This is my staff development of the summer, which is a two day class covering a piece of software by Promethean called ActivInspire. ActivIsnpire is the latest software that is utilized with the Promethean Activboard. I’ll write a bit more about the whiteboard itself in a minute, but the class itself was mostly about using the ActiveInspire software.
The software is a really nifty package, filled with a lot of tools and features that a teacher can use to present content from the front of the class. There are some good drawing tools as well as some good interactive lessons. It is graphically and visually rich which may or may not work with my students. My SID/PID students, that is. Let’s face it: my kids are the ultimate in testing for relevance and flexibility and accessibility. I explored around and there are a variety of activities appropriate for k-12. But it might be difficult to bridge the huge gap between where my kids are (never more than 36 months) to where NCLB is requiring (no less than 14 years) so it might be difficult to actually use it. The good news is that it looks like this would work with my Wimote setup.
But this is also the depressing thing. Our school district is ordering tons of the active whiteboards at no less that $2000 each. I can do the exact same thing for less than $100. So can you, and you can do it easily and painlessly by checking out the folks at Penteractive. The Promethean pens, which don’t even contain a battery, cost over $100! (See Mark’s comment below) My IR pen was about $8.
The Wii setup might be somewhat inferior to the Promethean whiteboard. But how inferior is it? Is it 20 times worse? And I’m not convinced that the Wiimote solution is inferior at all. Consider that the Promethean board can not be used as a dry erase board or anything else whereas the Wiimote can work on any flat surface. So why aren’t more schools using this inexpensive and versatile technology? The only thing I can guess is because it looks too geeky. But it’s really not even as difficult as the Promethean board. In fact, it is actually tons easier because there isn’t anything that needs to be bolted or installed on the wall. Penteractive is actually offering support for their kits and at much less than the other commercial products.
If you are looking for an interactive whiteboard, I highly recommend investing in the Wiimote setup. At the very least, it costs so little that it is worth it just to try it out. What you may discover is that you don’t have a lot of use for a whiteboard or that you need more training or that you need more or better software to take full advantage of it. If the technology changes (and it will) the schools are not out $thousands$ per classroom but only hundreds tops. With the availability of the hardware and software, it just looks irresponsible sinking money into technology that will be obsolete in a short amount of time.
Supposing the whiteboard technology is replaced by 1:1 netbooks or smartphones, or it gets abandoned for some reason. The bluetooth and the wiimote can still be used for other things. What happens to an obsolete or broken Promethean board? Could they be used for something else? How easy will it be to dispose of or recycle them?
We are often so anxious to move the new technology into classrooms we give no thought to what happens when it is time to upgrade, replace and move the stuff out. At the least, the Wiimote offers multitouch for less than a single pen from Promethean $100 and offers more versatility.
Having said all of that, the ActivInspire software is pretty good and worth a look. Promethean offers a lot of good support for it and there is lots of premade materials being generated by other teachers all the time. My advice is to invest in the software, but not the boards which are large, bulky and expensive. For what they are charging you could get a lot more interactivity and interest from the full Wiifit game, laptop plus projector and still have money leftover.