RM, New Mill House, 183 Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4SE
Tel: 08709 086700; www.rm.com
Easiteach PC software suite compatible with all whiteboards. Free with RM's Classboard whiteboard. Otherwise pound;170 (single user).
Easiteach Studio with Spreadsheet and Database pound;234 (single user) Upgrade from Textease pound;85 (single user) Add Branch, Turtle to Easiteach pound;39 each (single user)
Fitness for purpose *****
Ease of use *****
So you've got an interactive whiteboard in the classroom. Great. You've had the training and are all fired up to go - even better. But after a week you find yourself using it as a large monitor to demo programs rather than as an interactive tool which promised to do away with chalk and whiteboards for ever!
Trial and error will teach you the best programs to use (or you could read TES Online each month), but RM has come up with an interesting proposition due to its acquisition of Softease and its Textease suite of programs - now we have Easiteach Studio.
Though this works on desktops, it's when it is used with an interactive whiteboard that it comes into its own.
So let's look at the new Textease front-end and access. One click and your computer, and thus your interactive whiteboard, takes on a new look: Standard - a more serious Windows XP look; or Graphic - a friendly, more rounded appearance. Switch between the two via a snowdrop icon on the left-hand side. Underneath this is a button which will take you to the storyboard view which is an extremely useful tool when it comes to making resources as you can look at your activity pages as a whole and move, edit and copy pages to make a better lesson.
Underneath this is an array of numbers showing the pages you have created so far. You can add as many pages as you want. Along the bottom of the screen is a file button giving you the usual save, open, new and print options. Living next door is the toolbar icon and here you can house access to your existing Textease programs from Turtle through to Branch, Database, Spreadsheet and RM's ET Maths. And you can choose to have any of these toolbars on screen as well as key and numeric pads. Finally you have a resources button which provides easier access to the picture and word banks than Textease did previously.
Access and look is improved, but I was quite happy with Textease as it was. Are the enhancements worth the extra investment? Let's dig a little deeper. For a start there was no way I wanted to recreate the resources I already had. Well these loaded in straight away looking just the way I'd created them. Using them with the class, I noticed that the Easiteach toolbar differed from the Textease one. For starters, you have a hand icon which allows you to move and turn text and graphics, but also an arrow which lets you edit or enter text. This was one of the niggles with Textease as you could find yourself moving rather than entering text if you clicked too many times or in the wrong place. This is much easier for children (and teachers).
However, the toolbar really splits into two - the top half for use with a class and offering text, line and graphic creation while the second half, which can be closed off, provides teacher tools to create pages. Here you'll find the utilities such as "lock to page" as well as the "effects page", grouping and so on. The latter you'll need with students, but less frequently, so the toolbar can be closed down to look less complicated and threatening.
All the other tools are retained from the infinite undoredo to the speech, but if you don't want anything, dump it in the bin on the bottom right of the screen. Easiteach Studio still lets you move, rotate, hide, reveal, lock, link and group text, graphics, animations and so on just as before. But then there are now little extras such as "glass mode" where you can annotate other applications and grab screen views into Easiteach, and I'm looking forward to the handwriting recognition add-on which is under development.
This is not just Textease with a pretty interface - in the middle of the whiteboard you can play with any of the Softease programs one at a time or all together! You could download a movie of a badger and add some text on what it eats. Taking that information you could create a database and then a bar chart - all on the same page. The possibilities are exciting and accessible.