IWBs at Bett2009 - Drumcondra Education Centre - Interactive Whiteboards

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IWBs at Bett2009

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CBI Interactive Whiteboard Project - DEC, ICS, CESI

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I visited the BETT 2009 and noted in particular the developments regarding Interactive Whiteboards. In passing, I noticed only one Tablet PC.

A definite theme in terms of new whiteboard hardware development was the use of Table-top displays. These Tables would make very useful interactive zones particularly with smaller groups of students (such as in Learning Support). Another development was the number of wireless (RF or Bluetooth) slates for remote whiteboard control ...great for passing around the classroom to enable student interaction with the CBI resources. Voting Devices continue to be in evidence, as were Visualisers and Document Cameras.

Promethean showed 'ActivSoftware - Inspire Edition' ...its next version of CBI software. At the moment, ActivStudio and ActivPrimary are released as separate software products (though, of course, 'flipchart' files can be opened with either ...as well as by the free ActivPrimary Reader). In the new guise, both Primary and Studio are integrated in the new platform: the user can choose which 'skin' to open. Read more at www.prometheanworld.com/

SMART showed its existing Notebook software. A nice touch is a portable USB bracelet which carries Notebook Student Edition (taking up about 20 Mb of the 1 Gb space) ...Notebook SE will run directly from the USB, no software has to be installed. This is useful also where Admin restrictions may be in place on a computer. SMART also displayed its new SMART Table. This carries a limited though very useful set of applications. The Table has a CPU and Projection System built in. The current price is not yet at the classroom level (though I could be wrong!). I was pleased to hear that direct sound recording input is being planned for Notebook (at the moment, I use Sound Recorder; then I browse to the saved file. Because I use the Riva encoder, I can browse for wavs as well as the default mp3 files). Read more at http://smarttech.com/

Ebeam was in evidence in a number of stands: it does offer an interactive application at an affordable price. My eye was caught at the RM stand: they had turned an ultra-short throw projector (Hitachi ED-A100) on its side so that it was pointing down on a table. With Ebeam in place, a piece of software (called BoomBoom) for junior students came to life. (RM markets this CBI solution - not including BoomBoom - as the 'RM Interactive Classtable'). Ebeam also showed a wireless slate, and a Visualiser. In addition, Ebeam had the 'LiveWire' ...a USB device to enable visiting teachers - those without Ebeam installed on their PCs - to connect and control Ebeam (I have previously used the SMART 'GoWire' equivalent). Read more at www.luidia.com/

The Microsoft stand had much attention focussed on its new Table, called Surface. This - and the SMART Table above - provides multi-user touch input. With the 'ripple application' (my name for it!), one could almost feel one's fingers getting wet! This is an extremely expensive tool: it is currently been targetted at the corporate sector, with a price tag of st£18000 to match! The SMART Table by contrast is coming in around st£5000. Both tables bring the Apple effect to the surfaces: being able to use Gestures to move, rotate and re-size objects. Read more about the Microsoft at www.surface.com

Mimio showed its versatile and cost-effective portable solution. It also comes as a wireless option. A new (for me!) feature was the the portable slate. 'Mimio 6' now supports multimedia (you can import Flash, video and audio files) and the Gallery seems much more extensive. Available for Windows and Mac, a Linux version is under development. Read more at www.mimio.com

Onfinity showed its cost effective solutions, including its ability to use a wall (or any vertical surface) for interaction. I witnessed a similar innovation at a SMART symposium last year but I don't think this latter has come to the market yet. Onfinity also used a wireless tablet: this one had paper placed upon it so that the user could draw or write in traditional mode, and also see the work projected and interactable(!) on the classroom dispaly (i.e. the wall) ...this was a Bluetooth application so up to 128 users could participate (at least in theory). Onfinity had its Table implementation also: this one was housed in a glass/perspex casing so that one could see the mirror in action (ah! the secret of the magic is out!). Read more at www.onfinity.com

At the Epson stand, I viewed a demos of a new tool for PowerPoint. While I have elsewhere on this site commented on the 'presentation only' use of CBIs, I acknowledge that this is at least a starting point for some teachers/lecturers. In the new product, they were using three data projectors from one laptop (using the 'Extend Desktop' option): what was new is the abilty to display a single PowerPoint show shared across each of the projectors ...with a number of successive slides visible at any one time. Read more at www.multi-slides.com ..the people behind this product (www.space2inspire.co.uk) provide a complete hardware provision, installation and training package for around 20K (remember that you get three projectors, as well as a CBI!).

I hadn't travelled to last year's BETT, so for me the Clasus board is new. This is a Portugese product, distibuted here by a company in Cork (where, I understand, there are now significant numbers). The A-migo software looks good, not disimilar to SMART nor Mimio. Read more at www.clasus.com

Hitachi had a strong presence at the show. If the size of the stands is representative, Hitachi would come at Number 3 behind SMART and Promethean respectively (though I didn't measure the stands exactly!). The Hitachi Duo board provides dual-stylus input. Handwriting recognition, and the Maths tools (Compass, Protractor) look useful, as is the ability to use either finger or stylus. Hitachi has an alliance with Cambridge regarding a number of classroom software applications, such as Mult-e-Maths. Read more at http://www.hitachisolutions-eu.com/fx-duo/en/index.html or www.cambridge-hitachi.com for the educational software.

I am delighted/relieved (speaking on behalf of one of the schools I worked with last year) that the Inspire board is back. The original company had gone into administration but the business and product are now back on stream via Interactive Technologies and www.itdisplays.com

RM - the people behind Inspiration and many other software titles - continue to provide the third-party non-board specific software called Easiteach. This software comes as a basic 'Studio' package, with a number of subject-specific toolbars available as add-ons. A new touch is the integration with a dance-mat ...now try keeping the students in their seats! RM also provide a 'Classboard' CBI. In addition, RM sell a fold-away 'Whiteboard Step' ...a solution that would have been useful in a Junior School in our Whiteboard Project. Read more at www.rm.com

Elmo had a number of Visualisers on its stand ...I thought they were rather expensive: the three models on display were guiding at st£550, st£800 and st£1200. I do think Visualisers have the potential to add to the CBI solutions (in fact SMART produces its own branded product) ...they are rather like the Epidiascope that we used back in the 70s. I suggest that a good web-cam could also be used creatively, but read more at www.elmoeurope.com. I didn't get to the AverMedia stand but this is another company which would be well known in this area of application ...read more at www.avermedia.com/AVerVision

I met the people at the Sahara stand and got clarification that this CBI is supplied with the third-party Lynx software (see http://www.cleverlynx.com/)

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