What’s new and improved with interactive whiteboards? Greg Adams went looking
for answers at the 2nd NZ and Australia IWB Conference.
Walking through the exhibitors’ stands, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that every classroom should have an interactive whiteboard. In the right hands they put plain old whiteboards to shame – that’s not meant as a sales pitch, simply an observation.
Sadly, of course, not every classroom in New Zealand does have one – far from it. Anecdotal evidence suggests just one in 10 do. There’s room for improvement … and that means plenty of schools should be in the market for interactive whiteboards.
If you’re one of them, there are some challenging yet exciting choices that will need to be made on the direction you want to take with your school’s IWB experience – as I learned at the conference.
Touching for three
Three’s not a crowd, not for an interactive whiteboard, anyway. One of the latest developments in the industry is to allow multiple users to interact with a board at any one time.
Panasonic was introducing its new Elite Panaboard (above) that “helps you grab students’ attention”. One way it does this is by allowing more than one person to use to the board at the same time – up to three, in fact.
“One of the big limitations with other boards is the ‘one at time’ constraint that stifles both cooperation and competition,” explained Panasonic’s Rick Haywood. “This new board allows three interactions anywhere on it at any time, adding a new dimension and lifting the lid on creativity and collaboration. It promotes active, visual-based teaching and learning that makes the classroom fun for both teacher and student!”
It comes in two sizes, too, 77 inches (UB-T880) and a widescreen 83 inches (UB-T880W).
Manzana told me they were beta testing a multitouch software solution – but that’s all they’d say. Watch this space I guess!
A little further on, Hitachi was also showing off its three person multi-touch FX-Trio. Unveiled in Sydney last month, it was making its debut in New Zealand.
“The new StarBoard takes interactive learning to the next level by allowing three people to write on the screen at the same time by the simple touch of a finger or by using the pen feature,” said James Burke, from Hitachi Australia. “Teachers can now test three students at the same time allowing for a fun and competitive learning environment … we look forward to the day when the whole class can write on the board at once.”
Now wouldn’t that be something to see? Although, maybe a challenge for the teacher!
ACTIVboardNZ was introducing the all-new ActivBoard Mobile System (above). As the name suggests, it’s designed to be moved around and “allows educators to take the ActivClassroom almost anywhere”.
“It’s ideal for any environments where an ActivBoard cannot be permanently mounted,” said ACTIVboardNZ’s Murray Thoms. “Places like a gymnasium or temporary classroom, or where a board needs to be shared, such as a library, small group teaching, special needs, or as a mobile presentation tool in the staffroom or school hall.”
The ActivBoard Mobile System has an 87-inch diagonal widescreen board with dual pen capability, and lockable drawer for storage. The stand is height adjustable and fully integrated, with audio and USB hubs. It’s priced at $8995 (+GST), which includes installation and attendance at one-day centre-based training session – and will be available from September.
Projectors aren’t just ‘short throw’ any more, they’re ‘ultra’ or ‘extreme’ short throw. Of course, we’re not talking about some neo-fascist element here, rather the diminishing distance between projector and board – down to less than half a metre. Being positioned very close to the board means they maximise space, and minimise eye glare and overshadowing of the board.
Epson’s challenged the seemingly unbreakable relationship between interactive whiteboard and projector with the recent launch of its 450Wi, the world’s first interactive ultra short throw projector (which can be positioned just 24cm from and slightly above the display surface). The interactive brains are inside the projector, meaning any white, flat surface it projects upon can become interactive.
No matter what hardware you choose, you’re going to want to show something on it. There’s a lot to choose from – so, picking access to content is important. Obviously, some you’ll make yourself, some is free on the Web, other material is only available from a company if you buy its board. Needless to say, companies are investing a lot in content, largely as a way to tie you to their boards.
Mimio Connect, Interwrite Workspace, Easiteach, SMART Exchange are some of the names to look out for. There were a couple that caught my eye at the conference.
Not long ago, Hitachi launched the StarBoard website, a dedicated free online resource that lets teachers share ideas, ask questions, obtain official Hitachi support, download lessons, and more. The site provides StarBoard users with interactive and educational content, and somewhere to download the latest software and drivers.
There’s also a new-look Promethean Planet that aims to provide its 600,000 plus teaching members with new functional enhancements that include a one-click mega-menu and enhanced resource search and filtering, making it quicker to search for and access over 20,000 free resources, according to the company.
The new site will also enable users to personalise their experience by customising their community homepage with their favourite content and resources, exchange private messages with other members and create bookmarked quick links to any Planet page.
You’ll see in our news section, Promethean Planet’s also added a new language new resource pack that includes material for teaching Samoan language at NCEA Level 1. We’re hoping to talk to a teacher using this in a later issue.
2Touch Interactive recently partnered with UK-based WordWall so that every 2Touch board purchased by a PC school, will come complete with the WordWall interactive software.
“The WordWall interface gives teachers a blank canvas from which to create lesson activities,” said Manzana’s Liam Kerr. “These activities are made up of interactive tiles containing text, images, shapes, annotations, which can be swapped, flipped, hidden or marked – similar to those of a paper word wall.”
Student response systems are rapidly gaining in popularity. I didn’t see it happening at the conference, but there’s no reason why boards can’t be laid flat and work on like a table top. HP was displaying its large touchscreens. These act as interactive digital signs. They display general information and you can find out more simply by touching what interests you. Another interesting trend is 3D. It’s already in our living rooms. It won’t be long before it’s commonplace in classrooms. But that’ll be another story.
is Editor of INTERFACE Magazine.
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