The first thing that you notice about the new software from Promethean is that whoever created it actually watched young children trying to use a whiteboard. One school I saw recently had a little stool in front of the board so that children could stand on it to reach the top! Promethean has simply put all the tools children are likely to need at the bottom of the board (review p 48).
Promethean has also co-sponsored a review project and will launch a free CD, entitled The Good Guide to Whiteboards, at BETT 2004.
Smart's latest whiteboard - the SMART Board 200i - is one from the future.
At the top end of the market, it has removed many of the disadvantages traditionally associated with whiteboards and improved the image. You can adjust the height; it does not have to be fixed. Because it uses back projection you can avoid projector dazzle and shadow, and spend much more time facing the class.
The big innovation is having four tiny video cameras, one in each corner, that track any movement on the board. This leads to greater accuracy and less frustration.
The software is improved too. However, the best news of all is ' that Smart has slashed the price by pound;2,000 to pound;5,995.
RM has the ClassBoard that, combined with the new wireless projector, can deliver real-time projection from a PC, notebook or Tablet PC, allowing teachers and pupils the freedom to move around the room. When combined with a Tablet PC teachers can share control of lessons with pupils.
RM's ClassPad increases interactivity: students have the capability to control what appears on the screen without ever leaving their seats. That's because it's a wireless digital Tablet, linked to the computer that's connected to the projector - even the least confident or shy student can easily get involved in the lesson.
Interactive Education emphasises the size of its board (77-inches across the diagonal) - the largest in the world is the claim - and it's also high-quality (1,000 dots per inch). The software has recently been upgraded and existing users can download it from the website.
Fancy some free whiteboard software? The Interactive Whiteboard Company plans to give it away. Lesson PlaniT is a control and annotation package that will work on any board. The program is easy to use and comes with 6,000 items of clipart. You will be able to register for the software on the stand (Q40).
Polyvision makes some remarkable claims for its boards. If you are in the market for a new board go to the stand and see if the claims have substance. Software that will produce graph paper, music scores and remote conferencing is a feature of the Hitachi Cambridge board. The distributors also claim that the board works at speed with no delays when you write or draw quickly.
Whiteboards on their own are of little use. Espresso has multimedia content that comes alive on a whiteboard. The media-rich content grows every week and this year Espresso will be adding a text reader and that means that most of the text on the site can be read back to a user. The Pearson Knowledge Box will also be on show. Well-off schools might be able to afford both, others will have to choose. BETT is a great time to make the comparison.
RM has a range of software tools and subject-specific software for whiteboards. Maths Alive, ICT Alive, Easiteach Studio, Easiteach Maths and Easiteach Literacy, can all be found hard at work in many classrooms. Watch out for the newcomers, Easiteach Science and Easiteach Games.
Finally, the Classroom Performance System won one of the BETT awards last year. It is a great adjunct to a board. Each student has a keypad to press in response to the teacher's questions as they appear on the screen. Their responses are recorded and the feedback is immediate. Eventually the results can be evaluated so that the teacher can tell how well the lesson or concept has been absorbed and which individuals require extra assistance. Marking is done in the blink of an eye and everyone is on task.