Using a Wii Board & ActiveInspire software to demonstrate IWB's, at little cost.
In November I started working with a team of faculty members and technologists to learn about today's Interactive White Board offerings, and I've been posting a series of articles about our efforts. This week we reviewed what we have learned so far, and discussed how to move the process forward. An important next step is to demonstrate how an IWB works for our Department Chairs in their next meeting and make sure everyone understands the technology under consideration.
Over the summer I learned about this inexpensive “Wii board” technique for creating an interactive projection system that has some of the essential functionality of an IWB system, for very little cost. By coupling this with the free Personal version of ActiveInspire IWB software (from Promethean), we can demonstrate some of what these systems can do, for little upfront cost. It is also possible that this sort of inexpensive, portable tool may be perfectly adequate for some purposes (I would certainly consider using this for presentations from time to time if it works reasonably well).
Let's review of some important considerations that have come out of our work thus far:
Enhancing understanding and addressing misperceptions: Until they see the systems in use, it is likely that some teachers and administrators may be functioning under misperceptions about what an IWB can and cannot do, how they work, and options available in today's product offerings. So getting a good look at them was step one, and we got a great start on that with the sales presentations that we experienced and the research we did online. Demonstrating the functionality to our Department Chairs will incorporate them in the dialogue and decision making process.
If we build it, will they come? Once we all get up to speed on the functionality today's IWB's can offer, the fundamental question becomes, “How can instructors use these in meaningful ways in the classrooom, and will they?” These systems are not some sort of self-contained panacea of interactive learning. Instructors must be trained in their use. Getting the most out of these systems can require creating interactive lessons, which entails a further investment of time. What academic disciplines in our Higher Ed institution can gain the most from this, and which ones will not find it worth the effort?
Lesson Software: One of the most attractive features of these systems is the ability to create lessons in a software package designed for use with the system. This is time consuming – especially the initial learning curve. To ease the process, many of these software packages include templates and tools, and there is a growing body of shared lessons available for some of them via the Internet. Unfortunately, the heavy bias towards K-12 means that the offerings are slim for Higher Ed.
IWB's in Higher Ed vs. K-12: Why are these systems much more predominant in K-12 then in Higher Ed? One reason may be that IWB's are intended to increase interactivity and engagement, which has long been recognized as essential in K-12, but has not been as important in Higher Ed (although this has been changing in recent years). Another factor might be market based – public school districts provide a larger potential customer base than individual higher education institutions, so more effort has been focused there. If any readers have any other thoughts or information about this disparity, please comment and share!
“Mixing & Matching” tools: One of the more interesting things I've learned over these last few weeks is that it is possible to mix and match some of these products. You may be able to use one manufacturer's software with another's White Board, and use a third vendor's Response Devices, creating a “best of breed” solution (or just saving some $$ while providing desired functionality).
The Wii Board
As mentioned above, we are giving this a try, since it seems to be an easy, low cost way to learn more about this kind of tool in a hands-on fashion. Who knows, it may very well be a pretty handy little system – it certainly seems very portable. While this may not be as functional as a true IWB system, it takes so little to try it out. We picked up a Wii Remote, and we were setting this system up with a bluetooth-enabled notebook PC, but the cheap IR pen we were using broke almost immediately. We've ordered a better one, and I look forward to sharing our results here soon.
I recently downloaded this software, which works in a limited “Personal Version” mode if you don't actually own an ActiveBoard from Promethean (see this post to learn more about the Promothean product line). I've started working with it, and I'm quite interested in understanding just how much functionality this slimmed down version offers and it's potential utility independant of the ActiveBoard that it was originally designed to work with.
We will not be conducting this demonstration until January, so I'm going to divert from this topic for a few weeks, and sink my teeth into something else. I'm thinking about either Lesson Capture or online tutoring options as a topic to research and blog about for a few weeks, until I get back to our progress with the IWB effort. I always welcome reader input, so please drop a comment if anyone has any ideas or questions about either of these topics. Thanks!
Hello Readers! I will be presenting a Webinar with Campus Technology this coming Tuesday, December 8th at 2PM EST. We'll be discussing “Portal, LMS, & Alert Solutions: Best of Breed or Single Source“. Listen in and learn how we lowered costs while enhancing the delivery of these applications. Click here to register!