By Sean Scarpiello
Recently, it has been tough to Google “education” and avoid getting some sort of link that raves on the achievements of the Promethean Board. But is this amazing tool so amazing? Or are the owners and CEOs of the Promethean Boards just well-connected and know how to market their product?
The idea of a Promethean Board sounds great on paper. An interactive computer screen projected onto a touch screen which allows students to edit, highlight and write on documents with the use of a magical little pen. As a recent high school graduate, I have had hours of experience with the “Chalk Board of the Future.” The first time I used the board, it was amazing; however, that may have been the only time it was amazing. It seemed to lose its sashay after the first ten minutes. One of the flaws I found right away was that the pen doesn’t have an erase function directly on it, causing you to reach across to the onscreen tool box to get the eraser style pen, then erase, the go back to the tool box, to get the pen tool you were using before so you can continue writing. The pen itself is also faulty. When writing, there is a stall before the computer recognizes something has been written. Therefore, writers will over compensate different shapes and sizes of their letters due to the lack of visual feedback. This results in the most legible kindergarten teacher to have the handwriting of a raging alcoholic.
Another flaw is that the image is projected onto the board from a ceiling mounted projector. This means every time the teacher turns on the screen it must be recalibrated because a stray paper airplane might have set the projector off by a centimeter, causing the entire smart board to be altered. This recalibration only takes a minute, but a minute at the beginning of each lesson gets old fast. Plus it is inefficient when you consider all the other forms of technology in the market that practically finish your sentences. Also, since the image is projected, if a writer steps in front of the board while writing, the image will be projected onto their back and the writer will continue to copy notes blindly onto their shadow. At first it doesn’t bother anyone, but when you get up to the board it feels like you are bending over backwards to copy your algebra homework onto the board. The projector also limits the surface area of the board to a specific size. This is problematic when you are taking a lot of notes and you have to wait for everybody in the class to finish the notes, then erase it all, then continue on the same small space. With a typical whiteboard, you can just walk down to the other wall of blank chalkboard and leave the old material up for the slower note takers to finish copying. The price of this smart board is about $1,200 each, which isn’t bad for what you get, yet four walls covered in whiteboards will sell for about half of that. With the white boards, you can increase the total writing area ten-fold and still have $600 in markers to use for the decade
A real smart board should be similar to a giant iPad on the wall. It would be completely touch screen so you can write with your finger, then brush away any mistake with the back of your hand. Plus, it wouldn’t project. This allows schools to fit each board to the dimensions in their rooms, whether it is 3 feet by 4 feet or 3 feet by 10 feet. This kind of board would be much more expensive than the Promethean Board, mostly because a few square inches of Apple’s touch screen goes for $200 and a whole board would cost a lot more. The best idea would be to wait until technology improves before putting down any large sum of money to improve your school’s blackboard or whiteboard.