There have been exciting developments in interactive whiteboards in just the last year alone, with Google joining the collaboration movement. And before Google launched its Jamboard, Clevertouch released its ground-breaking display. And before them, SMART released its whiteboard and projector combination, known as the SMART Board. SMART has long been considered the king of the industry, and it can certainly produce plenty of impressive features regarding its brand of the technology. However, it’s not the only option anymore, and there are several products worth considering for businesses and schools looking to improve how they engage and bring people together.
The SMART Board, Jamboard and Clevertouch
Those are the three interactive whiteboards worth considering for collaboration and educational applications. There are others on the market, but these three have set themselves apart in one way or another.
All three displays are available in ultra-high resolutions and at sizes that both classrooms and meeting rooms demand. This means that most of the differences between the SMART Board, Google Jamboard and Clevertouch come in the form of usability and software. So that’s where most of the focus here will be. Let’s dive into it:
The SMART Board – SMART has been around since 1987, and for the first 20 years of its existence, it provided whiteboard and projector combos. While board and projector solutions are still available, they are quickly being phased out for the more reliable, usable and cost-effective interactive whiteboards. Currently, SMART’s flagship product is the 7000 Series, which makes use of SMART’s kapp iQ technology. The SMART 7000 is available in two sizes – a 75-inch display and an 86-inch display.
SMART has been working with touch screen devices for decades, so it’s no surprise that it packs some sophisticated multi-touch capabilities into its premier interactive whiteboard. It’s known as HyPr Touch, and it allows several people to use the board at the same time with incredible, millimeter precision. The board recognizes various gestures, including stylus, finger and palm recognition, so a user can easily make and erase marks with nothing more than their hand.
In fact, usability seems to be the guiding focus behind the SMART Board 7000 series. The SMART Board is the only major brand on the market that allows people to connect devices that use either Windows or MAC interfaces.
And that’s all impressive enough, but what really sells the SMART Board is its streamlined software and content packages. SMART has had a head start over its competitors in this regard, and its software options are extremely polished. It starts with the SMART Notebook, which might be the most robust piece of educational software around. SMART Notebook combines traditional whiteboarding with a deep lesson planning tool. Using Notebook’s lesson planning, teachers can put together a lesson on any subject, for any level within minutes, and in a way that students will find engaging. It’s best to think of this lesson planning software as a highly modular and customizable set of content delivery options, so they can be mixed and matched to create thousands of lessons. This is backed by a deep pool of lesson resources managed by a large community of educators, so everything is provided mindfully – there is no waste. And, of course, Notebook is integrated with other SMART technology so that teachers can run assessment tools and connect to their own device from anywhere. This allows educators to put their lessons together from home and send it to the whiteboard from anywhere.
Other pieces of SMART software include SMART Lab, which allows teachers to integrate learning games into their lessons, SMART Response 2, which lets educators produce on-the-fly assessment questions to track student progress, and SMART amp, which facilitates group collaboration between students and gives teachers insight into who is contributing what to the project.
And a modern interactive whiteboard wouldn’t be modern if it didn’t come with excellent connectability. In addition to wired connections using HDMI and DisplayPort inputs, the 7000 series kapp iQ technology means people can connect into a whiteboarding session with any device through a browser portal. To get connected, a user captures a QR code with their phone or tablet (the QR code is presented on the whiteboard) and e-mails a notification to anyone they please. This allows many participants into the discussion seamlessly.
Clevertouch – The Clevertouch is a relative newcomer to the U.S. market, but it has a reputation of sustained success in the UK and Europe. Like the SMART Board, the Clevertouch is primarily designed for educators, and many of its features are geared toward the classroom. Like the SMART Board, the Clevertouch leans heavily on its robust software suite.
The brand’s standout product is the Clevertouch Plus, and it comes in several sizes, ranging from 55-inch to 86-inch. It supports 4K resolution and supports a ton of connecting inputs, including HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort, USB and LAN. The Clevertouch is designed to be used in active classrooms and with active students, so it is outfitted with toughened safety glass and a strong bezel, both of which can take a punch without giving in. And this additional durability does not mar the Clevertouch’s optics.
Now, what makes the Clevertouch stand out? For one, its LUX interface mirrors the kind of interfaces on Android devices, so users familiar with Android will be able to access all of the Clevertouch’s features with minimal training. This is ideal for the tech savvy student who has an intuitive grasp of the operating system. The Clevertouch supports 20-point multi-touch capabilities, and this means several students can use the interactive whiteboard at the same time. This is relevant to some Clevertouch software.
The Clevertouch comes with onboard processor and hard drive, so lesson materials can be saved onto the board. In fact, everything can be done with the board, including accessing the internet, grabbing media relevant to lesson planning and dropping it into the Clevertouch’s whiteboarding software, referred to as Lynx. With Lynx and DisplayNote (Clevertouch’s collaboration software), teachers can build and present lessons from any device connected to the board, including iOS devices. The teacher does not need to stand up at the board to deliver the lesson, though they can do so easily if they choose. Lynx and DisplayNote also allows anyone connected to the Clevertouch to grab slides from the presentation, annotate over them, save them and add their own notes to the presentation, if they are given permission to do so.
Lynx is a sophisticated, robust piece of lesson planning software. Its media manager allows educators to embed videos right into the lesson, without having to rely on an external link. It can also manage multiple lessons at once, letting teachers switch back and forth with no lag. And Lynx comes with a streamlined tools menu that is designed for quick use.
Other pieces of Clevertouch software include Clevermaths, which models various mathematical and scientific principles in a visual, easy to understand way, and Snowflake, which splits the Clevertouch into several screens, letting students access their own lessons separately.
Finally, and this is something that the Clevertouch can really champion, the Cleverstore adds incredible functionality to the interactive whiteboard. Like any device’s app store, the Cleverstore is filled with third party apps, but these are designed for the Clevertouch in particular. All in-app purchases are disabled, and there are hundreds of education apps to choose from, giving teachers a limitless set of tools to engage their students.
There are some optional additions to make the Clevertouch even more usable. They include the Clevershare and the Sharepod, both of which allow for simple, common sense connectivity to the board using USB or HDMI ports. With either, a teacher can control the board easily from any device that is connected.
The Google Jamboard – It was only a matter of time before Google moved into the interactive whiteboard space, but the Jamboard is a curious addition to the market. Unlike the SMART Board and Clevertouch, the Jamboard is wholly designed with professional collaboration in mind, and not for classrooms. It is far more streamlined than any other interactive whiteboard on the market, but because it is so new, it’s easy to see where additional functionality will be scaffolded on top of the Jamboard going forward.
But that’s getting ahead. The Jamboard comes in a 55-inch variety which supports 1080p resolution, and an 84-inch 4K model. Aesthetics aren’t normally a design emphasis for interactive whiteboards, but the Jamboard is finished with candy apple red accents that definitely draw eyes wherever it is being used.
Now, while the SMART Board and Clevertouch can rightly be thought of as computer-board combos, the Jamboard is solely intended for use as a collaborative whiteboard. And in this area, the Jamboard does some really interesting things. For one, many Jamboards can be connected together remotely, which means people spread out over thousands of miles can all interact on the same board, during the same presentation. This form of remote collaboration isn’t always the easiest thing to pull off, but because the presentation can be accessed from any device using a browser, it can provide value in allowing hundreds of people to see the brainstorming in real time.
Multiple media outlets have reviewed the Jamboard, and they have reached a point of consensus in that it is perfectly suited for building big media collages. Make no mistake, this is for people coming together and sharing ideas on a board together. Media can quickly be dragged off of other devices or the internet and integrated into the collage, screenshots can be taken and incorporated, even emojis and art stickers are available for adding visual punch.
But because it is an interactive whiteboard, the Jamboard makes sure that it is easy to write and annotate over parts of the board, especially with its top notch handwriting recognition software. It can convert even the worst chicken scratch into something perfectly legible, so presentations are not mucked up by impossible to read notes.
Google is actively working to integrate popular pieces of collaboration and business software into the Jamboard, and they’re Google, so chances are they will be able to do this effectively. But even if nothing else is added to it, the Jamboard is simple to use, requires no time-wasting login or profile setups, and lets people go from sitting at their desks to putting together a compelling brainstorm session in moments. For companies that need to get their people unified on an idea, that’s gold.
There is no clear winner between the SMART Board, Clevertouch and Jamboard. They are suited for certain environments, and a decision will largely come down to software and support preferences. Fortunately, educators and professionals don’t have to go it alone, as A/V integrators have extensive experience with all three models, and can provide insight as to which would work best in a particular classroom or collaborative space.