The demise of the interactive whiteboard

A bit of personal history

In 2001, I started working at a school in Calderdale, where two or three SmartBoards had just been installed as part of the first interactive whiteboard pilot. We had a teacher there, at that time, who was really into ICT for learning and she opened up training opportunities for me, that have impacted my whole career. I benefitted from some excellent SmartBoard training, which led to other ICT initiatives, which later led to me becoming an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST), specialising in ICT for learning.

In 2004, I moved to a Kirklees school, where I introduced interactive whiteboards and started working with Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). As an AST, I did quite a lot of cross-authority work, embedding new technologies into learning, using them to engage reluctant learners, address behaviour issues and generally make learning more relevant and fun. I had a kind-of career plan but that got side-stepped when we suddenly decided to move to Finland.

I imagined Finland being right up there, in terms of technology in schools, so I was surprised, shocked even, when I arrived in a classroom to find no interactive whiteboards at all. It took a while, but inevitably my passion and a few strokes of good luck led to most classrooms having Promethean ActivBoards by the time I left the country. Sad as I was to leave my beloved Finland, at least I felt I had left something of an ICT legacy.

A spinal injury in 2012 was, in part, what led to us moving back home, and along with that came a career side-step. Towards the end of 2014, I fell into adult and community learning, Further Education (FE) and one of the steepest learning curves I'd had for many years (including learning Finnish)! There, I met the opposite of what I'd encountered in Finland. Interactive whiteboards existed but weren't really used... at least, not as effectively as they could be.

My new role

One of the aspects of my new role that I was quite excited about, was that we planned to replace all the mish-mash of different interactive whiteboards with Promethean ActivBoards, and thereby enable some really effective training and resource creation, to improve learner engagement in taught sessions. With great excitement, I started requesting quotes, and that was when reality struck.

The impending doom of the IWB

As I talked to suppliers, I began to realise that the interactive whiteboard, as I know it, is dying. It's inevitable really. It's success has led to its demise. Any technology that really takes off, eventually gets improved, to the point where the original is barely recognisable. Look at the mobile phone. My Motorola 1-2-1 seemed like the height of modern tech, back in 1994 but when I compare it to my current Smartphone, there's no comparison.

So what has supplanted my favourite piece of classroom kit? Well basically, a telly. Okay, it's so much more than just a telly. Enter the interactive display panel.

Picture of a Promethean ActivPanel with desktop display showing

I have to confess, I temporarily became a dinosaur and was reluctant to accept this newcomer as a legitimate replacement for my old best friend, but the advantages are pretty impressive!

There's no projector. So what? Well, any budget holder will know that replacing projector bulbs is one of the most ludicrous price tags out there! How many teachers does it take to change a light bulb? The honest answer is, you can either afford the teacher OR the light bulb, but not both. So this hi-tech telly got my attention quite quickly. Another advantage of no projector is no shadow. I think we have all managed to block our own pen with our body. We get more adept but shadows are a pain... and now they are no more. Also, no projector means no calibrating or orienting or whatever else we call it. It's like a tablet. The touchscreen is always calibrated, without ever actually having to be calibrated. So calibrating doesn't even need to be a word any more!

There are other advantages: less glare, less upkeep, longer lifespan (so they say) and it generally looks more modern. For me, I'm still excited (in a dinosaur kind of way) that it still runs ActivInspire - the software that most of my resources are made in. Although, Class Flow looks to be rapidly taking over, so my next learning curve will be Class Flow.

So I wish a very happy RIP to the interactive whiteboard and I welcome in the new ActivPanels. I can't wait until they actually arrive!

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