Interactive all the way

Chris Drage examines the latest interactive whiteboards and the criteria to consider when buying one

Interactive whiteboard pads are a replacement for most display devices found in classrooms. They are a whole-group teaching and learning resource and, most important, they are not just for ICT classrooms but can be used for all subjects.

They are front-of-class devices designed to allow the teacher to run multimedia lessons by just touching the surface on which a computer display is projected.

The key benefits are that computer-based lessons can be delivered to the class using a single laptop or PC. Software can be run from the front of the class and prepared lessons can be annotated during the lesson. Multimedia content can be incorporated to bring lessons to life and almost everything can be saved back to the computer or network - as you deliver the lesson or afterwards.

Lately we have seen handheld, interactive devices like the InterWrite MeetingPad become popular. Handheld interactive devices can offer schools the best in both flexibility and interactivity for whole-class teaching. You can move round the room, working from anywhere.

These could soon affect the sales of interactive whiteboards. In other words, some teachers will opt for an interactive tablet and PC projected on to a blank screen or wall, or simply a tablet PC and projector(check out the new "tablet" PCs - Circuit, P26). The technology is developing quickly.

Traditional whiteboards are white surfaces capable of working with dry-wipe pens while displaying a projected computer image. At the other end of the scale there are high-quality, curriculum-based software tools, or software that allows teachers to create their own presentations. How do you choose? Here's a set of features to consider

Promethean ACTIVboard

Type: Interactive whiteboard, 60in and 75in ACTIVboardPlus

surface: Very durable, low reflection hard coat surface

controlled by:

ACTIVpen stylus with buttons.

No batteries required

Permanent or freestanding: Wall-mount bracket included. Stand extra

Software: ACTIVstudio software is the most extensive and comprehensive curriculum support material. Free software upgrades

Connects to: Serial port - infra-red and radio communication with ACTIVboardplus for ActiveSlate and ActiveVote (requires USB converter)

prices: pound;1,295 (60in); pound;1,595 (75in); pound;1,945 (75in) with ActivSlate

Additional pens: pound;38 each

Stand: pound;275

Warranty: Three years parts and labour.

Centres of excellence scheme for training

Advantages: Useful options like ACTIVvoting remote assessment when used with ACTIVboardplus. Also available: portable ACTIV-slate, A5 graphic tablet

www.promethean.co.uk

Tel: 0870 241 3194

TDS ACTIVboard

Interactive whiteboard 60in, 75in (made by Promethean and sold through resellers like Time)

Very durable, low-reflection hard-coat surface

ACTIVpen stylus with buttons

No batteries required

Wall-mount bracket included. Stand extra

Basic BOARDmate software tools

Serial port

requires USB converter

pound;1,250 (60in)

pound;1,550 (75in)

Additional pens: pound;45

Stand: pound;275

Three-year on-site

The same durable board used by Promethean but without Promethean

ACTIVstudio software

www.tds-whiteboards.com whiteboards.html

Tel: 01254 676921@Verdict Titles = Hitachi Starboard

Interactive whiteboard

50in and 70in screen (manufactured by GTCO CalComp)

Very durable, low-reflection hard-coat surface

Unique pens

Batteries supplied

Wall-mount bracket included. Stand extra

Driver, annotation and handwriting recognition software. Curriculum software is on its way

from Edutech and Cambridge University Press

Serial or USB

pound;1,395 (50in) pound;1,598 (70in)

Additional pens: pound;100

Stand: pound;260

Three-year return to base

Treat it as a standard whiteboard surface. Very durable

www.hitachisoft-eu.com

Tel: 020 8902 1286

Smartboard

Interactive whiteboard. Three models: 47in, 60in and 72in

Durable, low-reflection hard-coat surface

Allows fingertip control or use "Smart pens" supplied.

No batteries required

Wall-mount bracket included, Stand extra

SMART Notebook, Board driver, handwriting recognition software and free on-screen tutorial. Curriculum materials from resellers, eg BulletPoint

Presentations' Interactive Toolkit

Serial port (6.1m cable included) or USB

pound;749-pound;1,495 depending on model

Additional pens: pound;22 for replacement set of four pens

Stand: pound;320

Three years parts and labour

Free software updates

Use of finger to control software, Smart Pen Tray

www.smartboard.co.uk

Distributor Steljes: 020 8213 2100@Verdict Titles = InterWrite MeetingBoard

Interactive whiteboard50in and 70in (manufactured by GTCO CalComp)

High resolution (1,000 lines per inch) and very fast response

Unique, cordless pens

Batteries supplied

Wall mounted. Optional mobile stands

InterWrite drivers and annotation software. Available with Accurate's comprehensive LINX curriculum software tools

Serial and USB ports

pound;1,350 (50in) pound;1,495 (70in)

Additional pens: pound;119 each

Stand: pound;295

One year

Represents the latest generation of teaching and collaboration tools for education. Works well with the portable Interwrite Meeting Pad

www.accurate.plc.ukeducation Tel: 08700 750 7500@Verdict Titles = RM

Classboard

Interactive whiteboard50in and 70in (manufactured by GTCO CalComp)

High resolution (1,000 lines per inch) and very fast response

Unique, cordless pens

Batteries supplied

Wall mounted. Optional mobile stands

InterWrite drivers and annotation software. Bundled with RM's comprehensive

Easiteach Studio Curriculum subscriptions available (see review p25)

Serial and USB ports

50in pound;1,199 basic cost of board and software, 70in pound;1,449.

Bundled options available include projector and installation

Additional pens: pound;70

Stand: approx pound;199

Three years on-site for the board, two years return-to-base for the pen

Comes with software plus curriculum materials. Works well with Classpad

www.rm.com

Tel: 08709 200200@Verdict Titles = Mimio

"Clip-on" device which uses a combination of infrared and ultrasound technologies

Can work on standard dry-wipe boards up to 8ftx4ft

Battery powered, ultrasound pens

Batteries supplied

Portable, but mounting brackets included for permanent fixture

Drivers. Handwriting recognition and full annotation software

Uses serial and mouse ports, alternative USB port version available

pound;350

Additional pens: pound;25 each

Stand: NA

One year

Low cost and fully portable

www.mimio.com

Tel: 0870 458 3344

InterWrite MeetingPad

Interactive graphics tablet - 1,000 dots per inch resolution

(manufactured by GTCO CalComp)

Cordless electronic pad using three NiMh rechargeable batteries

Stylus with buttons attached to the pad by a cord

Batteries supplied

Fully portable

InterWrite drivers, including RAD Manager (links up to seven pads through radio transmission). Available with Accurate's comprehensive LINX curriculum software tools

Radio receiver uses USB port

pound;595

Additional pens: pound;89

One year

Low cost, totally mobile, puts interactivity in the hands of the learner. Works with any whiteboard

www.meetingpad.com

Tel: 08700 750 7500@Verdict Titles = RM Classpad

Interactive graphics tablet - 1,000 dots per inch resolution

(manufactured by GTCO CalComp)

Cordless electronic pad using three NiMh rechargeable batteries

Stylus with buttons attached to the pad by a cord

Batteries supplied

Fully portable

InterWrite drivers, including RAD Manager (links up to seven pads through radio transmission). Can be bundled with RM's comprehensive Easiteach

Studio curriculum software

Radio receiver uses USB port

pound;549 for Classpad with RF transmitter (only one needed for up to eight pads) and pound;499 for Classpad (no transmitter)

Additional pens: pound;70

Stand: NA

Two years return-to-base

Low cost, totally mobile, puts interactivity in the hands of the learner.

Works with any whiteboard.

www.rm.com

Tel: 08709 200200

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