The light fantastic

eBeam

Clip-on whiteboard

Counterpoint

Tel: 01903 539922

eBeam System 3 Serial - pound;495

eBeam System 3 USB - pound;539

Fitness for purpose ****

Ease of use ****

Features ****

Quality ****

Value for money *****

Interactive whiteboards are at the top of many schools' shopping lists. "But they are expensive!" is the usual retort. The eBeam is not particularly expensive and anyone contemplating buying should consider this.

Why is it so cheap? You can use any whiteboard, even a flat white surface - just attach the eBeam's suction pad to the top corner of the surface. That device is linked by a 15ft lead to your computer via the USB port. You install the software on the laptop. There are marker-pen sleeves and into those you insert conventional marker pens that are supplied. They come in four colours: red, green, blue and black.

The sleeves also contain small batteries (supplied), and when loaded with markers will both draw on the board and communicate via the eBeam to your computer. When writing or drawing with an eBeam marker it triggers the emitters and the receiver begins tracking movement. The eBeam software digitally recreates every stroke of the marker on the whiteboard in real time. Just in case, the system includes an eBeam eraser that removes error marks from both the whiteboard and the computer. You can have plenty of space - the eBeam System 3 can track a whiteboard area of up to 6ftx4ft.

Whatever is written on the board will appear on the computer screen and can be saved in a wide variety of formats (PDF, HTML, JPG, GIF, BMP). In effect, you have a flipchart with an infinite number of pages. You don't have to tear the pages off to keep them; they are stored in the computer. Thus notes and ideas can be printed and given to students as the lesson ends, electronically via email or stored as web pages. Students can concentrate on what is being said rather than taking notes.

The pen-tracking ability is good. The claim is that it is accurate to 1mm (+- 1mm) and it is excellent at capturing text and drawings.

The software will also allow for stroke-by-stroke playback of every drawing, and you can share the whiteboard over your network or Internet. There is a free Internet server, so no additional software is needed. Best of all, it is very portable (you can carry it with your laptop - only about 2lbs) and it is MacPC compatible.

That's not all. If you link the eBeam with a digital projector, you can turn a whiteboard into an interactive desktop and one of the pens into an eBeam Mouse. When you project the Windows desktop on to the whiteboard, the eBeam Mouse operates with full click-and-drag capabilities. Unfortunately, this aspect is not Mac compatible.

This is a remarkable device. Used without the projector, you can create on a large area and to save everything. Used with a projector you get a device that can enable you to interact with a Windows desktop - a good presentation tool.

There will almost certainly be a place for this in your school. You need to see it for yourself and compare it with other whiteboard methods. You could find it is all you need.

Jack Kenny

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