The Bett show this year was massive. As usual it covered several halls on several floors and it was impossible to get around to seeing everything. Of course, Interactive Whiteboards are my priority (as always) so the first stop I made was at the Promethean Stand.
As you know Activ Inspire was being released along with the opportunity for schools to buy in to publishing house Dorlings and Kinnersley’s image and text collection. The new CEO of Promethean was on hand to reveal that schools can now purchase digital content from all of their texts. Thus allowing you to use the same text and images found in books that are being used in classrooms. The content is also available in lesson formats. The partnership means that the resources have been put together in flipcharts for teachers to use “straight out of the bag”. This will be great for those who are just starting out with the boards. You can see more about this innovation here.
I was also very excited to finally see Activ Inspire being used and to hold one of those elusive extra pens we’ve been waiting 18 months for! I have to say the new pens are very nicely designed and are much easier to hold than the current ones. They have a nice ergonomic shape to them. The pens – I have been assured – will be available in the UK in April. I will check with my colleagues in Australia if the release date is to be the same over there.
I have been teaching with Activ Inspire ever since the BETT show and you will be able to read about how i’m getting on with the BETA (test release) in my next blog entry.
There was a real buzz around the Promethean stand and it was really interesting to see the number of other stands at the show who were using Activ hardware and software to show case their own products.
My next stop was, of course, SMART. I instantly posed the question “So, what’s SMARTS response to the multi input Activ Board? Unsurprisingly I was greeted with “Well really, what could you even use that for?!” I told her straight out exactly how it would help in a classroom! and then she told me that they’d had multi input technology for years – You can have more than one of the wireless slates operating. This is great for group work, granted but I can’t wait to see how I can make that compete with groups of pupils racing to the finish on a task at the board.
One thing that did impress me however was the SMART table. Now that really is a fully interactive and multi user device. I could imagine these in the foyers of schools so that pupils can complete tasks when stuck inside break. They would be an amazing tool if they were bigger and you could sit pupils around them like a standard classroom desk. That way they could become “part of the furniture” as it were and we would be able to send activities right to the desk. Microsoft have created something similar but at the moment it’s over budget at £3000 Stirling a piece! We’ll have to wait for that one to develop a little more I think.
Smart have produced Smart Notebook SE however. It’s an interesting tool. Particularly if your school like pupils to use V10 to create lesson resources and complete classroom tasks. It’s an extended version of V10 which acts like an exercise book. A nice concept. However, I am a little sceptical of whether I would want my students in High School completing everything in SMARTs V10. it’s not really designed to cope with word processing, drafting and editing in the same way as Word. It is definitely something thing to consider however. Especially with the growth of VLEs and the suggestion (at my current school) that we try and do away with paper exercise books.
One of the main areas of research I have been undertaking at the moment is how to integrate the pupils work with the IWB. At the moment it is sometimes difficult to include pupils’ written responses in a lesson. I usually end up going home, scanning their work in and coming back to it the next lesson. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could put their book under a camera, take a picture instantly ( at a good resolution) and then being to discuss, edit and improve that work with the class?
Well I the solution has been around for a while in the Science classroom. A visualiser has been used in some classrooms for a couple of years. You might have a USB microscope for you SMART or Promethean board already. Well now you can but something something similar for use without wanting to zoom in at such detail.
These visualisers enable you to place a text under the camera and take a screen grab which you can instantly place in your flipchart. The cheapest i foudn was £390 stirling and I aim to run a trial with these in my classroom in the new school term (In a couple of weeks) I will report back to you on my findings.
One alternative to this is a digital pen which allows pupils to write with ink in their books but instantly transfer what they have written as a digital download upon completion. I’ve been keeping my on this technology for two years now and it’s slowly developing.
One company, who i am particularly interested in, supplies you with an infrared box which students can clip to the top of their exercise book and a pen which records each movement of the pen as it writes on the paper. You then connect the pen to a PC with a usb connection (which is built in to the back of the pen) and download the text written straight in to a text editor. This looks really exciting and may be the perfect way to A) get rid of what can often be wasted lessons where we’re simply word processing and B) allow me to copy and paste typed text directly into a my interactive whiteboard software.