue to refine and improve their product. Competition is good and so is discussion.

  • http://mrmac.edublogs.org Angus

    Wow,

    It sounds like my brother in laws comparing their new trucks. One has a Ford and one drive a GM…

    Here are a few of my reactions to the comments here:

    — Both are good products. I LIKE the Promethean better.
    — The rep only talked about Smart when I asked about Smart. We spent 99.9% of our time talking about Promethean.
    — I didn’t know you could right click with the Smart. (Thanks, I like this network thing, Dean)
    — Promethean software is very customisable, in fact any “canned” lesson you download can be changed to meet your needs. There are also hundreds of “Resource Packs” containing thousands of items free for the download.
    —Promethean “Teacher Feature” shows 3-4 minute videos of how teachers implement the hardware and software in the classroom. A great feature. The online PD seems very good with Promethean.
    —Promethean Pen is as likely to get lost as the Smart markers. Smart has three markers, three colours. Promethean starts with four colours, but the number of colours can be increased to 32 for the Filpchart Software.
    —I don’t know about Smart, but it is easy to make a Flipchart on the Promethean and export it to Word, Powerpoint, HTML, or pdf. I found this very useful. Whatever I put on the board I could print as a pdf for the students….
    —One of the reasons I like Promethean is that it seems durable. The support certainly seems to be there BEFORE the sale, and only time will tell if they will be there after the sale!

  • carla

    some comments:

    * Promethean started as an education company and that is their core business still to date, regardless of which country you are talking about. Please check your facts.
    *Having used both and also preferring Promethean, I like the fact that things do not jump around when trying to right on the ACTIVboard. The fact that the point of contact that engages the technology is at the tip of the ACTIVpen and not the moment I touch the board with my hand, shirt etc make a huge difference in smoothness of use.
    *No other company that I have found to date offers a seperate software for the primary level. ACTIVprimary is incredible! Talk about intuitive and eye catching. If you have not seen this you really must.
    *Can SMART do rollovers?
    *Does SMART have Teaching and Learning Consultants to work with districts to ensure integration of the technology? I know Promethean does. And they are FREE of charge!

  • http://www.interactive-education.co.uk/ Interactive Whiteboards fan

    I agree with Carla. Smart dose not provide education consultants to ensure integration of technology. Not only promethean boards are more durable but the software that comes with is much more customizable. And what about the promethean planet resources. Overall promethean is much better.

  • K.M.

    SMART does provide education consultants – they have more throughout the United States than Promethean has… and yes, they are a FREE resource to support implementation.

    SMART can do rollovers and all those other ‘fancy’ flash transitions/interactions – it’s part of the free Lesson Activity Toolkit in the Notebook software.

    And, in reference to core business – if one ooks at SMART’s numbers, their core business is education- saying SMART is business focused because they do well in the business sector is not a whole truth.

    Again, like every post I write – they all have the same resources, services, etc. It is about the reps in your area and the local version of that support that will make the difference. They all have lots of ed consultants – but it is about the one in your area and their ability to provide the proper support you need.

  • Tom

    I’m a teacher in NY and have used both Smart and Promethean. Smart is a business product, and it feels like it. Once I started using the Promethean Activboard, there is no comparison. The Activboard is designed for the teacher, and can be customized to how a teacher wants to use it. It has so many more resources, from the library of backgrounds, images, lessons that come with the software, to the support on Promethean Planet – 4500+ searchable lessons, seasonal resource packs, and a forum with 130000+ teachers worldwide to collaborate with. All I have to say, is bring BOTH boards into your school. Get your best teachers that haven’t used either, and have them use each for one month, with training. Then make your decision. Also go to other schools and see a teacher use them.

  • Nick

    I am a District Technology Director in Wisconsin (USA), with 24 years experience as a classroom teacher, and 10 years in Technology Administration. We have had Smart Boards in our district for many years. In October 2007, we installed 6 Promethean Activboards in Grades K, 2, 4, 7, and two at the high school. The immediate and dramatic successes of this implementation surprised even those of us who expected good things. In March 2008, we installed them in another 21 classrooms, with more in the plans.

    As a contribution to this discussion, I will state our objective analysis of why we chose Promethean, and why we believe it has been such a success. This is not to say that we will remove our existing Smart Boards. Obviously, they will continue to be used to advance teaching and learning. What follows is about our evaluation and about our observation.

    HARDWARE
    The precision capabilities of the Promethean Activboards make them ideal for even the most precise application software, such as music notation. The simplicity of left-click, right-click, and hover functions make the board instantly compatible with all software solutions. The number of software companies that have and are developing partnerships with Promethean is a testimonial to their compatibility.

    SOFTWARE
    Activstudio and Activprimary are well designed and intuitive for the beginner. Promethean’s free online training is a well-constructed sequence that enables even “non-tech savvy” teachers to become familiar and comfortable with the applications. Activprimary is a gem, and it is well suited to the early grades. The software license permits teachers to have their own copy on any computer that they use. All software upgrades are free forever.

    RESOURCES
    The Promethean software resources, combined with the online resources from Promethean Planet, have pushed this over the top in our district. This is the Number One reason for its rapid success. It doesn’t really matter how many registered users are in the mix. That’s not what counts. What does matter is how many resources are available and how accessible they are. Promethean Planet resources are searchable by topic, or by State Standard. In addition, the User Forum is rich with dialog about resources in any area.

    DEBUNKING MYTHS
    1. Early elementary students have no difficulty using the pen. In fact, as teachers and parents, we encourage our students, and even our toddlers to learn to hold and use pens, markers, and crayons from any early age. When our Kindergarten students hold their own personal whiteboards, they use markers with them — not their fingers. There is not a fine motor skill issue. The objects on the screen are appropriate to the level of the instruction.

    2. The pens do not get lost. Two pens come with each board, and in most of our classrooms both of the pens are left in the holders on the side of the boards all the time. In 27 classrooms, we have not had a single pen lost this year. Whether it’s elementary school or high school, the “lost pen” fear is a non-factor. At the district level, we have decided to buy 2 extra pens, in case one accidentally gets stepped on by a football player. If lost pens is a factor of concern in a classroom, then the teachers can suspend the pen from a neck cord, just as they do their school ID, and often their keys. Lost pens…not an issue.
    ========================

    In summary, we have used both Smart and Promethean. We will build our future transformed classrooms with Promethean. It’s the most successful implementation that we have had in my career.

  • http://www.marturia.net Ian H.

    Wow – you have some fairly comprehensive comments here! I’ll just add from my personal experience. We’re a Smart Showcase school within a Smart Showcase division (Sask Rivers #119), so you can see where I’ll be coming from. I’ve had a SmartBoard for 7 years in my classroom. It works as well as any interactive whiteboard can be expected to. As others have pointed out, the whiteboard hardware is hardly the issue. Although, on the hardware side, I’ve had a chance to play a little with some of Smart’s complementary hardware, specifically the Airliner wireless tablet and the Senteo clickers, and the integration with the Smart Notebook software is pretty slick.

    For the Airliner, the surface of the tablet maps out to the writing area on the board, so if you’re at all used to using a tablet for input, it’s ideal. Plus, it’s Bluetooth, so you can walk around the classroom, and all of your tools are still accessible. The Senteos are amazing – they give an interactive dimension to classroom discussion previously very difficult to obtain – you can get feedback and answers from students who would never consider speaking up in class. Good stuff.

    The only hardware improvement I’d be interested in on the whiteboard front is multi-touch, but since it mimics a mouse input, I can’t see that happening without a complete hardware refresh… it’s too bad, because the Hitachi IWBs that have it are really impressive. However, that’s a minor consideration.

    On the software front, Notebook and SmartIdeas are pretty good, and I know that Smart works to improve them continuously. The latest version of Notebook addresses most of the concerns I had with version 9, and apparently the feedback from teachers was one of the biggest impetuses (impeti?) in making the changes they did.

    I don’t have any experience with the Promethean boards, so I can’t comment on them at all, but I will say that the extent to which the IWB can change the classroom is exactly the length to which the teacher is willing to let it. We can deploy SmartBoards into every classroom in our division, but unless the teachers in those rooms are willing to use them to transform their teaching, they will be nothing more than high-tech chalkboards…

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  • K.M.

    One thing to consider for the pen-based solutions is the eInstruction/Interwrite merger – that is going to be a kick-ass product once they synch all their systems, software, and content. The interwrite board is solid, the workspaces software is getting pretty good… the eInstruction content for their clicker system and their software for that is amazing – so combining the 2 under eInstructions guidance is really going to make a nice 3rd product to consider in the top 2 – i believe they can potentially knock promethean out of the pen-based leader with some good marketing and support. What do others think of this/these products? Anyone else have experience with them? I still prefer touch (SMART), but if my workplace chose to have a pen-based solution i’d highly consider this one.

    - also to respond to an earlier post about multi-touch – SMART has had that for a long time on their 2000i and other rear projection units that use the cameras in the corners. I still havent seen anything impressive about multi-touch from anyone. I saw a Promethean demo and they were showing it, but they just kept on talking about students racing/competing… not really a pedagogically sound practice… I mean, it is cool in the demos you see on teachertube, but those are things that could be just as cool with a single-touch gesture as well.

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  • http://noeltigers.com wmchamberlain

    I haven’t seen this kind of debate the Royals played the Cardinals in the World Series! I think that the best board is the board you like using best. Honestly, I find myself using it as a smart chalkboard that takes notes for my students. I suppose I could do the same with the promethean board. I guess I will have to get out the promethean board and check it out now.

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  • http://carlanderson.blogspot.com Carl Anderson

    Spending a lot of money on interactive whiteboards is a good way of reinforcing a top-down teacher-centered approach to teaching and learning. These toys are neat and flashy but really only enhance presentation of information, not construction of knowledge. I would not recommend spending the money on them unless student access to technology is not a major issue in your district. If you already have classrooms where students have plenty of access to tools that let THEM create and manipulate data then an interactive whiteboard would be a great addition to an already tech-enhanced classroom. The other problem I have seen is most teachers never fully utilize these tools as interactive whiteboards but only utilize the projector. I constantly hear teachers say, “I use my SMARTboard all the time,” when in fact they mean, “I use my projector all the time.”

    Buy the projectors, every classroom should have one, then buy student use computers and internet connections, then have the kids build their own interactive whiteboard using Jonny Lee’s Wii hacks.

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  • http://mrmac.edublogs.org Angus

    Carl,
    Interesting comment, but I don’t think interactive white boards “have to” to reinforce teacher centered learning. Who says the students can’t use them while presenting their work?

  • http://staff.prairiesouth.ca/~ally.abdul Abdul

    I think what matter is to train teachers to use these technologies. Most School-boards do not give technology time for teachers and this make so hard for them to learn new technology. I have experienced myself that some teachers used Smartboard with a projector only. This is because they didn’t know how the Smartboard can do for them and because they didn’t get time to learn about it. I think construction of knowledge also depends on how information is presented to the learner although we believe that it is a learner responsibility to learn that knowledge that is why instructors are and teachers are needed to present that information to the learners. These toys are the best constructivist tools to enhance learning.

  • http://www.prairiesouth.ca Barry Stewart

    OK… it’s late… I can’t sleep… I’ll put my 2 cents on here. As the IT Manager for Dean and Angus’s we were involved with the decision making process, which is the correct way to approach any IT iniative/project in my opinion. Anyways, we setup both SmrtBoards and the Promethean boards to confirm that they would work in our environment… compatability testing, automated installation, etc. Both units worked and the software tested out fine. Then came the Great Debate LOL. E-mails were flying around our division like crazy… everyone wanted to make the “right decision”. The bottom line was that we communicated in a way I had not seen before. Teachers, Principals, consultants and the IT Department were ALL collaborating and sharing ideas and thoughts… much like the discussion we are having here. In the end both units are great pieces of technology and will support the curriculum and learning. Today one may be slightly superior… 6 months down the road it may be the other one that comes out on top… or perhaps a solution from a completly different vendor. So my final input into the great discussion we had within our school division was buy what you want… we (the IT Department) can and will support both… which is the way it should be. The innovation will happen in the classrooms :)

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  • http://www.anseo.net Simon Lewis

    I really don’t like any of these permanent IWBs. In Ireland, we never get to stay in the same classroom for too long so if I’m moving rooms, I want to take my IWB with me. At the moment, I’ve been impressed by both eBeam and Mimio.

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  • James King

    Our school has both and the majority of us prefer the smart board. To respond to nick above, yes the pens do get lost, I’ve lost quite a few since we’ve had the boards, the bigger problem though is that I often put the pen in my pocket and wander off with it leaving the next teacher pen less. Happens at least once a week and is very infuriating. I’ve also left pens at home and had issues getting a spare pen to use. Although there are 4 pens on the smart board, it doesnt matter if they get lost since you can stick anything in the tray.

    You could go on about numbers of resources but have you actually looked at them? Any content I have ever sampled from promethean site has been very poor. Although SMART have less I have found what I did get to be much higher quality. The numbers quoted here about how many members of the forum aren’t very useful if you actually look only about 1500 people have ever written more than 2 posts, and since the forum has been going for a lot longer than the smart one I’d say thats pretty poor, having said that I do think their forum is very useful as is the smart forum.

    You’ll never get past the touch idea though, touch will always win this race in my opinion, it is what people gel with much more easily, the technology leaders of the world like microsoft and apple arent creating pen based solutions, its all about touch. If promethean made a touch board I’d probably be happy using it, although their software is harder to use and has lots of features that arent used much making it more complicated to navigate.

  • Dana

    Does anyone know how compatiable each type of board is with MAC computers?

  • http://beyond-school.org Clay Burell

    Blast, I wanted to use my webcam to say I think I’m getting sold on Promethean. My iSight wouldn’t fire up when I allowed permission to my webcam. Anyway, thanks for tipping me toward Promethean. For me, one clincher is the ability to raise and lower the board with ease, since I plan on teaching (privately) primary kids EFL and HS kids academic subjects. Promethean wallmounted has a bracket that the unit slides up and down on. Sounds easier than stacks of phone books.

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  • http://beyond-school.org Clay Burell

    (Dana, from what I’ve researched, both work with Macs.

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  • K.M.

    Clay – just to make sure you make a decision based on all of the info – there is a height-adjustable mount for wall mounted SMART Boards (with the projector attached) or just a height-adjustable floor stand if you are using a mobile one. If your ‘clincher’ is the ability to raise/lower the height, that is possible with both brands.

  • Estelle

    Hi guys,
    I have used Smart for the last four years and have many many documents. My new school uses Promethean. Would anyone know if the files can be compatible???
    Many many thanks for your help!

  • http://www.teaysvalleychristian.org Janice

    I’ve read with interest the comparisons of SmartBoard and Promethean. Some of these have been a few months down the road, so I be interested in what the current thoughts are on the products. Any comments on Polyvision? We are evaluating to select the board to install in all of our classrooms and are “stalled” in a decision-making process at the moment.

  • alanbeasley

    Hi there, I am getting a large number of students that can’t access the internet. When they log on and open IE they don’t get the default web page or a log in screen. It appears to be random, I have tried setting up new user accounts but this also appeasrs to be hit and miss on whether they get access.

    Any ideas?

    Cheers
    Alan

  • Kathryn

    Hello all!   I have read through the pros and cons of a SMARTBoard versus a Promethean.  I was wondering if anyone is able to compare these devices to InterWrite Dual Board.

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  • Gg

    GO PROMETHEAN if u can. I have taught for 20 yrs……6 yrs using BOTH smart and promethean between schools and can say that they are so similar but promethean just offers more EDUCATIONAL resources and aspects that are more suited for teaching/instruction/interaction with students. If u can only get smartboards…..for whatever reasons…..grants/donations/etc. then of course–get smart. But if u can choose……promethean is much more interactive with voters/tablets and slates. These additional resources allow your entire class to be involved/participating. PLUS the newest versions offer 2 pen tools that work together so 2 students could actually be up to the board, making interactions simultaneously!!

    The BEST news is……you can convert back and forth between either and so if u have both (as we do) schools within our district using both…..u get the BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!!! Because ALLL lessons are accessible. ;)