Interactive TVs are basically a LCD/LED TV with a touch sensitive overlay on top. Some models have a custom case that covers both parts so that they look like a single unit but internally they always have a video display and a touch surface. They can be connected to a computer and therefore functions like a ‘traditional’ interactive whiteboard for teaching. An interactive whiteboard on the other hand is a large interactive display that connects to a computer. A projector projects the computer’s desktop onto the board’s surface where users control the computer using a pen or finger touch.
So which one suits the classroom best? I’ve written this review after having more than eight years’ experience using interactive whiteboards and two terms using an interactive TV. I won’t mention the brands of each as I am assuming the comparisons between the two would pretty much apply to each regardless of the brand. Furthermore, this review is from a teacher’s perspective, not an administrator’s or technician’s perspective.
SOFTWARE: Both come with some form of software. The software that comes with interactive TVs is disappointing. It has not been specifically designed for education and retailers are quick to admit this. One of my first concerns was that using the TV’s software I could not write; ‘The cat sat on the mat’ and then move the sentence. I had to move each word individually! TV software has the basic pen, line and shape tools but that is just about it. However, this is also true of some of the software that comes with some interactive whiteboards. For the two brands that I was comparing, the software that came with the interactive whiteboard was far more superior and suitable for education than that of the interactive TV.
TOUCH: Both have good touch recognition, objects can easily be moved and websites easily navigated. However, when it comes to writing, interactive whiteboards win hands down.
VISIBILITY: Interactive whiteboards rely on a projector to display the image onto the board and the light comes from a globe inside the projector. Globes have a certain amount of ‘lamp life hours’ and as their ‘lamp life’ decrease due to use, so does the visibility on the whiteboard. Form my experience; a brand new interactive whiteboard with a new short throw projector is great for about a year. After that, visibility rapidly decreases and I have to turn the lights off for students to be able to view the board. This goes on for a long time until the globe finally blows and your school buys you a new one. Therefore, an interactive TV wins this part hands down. You never have to turn your lights off when teaching in order for students to see. I find it rather interesting that after two terms of using an interactive TV, my students still ask, “Do you want me to turn the lights off?” when use the TV. “No, we don’t need to with our TV”, I reply. Turning off the lights to see has almost become ritualistic for students who have had to do this for the previous 3 years of schooling.
OVERALL: I would choose an interactive TV over an interactive whiteboard. My choice is heavily guided by the visibility qualities of the interactive TV. However, I have had to change and adapt many teaching strategies and incorporate more technologies into my daily teaching. I now rely heavily on cloud computing and integrating my iPad with the interactive TV.