capsule review

InterWrite MeetingPad

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There are only so many colors in the dry-erase pen rainbow—so lack of variety and movement often leaves meeting attendees bored, and classroom presentations dull. GTCO CalComp’s InterWrite MeetingPad adds color, graphics, versatility, and interactivity to meetings and presentations, making this tool potentially useful in both the educational and corporate worlds. (GTCO CalComp sells the MeetingPad under the name SchoolPad for the education market. The products are identical.)

Time to set up

It takes an investment of about 30 minutes to get things going with the MeetingPad. Setup involves the following: You install InterWrite Software on your computer, insert the Bluetooth USB adapter into a non-keyboard USB slot (if your Mac isn’t already Bluetooth-equipped), assemble the MeetingPad’s stylus, plug in the unit so the battery begins to charge, and connect a projector to your computer. The MeetingPad functions normally while charging; once charged, it’s powered for about 40 hours of operation.

Next, you must familiarize yourself with the MeetingPad’s 6-inch-by-8-inch Mac template, a piece of paper that lies under a clear separator on the pad, to associate commands with the images that line the left and right borders of the pad. Some icons, like scissors for Cut and a T in a box for Text Box are familiar, but others are not, making it necessary to practice with the MeetingPad if you want your presentation to go smoothly. If you hover the stylus or your mouse over the icons, helpful labels appear. The free online tutorials provided by GTCO CalComp are straightforward and easily accessible, live Web-based training via videoconference is available, and friendly technical support is open during business hours in the Eastern and Mountain time zones.

Get interactive

The MeetingPad’s 300-foot range allows anyone in the room to participate in presentations; up to seven MeetingPads can be used simultaneously, which is helpful for brainstorming a corporate product launch, but potentially chaotic in a classroom environment. The MeetingPad is made of lightweight plastic; it’s wireless and can easily be passed between participants. While it’s not as slick in appearance as Smart Technologies’ AirLiner, the MeetingPad is slim enough, far from cumbersome, and less expensive.

The InterWrite software interface is familiar, with drop-down menus and a toolbar accessible via the computer mouse or stylus pen. The stylus may take some getting used to, as there is some disconnect between what you view onscreen and where you hold the stylus on the pad. The stylus pen is tethered to the MeetingPad by a flexible plastic wire, ensuring that it doesn’t get lost. If handwriting isn’t your forte, you can type directly into text boxes from your Mac.

Add color

You can insert colorful graphics from the InterWrite software gallery, including world coins and animals, as you would clip art into Microsoft Word documents. The software’s background-image gallery includes maps of the United States and subject-specific images for music notation, math instruction, the periodic table of elements, and soccer, basketball, and football fields for use in coaching. You can also use your own graphics, such as a company logo or lesson-plan-specific material.

Work with files

Using the MeetingPad’s stylus, you can annotate over a screenshot taken from any computer application. If a Microsoft Excel file, for example, is the basis of a weekly meeting, the MeetingPad can be used to highlight and brainstorm over data. InterWrite software’s Office Mode, which allows for editing directly in Microsoft Office documents via the MeetingPad, is not currently available, nor planned for future release for the Mac OS.

Your projects can be exported directly to HTML or JPG formats, making them accessible for online review and convenient to send as e-mail attachments.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

The InterWrite MeetingPad may not look as slick as Smart Technologies’ AirLiner wireless slate, but its competitive pricing ($585 for MeetingPad and $497 for SchoolPad vs. $699 for AirLiner) may be the deal that meets school and company budgets. The MeetingPad is particularly worthwhile for businesses that are adept at and open to using new technologies. For technology-savvy educators, the SchoolPad could be a worthwhile investment, ultimately saving time once it’s fully integrated into lesson plans.

[ Adrienne Robillard is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor, and a former teacher. ]

The included USA map background image is helpful in charting a lesson or learning the states.You can annotate areas of any document after you take a screenshot of it and open it in the InterWrite application.
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