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Friday, June 16, 2006

A projector on a stick?

Off to Airth Castle today for the ‘Project X’ launch from Promethean. Convinced it was to be the ‘pen on a stick’ (or ‘wand’ as it is really referred to) concept, Maggie and I along with many colleagues from around Scotland were shown the new ‘ACTIVBoard+2’ package. None of this was new to us, as we had been taken into Promethean’s confidence in London in January, but it is great to see this project make it to production. It will be available in September 2006.

I’m often a little cynical about the ‘IWB revolution’. The vast majority of uses of an interactive whiteboard are not new, nor are they particularly good teaching practices. An IWB is a very expensive bit of kit, which for far too many users is little more than a ‘screen you touch’ to do exactly what you would normally use a computer for. In the worst cases, it is almost a direct replacement for the OHP, without any thought given to the communicative power of a networked computer.

It was something of a shame that the Head Teacher speaking today (Fraser Booth, of Carnoustie High School) did little to sell the concept of an IWB (as everything he showed could easily be done on a computer using only a projector). He regarded the deployment of IWBs into every classroom as the ‘evolution of technology’ in school. Following this logic, then this will evolve again – the IWB surely has a shelf-life. It may be flavour of the month at the moment, but within the next two years the $100 laptop will be a reality, and the capacity and functionality of mobile phones will have doubled again, making this a far more attractive and usable proposition for technology in the classroom than an IWB.

According to studies he has undertaken - 97% of his pupils have access to the internet at home - I would argue that this is exceptional - I am far more inclined to go with the findings of John Johnston (although I wish we were all in the fortunate position of Carnoustie!)

It’s not all doom and gloom though – I’d love all my Head Teachers to be so pro-active about the deployment of ICT – Fraser Booth really has bought into the concept of technology in class – his use of it may not be all that dynamic, but if the administrator gets the kit into the rooms, then let the teachers and students devise interesting and creative ways of using it!

Regarding the product – it really is a brilliant bit of kit. As I see it, there are four big issues with IWBs: 1. Installation – this negates almost any installation problems, as the system is practically self contained and hides any cables. 2. Shadowing – having a short throw projector practically eliminates the shadowing effects caused by standing in front of the projected beam. 3. Height adjustment – installing a board is always a compromise, but this system is height adjustable, so anyone can use it, and no need to recalibrate. 4. Maintenance – the added bonus of the height-adjustment means that the projector filter can be easily cleaned without having to stand on some ladders.

Also speaking today was Anne McLean of East Renfrewshire. I love Anne’s ‘no-nonsense’ approach to using ICT. I must remember her illustration when introducing teachers to IWBs she asks them to focus on a few things – “You’re going to see loads of things today, but if you leave knowing how to write, draw and rub out, then you can already replace what you presently do on a chalkboard”. She also promised to blog about today’s events – you can find it at ‘Curriculinks – the blog’ – (if she doesn’t, feel free to comment on her previous post asking where the new post is! ;-))

Any freebies? Well yes, as it happens. A usb stick with info about the product, and a stress ball. Make of that what you will. My one remaining question however is this – When are we getting Promethean t-shirts, Anne Latona? Microsoft gave us them!


Anonymous ian Stuart said...

on Islay we planning to use wireless projectors and tablet pc`s to be able to take the teacher from the front of the class. I really believe that is the most flexible way.

8:20 pm  
Blogger marlyn moffat said...

I use my infrared mousey, and the children do too, or the tablet so they don't have to be standing in front of the projector. I can then watch the rest, in their involvement or lack of it.

10:44 pm  
Blogger marlyn moffat said...

Oh! and 79.9% of our children have internet access at home. Survey done 2 weeks ago.

10:47 pm  
Anonymous Lynne Horn said...

I wanted to get a wireless keyboard a couple of years ago, but the computer was too old (all of 3 years too old!) I still like the idea of having this as it could be passed around the class. However some things on the board just cry out for someone standing at the front, wonderful games such as Penaly Shoot Out and Fling the Teacher and pupils really like coming to board and being the person in control for a while.

9:58 am  
Blogger ab said...

Ian - I think the key as you point out is flexibility. We really need to 'untether' technology in education.

Marlyn - the beauty of this new development from Promethean is the integrated nature of the product and the short thrown projector - you really had to stand right in front of it to cast a shadow, and even then it was not really obtrusive. For a class of children, the fact that this board raised and lowered made it ideal. 79.9% - what was the broadband percentage within this? Was it access to the 'family machine'? I'd love a study like this to be done across the whole authority.

Lynne - I agree there is a place for the board, but there are other ways of achieving the same thing - a wireless graphics tablet is ideal for this (although not if you can't attach a bluetooth receiver to your computer, sorry! ;-))

3:41 pm  
Anonymous Lynne Horn said...

Yes, but I think the best thing about having the board is that it gives pupils (especially boys) a good and legitimate reason to get out seats for 2 minutes and the chance to move around. I've had the board for 2-3 years now and the fascination of touching it has never left even the oldest pupils and p7s up from induction were equally fascinated.

Think my first venture into bluetooth will be using my mobile - S3 have promised to show me how to use it...

4:14 pm  
Blogger MaggieIrving said...

Re freebies - I want a t-shirt on a stick.

7:35 pm  
Anonymous Lynne Horn said...

Well S3 demonstrated how to send something by bluetooth today - they tried to send me a French rap we've been studying in class, one of them had dowloaded it himself at home. Unfortunately it wouldn't send - shame I can't say the same about the Crazy Frog (if you hear it ringing, you'll know I've close by)

However what potential? - they can send me music, I could send the some listening, or their talks to listen to and practise?

5:35 pm  
Blogger ab said...

Freebies Update: Good things obviously come to those that moan! t-shirt and body warmer appeared in the post from an anonymous Santa - so thanks Anne! (I think?)

10:09 pm  

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