These two interactive whiteboards can jump-start your 21st-century classroom.
PolyVision TS Whiteboard TSL 610
The PolyVision TS whiteboard comes in three sizes, from 45 inches by 35 inches to 95 inches by 43 inches (the TSL 610 is 65 inches by 43 inches), to help meet classrooms’ custom needs. Included is everything you need to connect the whiteboard to your notebook: a stylus, a dry eraser and a cable. The TS whiteboard is not difficult to install, but it does require two people because of its size. After it’s mounted, plug in your notebook, insert the CD, and a few clicks later you are ready to use the whiteboard. I tested the whiteboard with a ceiling-mounted NEC wireless projector, but you can use the whiteboard without one. I was impressed by how quick and easy the entire process was from start to finish.
Once I had the whiteboard up and running, I started playing with the interface and was pleased with how easy it was to navigate the controls. I did not have much experience with digital whiteboards, but the interface just made sense. The whiteboard has several icon buttons on the outside edge to take care of the most common tasks, such as erasing, printing and changing pen color. The TS whiteboard (without a projector) will basically record everything you write on the board to your notebook, allowing you to save your notes and send them to your students or use them for other classes on the same subject. Any standard dry-erase marker will work, so there is no need to purchase an expensive one.
If you add a projector to the mix, the whiteboard becomes a much more powerful tool, turning into a large touch screen that allows you to control your notebook directly on the whiteboard screen. PolyVision proudly touts its “calibration-free” technology, and for good reason: It works very well. Press one button and the whiteboard automatically adjusts after a projector move. I navigated the Internet, brought up several Excel and Word documents, cut and pasted pictures and text, printed a few documents and checked my e-mail, all from the digital whiteboard. It was not as fast as a keyboard and mouse, but it does a great job of allowing the entire class to see what you are demonstrating on your notebook. The PolyVision TS whiteboard is a classroom tool that allows teachers to educate students in new and exciting ways.
This is a great product with only a few negatives. First, the price for the midsize whiteboard, the TSL 610, is $2,203.99. Factor in a notebook (if you don’t already have one) and a projector if you want the full features of the digital touch screen. The TS whiteboard does come with a five-year warranty, so if you use it frequently, this could offset the high price. Interactive whiteboards will not work for everyone, however, because of teachers’ different styles.
› CDW•G price: $2,203.99
Promethean Activboard 78
Promethean Activboard 78 Specs:
- Dimensions: 67 inches by 49 inches
- Weight: 57 pounds
- Accessories Provided: Activpens
- System Requirements: Microsoft Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
The Promethean Activboard 78 came with a few more goodies out of the box than PolyVision’s model. I received the board, two Activpens, plenty of documentation and software, and a three-year warranty.
Installation of the Promethean Activboard 78 was comparable to PolyVision’s product. I had no trouble fixing the board onto the wall and installing the software on my notebook. The physical size of the Activboard is 67 inches by 49 inches and it weighs about 57 pounds. Once installed, I ran through the initial wizards and followed the quick-step guides with ease. The Activboard software package is impressive and seems to have more options and function than the PolyVision software, at the expense of a longer learning curve.
I was happy with how easily the Activboard worked and how well the software integrated with the actual board. From the amazing documentation with lesson examples to the plethora of options, the Promethean Activboard can offer an experience that no regular whiteboard can compete with. I can see some users preferring a tablet and wireless projector to an interactive whiteboard, but that’s more of a personal preference.
The Activboard comes with two pieces of software: Activprimary and Activstudio. Activprimary is packed full of games, sounds and colorful images, making it ideal for younger children. Activstudio is the main software used with the Activboard. With Activstudio, you can create your own content and interact on the digital whiteboard with Microsoft Office. Promethean says there are more than 15,000 pieces of content in its Activstudio software, and you can customize your toolbar, a great feature considering all the different options and settings available. There is also a voting device that allows students to respond to the teacher’s questions on the whiteboard, but that is an add-on.
The Activboard has four different add-ons to allow several different experiences: the voting machine, a wireless slate, a tablet you can use outside the classroom to prepare lessons, and a wand to help special-needs students participate in the lesson. The Activboard connects to your PC or Mac via USB, serial or Bluetooth, just like the PolyVision model. The documentation of the Activboard beats the PolyVision board hands down, but this could be because the Activboard has many more controls and settings.
Instead of using anything you want as a writing device, including your finger, the Activboard comes with two Activpens that allow for precise drawings. Promethean suggests that holding and using the pen best develops children’s writing. Personally, I prefer to use my finger, but I never tried to make any precise drawings.
Promethean says the board is extremely durable. The claim on the company Web site is “kick it … throw a coin at it … stick a compass in it … it’ll still continue working.” I did throw several things at it, pressed on it firmly with my hands, and gave it a few good knocks with my fist. There was no loss of screen quality. Because of the software modules included, I felt the Promethean Activboard belonged in the elementary or middle-school classroom and the PolyVision board would be best placed in a high school.
› CDW•G price: $1,835.49
Justin Dover is network administrator at Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tenn.