Promethean Ltd. will launch their ACTIVboard interactive whiteboard system in the US market at the National Education Computing Convention (NECC) in San Antonio, TX, this month. However, MacCentral got a sneak preview of the technology during a demonstration at the Mac Authority in Nashville, TN.
The Promethean system includes ACTIVstudio software tools and resources for teachers as well as the ACTIVboard interactive whiteboard system. It uses electromagnetic sensing technology to offer an interactive whiteboard solution. A cordless, battery-free pen enables natural delivery of large screen multimedia lesson content.
“The pen, or stylus, lets teachers use the hard service board up close,” Lisa Dubernard, Promethean director of sales and marketing (and former Apple employee), said. “This means they don’t have to be behind their Macintosh. They can ‘write’ directly on the screen.”
The pen can write on the whiteboard in a variety of colors, styles and thicknesses. The ACTIVstudio system also offers a highlighter and “eraser.” Teachers can write on an unlimited number of “pages,” and use a variety of annotations. The system comes with a plethora of built-in annotation symbols; however, teachers can also create their own symbols.
You can annotate in any application (such as Internet Explorer or AppleWorks) in a manner much like using a transparency sheet. Then you can take a snapshot of the annotated file and put it into a flipchart.
At its most basic level ACTIVstudio’s flipchart simulates working with a dry wipe marker or chalkboard, with the extra ability to use multiple colors and variable line thicknesses. ACTIVstudio also controls delivery of both Web and other digital resources from your Mac, enabling material to be enhanced with annotations, highlighting and special effects.
There’s a Spotlight tool that lets a teacher focus in on a certain area of the whiteboard. A Reveal tool lets you show just part of a flipchart. ACTIVstudio contains an array of pre-installed digital content, designed by qualified teaching staff to support the literary strategy. You can use pre-built templates (such as a writing tablet, graphing paper, a traditional chalkboard, etc.) as a background for the whiteboard screen. Or teachers can create their own.
“The software lets you work as a novice and use simply the rudimentary features, or work as an advanced user and use the more high-end features,” Dubernard said. She demoed the ACTIVboard system running on an iBook.
The ACTIVstudio software is now in beta testing, and may (or may not) be finalized by the time of the NECC show. It’s Carbonized and will run on Mac OS 9.x or Mac OS X.
The ACTIVboard will also offer optional remote communications designed to provide an innovative solution to stimulating whole group discussion. Use of a graphic tablet will enable digital content to be developed away from the ACTIVboard. The ACTIVslate is an A5 graphic table that operates remotely with the ACTIVboard, enabling any individual to take control of the ACTIVboard from anywhere in class.
“The ACTIVslate will work with a pen, so a teacher can carry it around and interact with the ACTIVboard from anywhere in the classroom,” Dubernard said. “You can even have multiple ACTIVslates used by students throughout the classroom. Teachers can call on students individually for input.”
What’s more, the wireless response system (ACTIVote) for ACTIVboard offers an instant feedback system. Using a set of handheld voting keypads, and associated software, the system provides two-way radio communications with the board, thus providing a total solution to stimulating whole group contribution, Dubernard said. The group’s contribution can even be exported as an Excel file.
ACTIVstudio is designed specifically for classroom teachers and trainers, much of its feature set being derived from user feedback. However, there is also a great deal of interest from military and corporate organizations in the product, Dubernard said. The commercial price for the system (not counting optional ACTIVslates and ACTIVotes) is US$2,244. Educational discounts are also available.
Currently, the ACTIVboard connects to a computer only via a serial connection, which means that Mac users will need a USB-serial connector, such as that offered by Keyspan. However, this summer you can expect to see a built-in USB connector and perhaps even wireless interoperability, Dubernard said.