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Interactive Flat Panels and Interactive Whiteboards: What are the Differences and Why You Need One

As early as the 1950s, slide projectors entered use in classrooms to help teachers make their classes more dynamic. Increasingly, teachers have been relying on audio-visual tools to increase in-class interaction, retain the attention of students, and improve syllabus message delivery.

From slide projectors to interactive boards, the way educators use technology in their favor has changed according to available technology. Teachers and students have made use of interactive whiteboards (IWBs) for many years to foster collaboration, fomenting group learning and brainstorming. But given their increased versatility, technological advantages, and portability, interactive flat panels (IFPs) are becoming more and more popular in classrooms.

What are the Differences and Why You Need One
Many people use the terms interactive flat panel and interactive whiteboards interchangeably. But the two solutions vary greatly in features and technology.
What are the main differences between interactive whiteboards and interactive flat panels ?

An interactive whiteboard is typically composed of a large display and an overhead projector that connects to a computer, projecting what is on the computer desktop onto the surface of the IWB, where users can then control the computer using their fingers, an electromagnetic pen.

Conversely, interactive flat panels are an all-in-one solution that looks like a big flat TV. The panel has its own operating system and interactive software compatibility, which allow teachers to work with their preferred software tools while enjoying the ultimate hardware experience. Furthermore, an IFP allows wireless connections with mobile devices for seamless presentations and collaborations during lectures.

What are the Differences and Why You Need One
But if you already have an interactive whiteboard, why would you need an interactive flat panel in your classroom?
What are the Differences and Why You Need One

Nowadays, technology has become ubiquitous in the lives of people and young children’s access to touchscreens has increased rapidly and dramatically. In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that at least 83% of all 18 to 49 year olds in the US – the age group most likely to be parents of young children – owned smartphones (Anderson, 2015). Adding to that, another recent investigation shows that 96.6% of children have used a touchscreen device (Kabali et al., 2015), with most of them doing so before their first birthday.

This data means that traditional play for toddlers is changing, and touchscreens are becoming the most frequently-used toy for many children. And as pediatrics researcher at the University College of Cork in Ireland Deirdre Murray said “Children learn best when adults interact with them in their play and learning, no matter what the toy.” Hence the educational tools we are using to keep kids motivated in learning should maintain direct correlation and relevance with current types of technology children feel familiar with.

This is where Interactive flat panels become a natural tool in the classroom, since they use the same type of technology that kids are interacting with on an every day basis. Furthermore, you instantly turn your classroom into a collaborative learning environment with the latest technology while both saving long term costs and protecting the environment.

What are the Differences and Why You Need One
Turn your classroom into a collaborative learning environment
What are the Differences and Why You Need One

nteractive flat panels let your students wirelessly connect their own devices for seamless collaboration. During class, teachers can switch from presentation mode, which only allows for one way communication, meaning that students can only receive information on their device but can’t make changes to the board. Collaboration mode allows students to directly participate in lectures by writing and commenting on the board during the lesson from the comfort of their own chairs.

What are the Differences and Why You Need One
Latest technology in your lessons
What are the Differences and Why You Need One

Contemporary kids interact with touchscreens starting at a very young age, and by age 2 they can navigate them with the same ease as grown ups do, one research says. Which means that our kids are using these devices in their every day life and that makes interactive flat panels a natural classroom tool that kids are ready to interact and play with from day one, since what are IFPs if not bigger and brighter tablets and thus extra familiar to children? IFPs also integrate more advanced software than tablets, and can be utilized by more people at the same time. Also, the quality of the image displayed on interactive flat panels is exponentially better than what we see with interactive whiteboard (no more shadows!), and the image quality does not degrade over time. Also, many IFPs have blue light filters to protect the delicate eyes of children and even teachers.

What are the Differences and Why You Need One
Save costs AND protect the environment
What are the Differences and Why You Need One
What are the Differences and Why You Need One

Cost is always a major consideration when adopting a new piece of equipment, especially technology-focused devices such as interactive flat panels, since the initial investment can be high. But taking into consideration maintenance costs, IFPs are a better investment than more traditional interactive whiteboards since interactive flat panel offer an all-in-one design with minimal maintenance in comparison to the several separate components that make up a whiteboard setup. The latter also need regular projector bulb replacement. These maintenance costs add up, and so by going with a streamlined but more capable IFP if you are cutting costs for big savings in the long term.

Furthermore, for the most basic of supplies, paper, a school of 1000 kids or a university department of equal size might spend up to US$4,000 a month on paper, ink, and printer toner alone (without taking into consideration the maintenance of printers and scanners)

Using digital tools such as an IFP, which can integrate with cloud storage and allows students and teachers to cast content to the screen from their own devices, allows higher education institutes to both save costs and protect the environment by reducing paper waste. And as a plus, interactive flat panels also use less electricity, which is a great benefit for the environment.

As a summary, interactive whiteboards and interactive flat panels are both used to make classrooms more interactive through technology. But interactive flat panels have many advantages over interactive whiteboards since they are made using the latest touchscreen technology, they are bright, have higher resolutions, and do not depend on projectors so they don’t suffer from shadows if someone or something passes in front of a light source. IFPs are also portable and need less maintenance, which in the long term helps you save costs. Importantly, kids are ready to interact with IFPs even before you install them in the classroom, since they are already very familiar with touch devices thanks to using smartphones and tablets at home.

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