A mainstay of classroom instruction—the whiteboard—will soon be rendered obsolete, if the lofty claims of a cadre of ambitious K-12 market entrants are to be believed.
Companies promoting “glassboards” predict that schools will be drawn to the quality and durability of the instructional tools–despite thefact that the products are heavier than whiteboards, and even though some of them carry much heftier price tags than the surfaces they’re meant to render obsolete.
Whiteboards, which became a popular alternative to chalkboards in the 1990s, were considered easy to write on and to erase, much more so than their dusty predecessors. The white surface also had the advantage of doubling as an effective surface for use with overhead projectors.
Proponents of glassboards say the tool is less likely to “ghost,” or leave traces of pen marks from previous lessons that were supposed to get erased. They also say the glass is shatterproof, and is compatible with any kind of marker. Older whiteboards have a tendency to become more difficult to erase fully, particularly if a message hasn’t been touched for a long period of time. Whiteboards also require the use of special markers to avoid permanent marks.
Bryce Stuckenschneider, the vice president of marketing for Clarus Glassboards, a Dallas-area glassboard manufacturer, says educators are drawn to the boards primarily for ease of use and aesthetics.
In addition to stress tests which he says prove the boards are durable for over 20 years, the boards can be customized to include school logos, or grid lines for math classes. The glassboards can also be built to be magnetic, although this option is more expensive and makes the boards even heavier.
Despite their higher cost—Stuckenschneider estimates the boards cost 30 to 40 percent more than a traditional whiteboard—he says the glassboards are a better deal in the long run, because the whiteboards need to be replaced more often. Depending on size and special features, such as how the boards are attached to walls, background colors and magnetism, the boards can range from around $500 to $4,000 each.
According to Stuckenschneider, his company’s boards are currently most popular in the corporate world and at postsecondary colleges and universities. Clarus has higher-ed clients in over 500 schools in all 50 states, he says.
Stuckenschneider estimates that while Clarus’ products are only represented in around 150 K-12 schools, the company expects “growth by a factor of 10 or 15” in the next few years in the K-12 sector.
Much of the demand is already there, said Stuckenschneider, though longer purchasing cycles contribute to a lag in done deals and finished installations.
Beneath the television, newly installed Glassboards in a K-12 classroom. Image courtesy of Clarus Glassboards