SMART vs. Promethean

SMART vs. Promethean

Summary: In the land of interactive whiteboards, is there a clear winner or just clear preferences?

SHARE:
TOPICS: Laptops
30

As more and more districts embrace interactive whiteboard technology to engage students and shift classroom work towards interactive, multimodal approaches, the competition is heating up between players in the smartboard space. The very term "smartboard" suggests that SMART Technologies has the upper hand, but in fact, it only has about 50% market share globally. While that's nothing to sneeze at, there are plenty of competitors. Promethean in particular offers an impressive collection of community-created educational materials. So is this just another religious debate or is one platform really superior to another?

In fact, there is essentially feature parity between the two companies. Both offer a wide range of sizes, portable units, height-adjustable mountings, wireless options, multiple models of interactive response systems. slates, and document cameras. The whiteboards on both sides of the fence come in multiple price ranges and both offer high-end products that support multiple simultaneous users.

Promethean products tend to be a bit more expensive, but when you're spending on the order of $4000 for a complete system, you aren't generally exactly in netbook territory where small price differences can make or break a decision. Promethean also offers incentives that can bring the prices down, so cost isn't much of a differentiator either.

Promethean sets itself apart with its PrometheanPlanet website. Along with countless resources from Promethean itself, the site brings an extremely active community of teachers together who share literally hundreds of thousands of lessons and resources with one another. These resources, prepared in Promethean's software, can be reused easily and allow teachers to come up to speed quickly. Promethean was created for the classroom and it shows in the way its online community is organized.

SMART, on the other hand, continues to cater to both business and educational markets. This isn't a bad thing; on the contrary, business needs can drive pure technical innovation. However, the focus of the entire website and support system is less teacher-centric. That being said, because of its greater marketshare, the user communities that have grown independently around the SMART Notebook software (files from which can be easily exchanged) provide more than enough resources to get teachers started and help them reach advanced levels of proficiency. It is also easier to find teachers who have experience with SMART who can provide training and champion use for their peers. One final advantage? SMART is an ecosystem partner with Intel for their Classmate PCs and all Classmates come with SMART Notebook software preloaded.

I don't actually think that schools can go wrong with either SMART or Promethean. In fact, at the early stages of interactive whiteboard rollouts in a district, it's a good idea to have some of each available for teachers to use and evaluate. When it's time for a district to hang its hat on a particular technology, though, user surveys and discussions will be key. Is there a group of teachers with experience on a particular platform? Do teachers have preferences? If so, why? Are there neighboring districts who have already rolled out interactive whiteboards on a larger scale and can partner in terms of training or simply allow classroom observations? Do your teachers (or curriculum coordinators, more likely) have lessons in mind or will they need a community from which to draw canned lessons at first?

Any way it goes, it's clear that students of widely varied learning styles respond well to interactive whiteboards. Teachers, when they become adept at using the technology, invariably report what an important tool the whiteboard becomes in the classroom for engaging students and communicating concepts in greater depth and more clearly than they could otherwise.

What do you think? Do you have experience with either or both platforms? How about some of the smaller competitors? Share your thoughts in the talkbacks.

Topic: Laptops

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

30 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    I have used the Promethean for about 4 years. It is wonderful. It engages the students. It allows me to put together a multimedia lesson in as little as 10 minutes. It stores lessons form year to year. I could not go back to whiteboard and markers.
    swarland
    • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

      @swarland Like you said Promethean is one of the best, been using few years. <a href="http://sideeffectsdb.com/simvastatin-side-effects/">simvastatin side effects</a> <a href="http://sideeffectsdb.com/prednisone-side-effects/">prednisone side effects</a>
      frederickseevs
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    our high school seems to prefer promethean because of the software and our elementary schools prefer smart because of the colored pens and the fact you can touch the boards with your hands. instead of buying boards though now we are looking at things like the epson brightlink 450wi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9b5KoHHzxIs&feature=related or the BenQ MP780 ST http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozzVlumIqRk or Dell S300wi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FmLgyEbiU0&feature=channel because then we dont have to buy boards anymore.
    rivcbett
    • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

      @rivcbett
      1.The interactive projectors provided by EPSON, BenQ, Dell are more cost-effective because you dont need to buy the boards, but you still need to buy new projectors !
      What if we pull out the interactive function out to stand alone and become an add-on to your current projector, it can be upgraded to become an interactive projector right away ! Any ordinary projector with any surface can become an interactive whiteboard. This is an even more affordable solution to every classroom ! (the product is ready)

      2.Because of software compatibility and complexity , the interactive whiteboard users need the supporting of software training, and exchange their content and questions in close community. Why dont we get back to the essence of interactive education, the whole abundant resources on internet can be transparent and ready to use for building your interactive teaching content. Open is the the key to success.

      Jessie
      Classroom Aid, Inc.
      jessie@classroom-aid.com
      jessie586
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    Hi Chris,<br><br>Great article with lots of valid points. Both the SMART Board and ActivBoard are good tools for the classroom.<br><br>I wanted to highlight that SMART recently launched a new global site for educators to find and share SMART Notebook files. The website is at http://exchange.smarttech.com and we just reached a milestone of over 40,000 resources for teachers to download.<br><br>It would be great to hear your thoughts as its still in beta.<br><br>Mark Altosaar<br>-SMART Exchange product manager
    MarkAltosaar
    • is the "recently" in this comment correct?

      I had a SmartBoard way back as early as 2002 and I was downloading lessons from smarttech.com way back then. So, was that website really created recently, even in this 2010 post?
      micheknows
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    Our district recently conducted a selection process and we picked Smart, but both products are very good.
    Regarding Promethean Planet versus Smart Exchange, we found that Planet has more resources. But since Smart vets it?s submissions before publishing them, there are fewer but of much higher quality.
    Our teachers were very impressed with Smart?s new Math Tools. We also liked the option of using either a stylus or the finger. And while the writer says Smart, ?only has about 50% market share globally,? that?s a heck of a big share. It dwarfs its closest competition. We found the Smart Notebook software easier to use.
    Before we selected, we visited many schools using both products and saw teachers doing amazing things with both products. Sadly, we also found clueless users of both. Technology alone won?t improve teaching, proper training is imperative. As Dad used to say, it's not the tool, it's the mechanic.
    craigmcb
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    I'm a tech specialist here in Ohio and we let teachers use the tools they prefer. Having said that, we are almost all Smart, with one Promethean board and a couple of other pieces of interactive technology scattered about.
    I totally agree with this article in saying that you have to evaluate everything when looking at technology for the classroom, and not get hung up on a specific feature of one product.
    From a support point of view, Smart wins hands down. I've had to make very few calls, as their products just work, but when I have had to, it's been great. The cable and phone companies could learn a lesson here. Promethean's support has been good, but sometimes it's hard to get a hold of them, and the fact is I've spent more time talking with their support for one board as I have for all my Smart products. We were able to get a brand new Promethean this year, and the new software and drivers have been a nightmare to support.
    I think the fact Smart also has a B2B division has taught them how to make a professional, robust product; whereas teachers are a lot more forgiving and will overlook shortcomings in quality with Promethean because it was designed by their fellow teachers.
    CBButler
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    I am an IT Coordinator with an urban school system in Virginia. The teachers in my school began using SMART Boards 7 years ago and we are now at 100% with having a mounted projector and SMART Board in every classroom.

    I have SMART Boards of nearly every model throughout those years and I appreciate that SMART has been able to design their hardware and software so that they all operate in the same manner. I often have educators move between rooms and even if they are using an older board there is no learning curve. It still has four pens, and eraser, the Notebook software, and it works with touch.

    In these seven years, I have only had one board that had real hardware failure and with a quick phone call to tech support, the new part was shipped free of charge the next day and I was talked through the replacement process.

    I am sure that Promethean also has a good product, but if you already have a great thing and the teachers and students love them there is no need to look for alternatives. For me, it is about consistency for the staff and students. We also use the SMART Response student clickers and the SMART wireless slates.
    MGoodman06
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    I'm at Technology Integration Tech at an ISD in Central Texas. We operate some SMARTBoards, but we have mostly Mimio. I like the Mimio better than SMART or Promethean as it has better flash items. I can convert interactives from SMART to Mimio (it's a process, but it can be done!), which allows my teachers to have the best of both worlds. We are also building a new elementary school, which will be completely Mimio. I can't wait!
    sherrouses
    • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

      @sherrouses

      Could you possibly email me @ lisapreshcs@gmail.com with your contact info. We are about to move from the Promethean arena to Mimio and I am a little nervous. I would LOVE to talk to someone in a k-12 environment that has put the Mimio to wide-scale use.
      lisaprescott
  • What about the Wiimote option?

    $4000 for one system..wow. For $60 I set up my laptop and projector with Johnny Lee's Wiimote system and was able to run the Promethean software cleanly. Outfits like Penteractive work with schools to set these up in classrooms. SO for the cost of a single SMART or Promethean board, 15 classrooms can have about 85% of the functionality. In this economic climate, how can the ed tech community continue to ignore this?
    MrDage
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    I have used both in the classroom and both can be powerful tools WHEN used appropriately and coupled with proper initial and ongoing PD and support.

    One thing to consider is that perhaps you should not be shopping just for an interactive whiteboard, but rather a full solution and partner to transform your teaching and learning environment.

    Yes, you could buy a Wii remote and make your own, but then you have a tool with no skills, no support, no PD, no lessons, no software, no LRS and ultimately no usage or increase in effective instruction. In summary, it's not about the board, its about the global change that the technology partner can make with you. Do your research and think critically on what you are trying to do with your new purchases. Don't just shop for an IWB...
    Dave Kootman
    Teaching and Learning Consultant - Promethean
    dkootman
    dkootman
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    This was a good comparison, but what about the newer technology out there, like the Epson Brightlink 450Wi projector which adds interactivity to any surface where it projects or the eBeam from Luidia which acts as an add-on to any projector making any surface as an IWB? I sure wouldn't spend $4k per classroom when there are alternatives.
    randyrt199@...
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    We have Smart, Mimio, and Polyvision Eno boards. The Mimio makes any surface an interactive whiteboard and has a large base of teacher developed lessons available online. Eno is nice as it has no wires to connect or electronics on the board, everything is in the pen.
    philwhite42@...
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    I think everyone has forgotten a big piece to this IWB debate...learner response systems. Promethean's ActivEngage (software based) and ActivExpression solutions are superior to the competition. It adds seamless integration into the classroom. This technology allows full texting capability responses.

    -AL
    lainio32
  • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

    My preference is to use 2 x Bluetooth mice, 1 x Bluetooth keyboard & sometimes an iPod Touch to control the screen content. Each peripheral is with a different student, requiring some 'mediation' between each as to who as control 'in the moment'.

    I use a remote control laser pointer to 'direct the traffic' in terms of where I want them to attend to. This setup works well from early childhood to senior secondary settings.

    I'm a Mathematics teacher working with Year 10s, but also do workshops across Australia. I'm often at the mercy of having to engage with many different IWB brands, but I basically ignore the hardware and just use the software.

    The audience response systems have a lot of potential...I'm looking for a free iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad version and also one that interacts with students' bluetooth-enabled phones (which they all have), and I'm trying to make central to the learning environment.

    Regards,
    Matt Skoss
    matt@skoss.org
    maths-no-fear.wikispaces.com
    matt.skoss
  • Smart all the way

    When The Promethean pens get stolen/Broken, they cost a lot to replace. when the smart board pens get stolen, they cost next to nothing to replace, and the board is still usable without them
    rrorge
  • ENO by PolyVision

    A year and a half ago ENO came to my class. In one year, teachers in our district that had Smart and Mimio's were begging for an ENO board.
    I love the worry free board (forever warranty) that still has all the conveniences of an old fashion whiteboard (magnets and Expo markers), no wires, and no software involved. The fact that there is only one pen to keep up with to change colors, highlight, reveal, spotlight, and serve as the cursor is so convenient. I can also pair 3 pens to my board and my students can work on the board simultaneously (and if I lose one, which I never have, they aren't expensive to replace).
    I use ENO with any software I install on my computer. I use RM Easiteach and Microsoft PowerPoint to build most of my interactive lessons. PolyVision has a teacher wiki that I pull ideas from and download already build lessons. If I ever need new ideas their Education Consultants are quick to respond with fantastic ideas.
    Our administrators have filled our district with ENO for a three reasons. One is they have a forever warranty on the board. Two is ENO is the most cost efficient IWB we found. Three is ENO is teacher and student friendly.

    abrotherton
    teacher
    abrotherton
    • RE: SMART vs. Promethean

      @abrotherton we looked at the eno and didn't like the pen at all. The "forever warranty" isn't on the pen which costs like 150 bucks to replace, not to mention the fact it uses AAA lithium batteries that only last a month. That's not cost efficient nor is it environmentally-friendly at all
      caelmacleod