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High flying Hitachi

It's amazing what canhappen when an ICT manufacturer listens to its customers. Chris Drage enjoys a new whiteboard package

Hitachi's recent interactive Cambridge Board combines the most popular features from its successful Starboard with increased durability and an improved surround to prevent physical damage to the board. It also gives you the option to use a wireless link to your computer.

For your money you get the board, a projection pen, useful pen tray, board cleaning fluid, wall mounting brackets, a three-year on-site warranty and a pound;60 voucher that can be spent on any Cambridge University Press software for the interactive whiteboard catalogue (see http:uk.cambridge.orgeducation) and the new Cambridge Board operational software.

The new software is a vast improvement on Hitachi's previous efforts. It is easy to use yet offers everything we have come to expect in classroom presentation software and more. New features include the facility to capture live video, enlarge the image and annotate over it, an on-screen keyboard enabling teachers to enter text directly on to the whiteboard, updated application modules including music development software and graph paper templates and conferencing mode, allowing teachers to share screens.

Hitachi's strategy is quite simple: provide intuitive teaching tools that enable teachers to concentrate on delivering engaging lessons, without worrying about how to use the software. Some aspects are particularly well done. I like the "Intelligent" pen, which can recognise freehand geometric shapes and lines and convert them to standard shapes; the comprehensive stamp library, a wide-range of backgrounds, rollers, colours, lines and highlighters are available in pre-set or variable widths; and the live video capture that can be stopped at any stage, enlarged and highlighted for easy analysis. There's also a conference mode that enables teachers to share screens and highlight key points. One option even offers stereo speakers fixed at the top corners of the board with a subwoofer wall-mounted under the board. This provides the board with a truly impressive sound system just where it is needed. There are many new features which at last put Hitachi right up there among the high fliers of Interactive whiteboards.

Schools purchasing a board will be eligible for pound;60 worth of software from the selection available from Cambridge elearning (part of Cambridge University Press). A cursory glance at the website quickly reveals that this will get you one free title which does not compare favourably with the likes of the Primary Toolkit that comes with BulletPoint Presentation's Smart Board. Schools will need to consider what other interactive curriculum software they will require.

With the Cambridge Board, Hitachi has obviously learnt from speaking to schools as this board is more durable and robust, the pens are easier to use, they are available in larger sizes and the operational software on the board has been considerably updated helping teachers to make the most of a fully interactive resource.

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