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, other companies released whiteboard and projector combinations. One of those companies is Promethean who, along with Clevertouch, has long been a major name in educational interactive whiteboards. Promethean, again like Clevertouch, has made recent developments to its product line, with the goal to make additional inroads into professional environments. The early returns have been positive for both Clevertouch and Promethean.
Interactive whiteboards, which are now evolving into interactive flat panels, have transformed both the boardroom and the classroom since they first emerged in the late 1980s. Xerox PARC is often credited with the initial development of interactive whiteboards.
In 1991 computers started to be connected to large LCD screens, and by 1992 companies like Intel created chips that could be added into the screen creating an all-in-one unit that is what everyone associates with an interactive whiteboard.
Manufacturers like Clevertouch and Promethean have embraced the technology, creating Windows compatible units based on the android operating system that allows its users the flexibility of using the Microsoft365 suite of products within an interactive whiteboard or flat panel framework.
Because of their flexibility in the following areas, they are ideal for both K-12 use as well as corporate collaborative efforts. Whiteboards feature capacitive touch which allows the units to recognize pressure by using the body’s own electrical conductivity. Furthermore, studies have shown that use of interactive whiteboards and flat panels in the class room improved student performance.
Interactive whiteboards and the technology that drives them is now evolving into interactive flat panels, with the primary difference being that flat panels are back lit with LED technology. This allows for a better experience for the end user where the backlighting removes shadows and allows better visibility. Additionally, companies have learned that interactive flat panels require far less maintenance, making for a better long-term value.
One of the other major differences is the flexibility to adapt, with an HDMI port, interactive flat panels allow better flexibility over their whiteboard counterparts. They allow for the more popular UHD with 4K colors, as well as the 3840x2160 resolution.
The Clevertouch, Promethean’s ActivPanel and Jamboard
These are three interactive whiteboards worth considering for collaboration and educational applications. There are others on the market, but these two have set themselves apart in one way or another.
Both displays are available in ultra-high resolutions and at sizes that both classrooms and boardrooms demand. This means that most of the differences between them come in the form of usability and software. So that’s where most of the focus here will be. Let’s dive into it:
TheClevertouch – The Clevertouch is a relative newcomer to the U.S. market, but it has a reputation of sustained success in the UK and Europe. The Clevertouch is primarily designed for educators, and many of its features are geared toward the classroom. 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 an 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 Promethean ActivPanel – Promethean has blazed paths in the interactive flat panel market for more than a couple decades, so it’s one of the most experienced and insightful companies in the field. It is a true global brand, with a strong presence in Europe, the U.S., India and China.
Promethean’s flagship product is its ActivPanel, which is available in both high-definition resolution (at a 70-inch size) and 4K ultra HD resolution (at 65-inch, 75-inch and 86-inch sizes).
The ActivPanel is clearly designed for maximum flexibility, and has a couple features that make life easier for anyone using the panel. For one, it is built with a powerful Android module that gives the ActivPanel tablet-like usability and precision. In this way, it is similar to the Clevertouch. A feature that is unique to the ActivPanel, though, is its InGlass technology. With InGlass, the ActivPanel is as precise as an interactive panel can get with its touch controls. There is no annoying input lag, either, and together, these features make for a mistake-free, on-the-money handwriting experience. That has obvious benefits to both educators and professionals.
It’s the ActivPanel’s connectivity that gives it such flexibility. It comes with plenty of accessible ports, including HDMI, VGA, USB and OPS ports. It easily connects with Bluetooth devices, including some pretty esoteric devices like lab sensors and robots. The ActivPanel can also mirror lesson content from nearly any device, like smartphones, tablets, laptops and Chromebooks.
The ActivPanel’s onboard Android module is upgradeable and is designed with IT personnel in mind. The school or business’s technical support crew can manage and execute any software updates remotely, and with compatible third-party device management software, including Google G Suite, Radix Ciso and VMware AirWatch.
The ActivPanel’s primary software offerings are ActivInspire and ClassFlow. ActivInspire is the interactive panel’s primary lesson delivery option, and it’s been a thing of beauty for years. An award-winning piece of software, ActivInspire combines the versatility of lesson delivery whiteboard software with a deep resource library and powerful collaborative edge. With it, teachers can produce an enormous assortment of interactive lessons, with all the images and activities an educator would need for any subject. Further, ActivInspire provides additional engagement tools, like Equation Editor and the Spotlight Focus, which allows teachers to only show the part of the screen they want to focus on in the moment. Built into the ActivInspire is collaborative functionality, as it allows for dual-user and multi-touch use. Finally, ActivInspire is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux, which again speaks to the panel’s flexibility.
ClassFlow is a second piece of lesson delivery software, though it is geared more for classrooms that encourage students to bring their own devices. Through ClassFlow, teachers can deliver lessons through the cloud, so they can be accessed from any device. ClassFlow also comes with a reservoir of ready-made resources that can be easily integrated into existing lessons or used to create new lessons in no time at all. ClassFlow is always bringing in new resources and lessons from other educators, making this piece of software one of the largest collaborative programs available to teachers. And it’s an interesting tool on the student side, as well, as teachers can send quizzes, activities or polls to students through their own devices using ClassFlow and encourage better engagement and behavior by sending digital badges. In short, teachers have a full bag of tricks with ActivPanel’s functions.
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 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 draw eyes wherever it is being used.
Now, while the Clevertouch can rightly be thought of as a computer-board combo, 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 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 brainstorming session in moments. For companies that need to get their people unified on an idea, that’s gold.
There are several major players in the interactive whiteboard realm, but Clevertouch and Promethean are the emergent leaders that have taken the classroom and the boardroom by storm. And Google’s entry into the market allows millennials a particularly easy path into the corporate world, offering a continuation of its educational G-Suites that most millennials are familiar with.