If you’ve spent any time reading the Radical, you know that I hate Interactive Whiteboards—and the companies that sell them as instructional silver bullets—with an unhealthy passion.

Recently, though, I’ve dialed back that passion.  I guess that’s because—thankfully—conversations about teaching with technology have started to shift into healthier places.

I hear less and less from educators who just HAVE to have an IWB.

More importantly, I hear less and less from school leaders who are ready to plunk down their schools’ already limited technology budgets on a small handful of glorified presentation tools that do NOTHING to change teaching and learning in our schools.

That lull in the lunacy ended this week.

You see, I bumped into a friend who is a well respected instructional technology leader in his large middle school.  He was completely jazzed because his principal had asked him to help spend the school’s technology budget.

That excitement was short-lived, though.  Turns out that his principal—who’d recently attended a conference and seen a slick presentation in the vendor hall—had already bought and paid for 6 IWBs.

Total cost:  $18,000.

Stew in that for a minute, would you?  Do you have ANY idea what you could do with $18 THOUSAND dollars?

Here are 5 different ways I would spend that cash:

You could buy 75 netbook computers with $18 K.

I’ve been more than a little riled up lately about the fact that I have TWO working computers in my room.

That makes it really difficult for my kids to access the internet, which makes it really difficult for them to explore and to wonder on their own.

If I had $18 grand to spend, I’d think about buying a bunch of cheap netbooks—like these $240 Eee PCs—to spread around my classrooms.


You could buy 87 iTouches with $18 K.

While they’re not as functional as netbooks, 87 iTouches could go a long way in classrooms too.  They could function as eReaders and student responders.  They could function as web browsers and video cameras.

They could be loaded with educational applications and used in remediation stations.  They could serve as impromptu voice recorders and video conferencing tools.

Most importantly, they would be in the hands of kids—not teachers.  That matters.


You could buy 360 Livescribe Pens with $18 K.

One of my favorite digital tools is the Livescribe pen.

A digital gizmo that records every stroke that a user makes on special Livescribe paper and pairs it to a time-synched audio recording, Livescribe pens have a million applications in the classroom.

Teachers can use Livescribe pens to easily create and upload tutorials for students.  Students can use Livescribe pens to capture content from lessons they would have otherwise missed.

Teachers AND students can use Livescribe pens to extend learning or provide remediation whenever—and wherever—a pen and a notebook can go.

And at $49 for a refurbished 1GB pen, they’re easily the cheapest tool you can spring for in today’s digital marketplace.


You could buy 7 YEARS of Poll Everywhere subscriptions for $18 K.

I’ve written for years about my struggles to integrate formative assessment practices into my classroom.

While I get that collecting—and then acting on—data about what my kids know is essential to driving learning gains, collecting and acting on student learning data isn’t easy when you’re armed with nothing  more than post it notes and three ring binders.

That’s why Poll Everywhere is a service that I’m currently exploring.

Paired with student cell phones, computers, or handheld wireless devices, Poll Everywhere makes it possible for teachers to collect instant feedback on student learning.

With $18 K, you could buy 7 YEARS of premium Poll Everywhere accounts for 50 teachers.


You could buy 36 YEARS of VoiceThread subscriptions for $18 K.

I’ve been a believer in VoiceThread for years.

A simple service that allows teachers and students to engage in asynchronous conversations around text, images or videos, VoiceThread taps into the essentially social nature of learning—and of kids.

I’ve used VoiceThread to give students forums for their poetry and to extend Socratic seminars on topics like hate and genocide.

My kids almost always love VoiceThreads because they can choose the strands of conversation that they want to participate in.  VoiceThread also appeals to the quiet kids in my class who might never take the chance to share in front of their peers.

And for about a BUCK, you can get an Ed VoiceThread subscription for a student for one year.

Divide your $18 K up any way you want.  Have 18,000 kids in your district?  Outfit them all with a VT subscription for one year.

Have 500 kids in your school?  Spend $500 per year on VT subscriptions and your $18 K will last for THIRTY-SIX YEARS.

My buddy’s principal—not to mention his state’s taxpayers and the parents of his school community—ought to look at this list and CRINGE.

Instead of getting 75 netbooks or 87 iTouches or 360 Livescribe pens or 7 years of Poll Everywhere for every teacher or 36 years of VoiceThread subscriptions for every student, he bought SIX INTERACTIVE WHITEBOARDS.

No matter how you slice it, that’s wasting cash.



Related Radical Reads:

More on Interactive Whiteboards

What I’d buy instead of an Interactive Whiteboard

Teachers, Chainsaws and the Dreaded Interactive Whiteboard

Five questions to ask BEFORE buying IWBs

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