Interactive Touchscreens vs Interactive Whiteboards – what’s the difference?

If you’re thinking about upgrading your EdTech, you’ll probably have a few questions about what’s the best solution for your school.

As independent, specialist advisors, we understand that implementing new technology can seem like a minefield. We often receive lots of questions from schools about what technology fits best into their ICT development plan.

Some of the most common questions we get asked are about Interactive Whiteboards and Interactive Touchscreens. So, whether you’re wondering ‘What’s the difference?’, ‘Why should I upgrade?’ or ‘Are touchscreens worth the money?’, we’re here to help you make an informed choice.

Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive Whiteboards are considered as obsolete as they were introduced into schools in the early to mid-2000s. As expected, EdTech has progressed since then and using out of date technology can make engaging your pupils more difficult than it needs to be.

You can easily tell the difference between an Interactive Whiteboard and an Interactive Touchscreen. An Interactive Whiteboard is a screen with a bulb powered projector on an arm attached to either the wall above the screen or the ceiling which is projecting an image onto the screen.

Interactive projectors enable interaction by tracking movements, either by infrared or Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology. Some interactive projectors enable wireless projecting by connecting remotely to laptops, PCs, or tablets, whilst others require wired connections. Essentially, even the best interactive projectors simply project what is on the connected computer.

Things to consider

  • The main thing to consider is that Interactive Whiteboard and Projector combinations were incredible when they came out. IWB’s and Projectors gave us interactivity that wasn’t previously available in the classroom, and it’s incredible that these solutions are still standing as they are. However, this technology is on average around 7 years old. In its heyday, it was the equivalent to the latest smartphone being released, but now it’s more comparable to using an iPhone 6 for example.
  • In brightly lit classrooms where the sun shines through you’ll notice that over time these projector bulbs will slowly dim in their brightness. When they reach a poor quality, you will have to turn off the lights and you might even have to close the curtains in your classroom just to be able to see content on the screen. This makes Interactive Whiteboard and Projector combinations more expensive to maintain over time. Touchscreens ensure you no longer need to do this as your touchscreen is backlit, meaning that the content can be seen on the screen in any condition, which leads saves time when it comes to delivering your lesson!
  • Due to the image coming straight from the projector, if you’re standing in front of the screen (which you will likely be doing so you can interact with the screen) you will cast a shadow onto the screen, meaning content will be impossible to read for students. Again, due to the revolutionary backlit screen on an Interactive Touchscreen, you can see the content on the screen without it being blocked by the teacher. Touchscreens ensure that all of your students are able to see the lesson content, uninterrupted.
  • Interactive Whiteboards are generally seen as a more accessible way of making your classroom interactive, bringing brand new levels of engagement from your students. However, there are many entry-level touchscreens that provide this budget-friendly up-front cost whilst providing more impressive interactivity than an IWB as well as teaching options to keep your classroom engaged – one example of this is the wide variety of software available on a touchscreen.
  • Projectors usually have dual touch, which is beneficial for your lessons as you can get two students to come up to the screen and collaborate on different problems. However, you can increase the number of collaborators with some touchscreens having up to 20 points of touch! Have teams come up to compete on an activity you have pre-made or have teams come up to work together on a particularly difficult problem! Perfect for building collaboration skills and confidence.

Interactive Touchscreens

Interactive Touchscreens are wall-mounted screens that display an image whilst enabling interactivity. You will find they usually come with a set of interactive pens, however, unlike an Interactive Whiteboard and Projector, you can fully interact with the touchscreen just with your hand, should you wish. Additionally, they will often come with a remote control.

One of the biggest benefits of a Touchscreen is the fact that they can produce an image without the need to be connected to a laptop or PC. This is due to them having an option to include an onboard PC, which means that you can use the touchscreen just like a regular tablet.

Things to consider

  • Touchscreens won’t become redundant in a few short years. They are future proof in the sense that these screens are sturdy and are hard to break. In addition, you’ll often get different software options, which will have regular updates to ensure they remain fresh and help you to deliver fantastic engaging lessons to help your students will remain focused.
  • We’ve heard this story more than once… Teachers have told us time and time again that they’d go through the painstaking process of calibrating their screen as the pen is writing nowhere near where they are touching the IWB. Then, all it takes is one student to slam the door a little too hard and as the projector is on a pole connected to the wall, it shakes and the calibration is off again! With a touchscreen, this is an issue of the past, no more lesson time wasted on recalibration!
  • Whilst an Interactive Touchscreen may have more expensive upfront costs, the technology has little to no maintenance costs. In fact, they use 80% less energy than an IWB in an average school day, so over time, the touchscreen pays for itself! This means that they’re perfect for schools that may be looking to upgrade their EdTech on a smaller budget, or schools that may be exploring technology leasing options to help spread the cost.
  • With an Interactive Touchscreen, there’s no need to worry if a pen goes missing! Even if a pen or the rubber does go missing, you can generally use your hand to do the exact same things; pinch and zoom, write, erase, your touchscreen doesn’t become useless and your lessons can go on exactly as planned.
  • A range of different Interactive Touchscreen options means that you are able to choose the most suitable solution for your classroom. Whether it’s screen size, software options, number of touchpoints. As specialist, independent advisors, our specialist EdTech consultants are here to help you make an informed choice.
  • No need to be constantly plugged in! Touchscreens have their own interface through onboard PCs. This means that even if you forget your laptop or a substitute has to take over the class for the day, there is always access to this fantastic interactive option, plus any of the previously saved lessons, ensuring that you no longer have to worry about lessons not going to plan, the lessons you save will go through as expected!

Final Thoughts

An Interactive Touchscreen is a fantastic option that fits itself into virtually any environment. The range of sizes, options and toughness of the screen ensures it will stand the test of time at the front of your classroom. Whilst an Interactive Whiteboard is a good option and has a cheaper upfront cost, the maintenance costs make it more expensive in the long run.

If you’d like to discuss any of the technology in this article, drop one of our team a message, we’d be more than happy to help. Alternatively, for more information on how Interactive Touchscreens can revolutionise your teaching, click here.

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