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Best in Tech 2009: Interactive Classroom

Whiteboards and Beyond

By Ken Royal | September/October 2009

The interactive whiteboard (IWB) heralds the beginning of a bigger interactive education movement. Our reviewers weigh in on IWBs, which have become a necessary tool for educators wishing to bring classroom engagement, collaboration, assessment, and feedback to the next level.

 
Interactive Classroom, Part 1: Whiteboards
The best and most user-friendly whiteboard technology

QOMO HiteVision IWBs
Response:
Teachers were excited to learn how to use the boards, and to start using them with students. We’ve already seen an improvement in our test scores.
Learning Curve: We purchased two days of training when we bought the classroom setups.
Usage: Our teachers use the boards for every subject. I use my own board daily in the computer lab to record students.
Future Plans: We hope to add other technology, such as document cameras.
Cost: For 31 classroom setups: $110,000. —Shan D. Higginbotham

Promethean ActivBoard

Response: Very positive. Our superintendent now expects curriculum to be designed in a format that can be delivered using the ActivBoard.
Learning Curve: Implementation requires definite goals and common expectations. We implemented in four phases over three years. All teachers attend 12 hours of professional development.
Usage: In all of our 46 schools, teachers use the ActivClassroom as the integrated site for all other technology resources in the classroom. Students “share space” with their teachers, approaching the board, taking the pen, and teaching.
Future Plans: Our expectation is that teachers will continue to improve their design and delivery of effective flipchart curricula. We hope to upgrade to the dual pen, so that more than one student can interact with the board at a time.
Cost: Varies based on products chosen. —Sheri Alford

PolyVision eno
Response: Our staff has embraced the technology and new tools, developing and sharing best practices.
Learning Curve: The most novice user can interact with the board in less than 20 minutes. Teachers can integrate all classroom resources with a basic understanding of the Crestron control system. PolyVision’s eno has a lifetime warranty and open platform for software.
Usage: It doesn’t require an application to work—it’s driver-based with no cords or cables. The interactivity allows teachers to capture and reuse information, as well as collect and assess that information.
Cost: Varies based on the classroom solution. —Jim Wolff

eBeam Edge
Learning Curve: eBeam has great training and support teams with classroom experience. There are easy updates, expansions, and add-ons like clickers, tablets, and mics. Also, the components are easy to transport.
Usage: The eBeam Whiteboard lets us draw from multiple Internet resources to reach every child, customizing and contextualizing each lesson. Adding Luidia’s eBeam Inscribe wireless tablet eliminated most discipline distractions, because the teacher can walk around the classroom, checking in with students, instead of lecturing from the front. Students play interactive math games, and have lessons that include interactive notes. Throughout a class, segments of lessons can be recorded and uploaded for absent students, students who need review, and parents needing a refresher.
Future Plans: I have begun experimenting with distance learning for students with chronic absenteeism due to health or other issues. Through the use of Luidia’s eBeam Edge, Skype, a wireless microphone, and the student’s home computer, we can now reach students outside of the classroom. We have also begun using it for interschool communications.
Cost: Affordable. Contact company for pricing to fit your district’s needs. —Jeff Caswell

Hitachi StarBoard FX-77

Learning Curve: Support and professional development have been our key concern. Hitachi has been very receptive to our comments and we have a good collaboration process in place. Eliminating remotes and a software interface made everything simpler. Our unit is comprised of a multimedia cart, computer, document camera, wall-mounted LCD projector, and the StarBoard FX-77, which is controlled by a Crestron controller.
Usage: The elementary buildings use the StarBoards for math. We use them for taking attendance district-wide.
Future Plans: We will install StarBoards in over 100 classrooms. District trainers are creating lessons for our math
curriculum, and plan to create reading lessons next summer.
Cost: We utilized state contracts, volume pricing, and a specialized ESD 113 DigitalEdge purchasing coop. —Rick Rose

SMART Boards 680i2 and 680i3
Response: Lightbulbs went on for both teachers and administrators when they realized how this technology can engage students and help revamp curriculum.
Learning Curve: We rolled the SMART Boards out strategically to teachers who would begin using them immediately. Installing them in stages allowed us to develop our staff, so the first-round teachers were able to provide support and training, and to share lessons.
Usage: SMART Boards are in every classroom at Carlmont High School. Teachers participate in SMART Board user groups on campus.
Future Plans: We have adopted SMART Response systems, SMART’s Airliner wireless slate, and SMART Ideas software for concept mapping.
Cost: $2,959 for models 680i2 and 680i3, plus $269 for speakers. —Robert Fishtrom

Mimio Interactive Board
Response: Mimio is an easy-to-use and cost-effective interactive whiteboard choice for our district. The Mimio Connect community has provided another vehicle for online teacher collaboration.
Learning Curve: There is a variety of great training available through Mimio—face-to-face sessions, online videos and courses, and even the Mimio masters program. Mimio is easy to mount on dry-erase whiteboards.
Usage: We currently have 3,000 Mimios in classrooms. Each classroom is equipped with a ceiling-mounted projector, audio system, and doc camera.
Future Plans: As schools move toward addressing the needs of the next generation, we expect Mimio to be one of the tools supporting collaborative and engaging classroom instruction.
Cost: Under $500 per board. —Lindy George

Meet Our Reviewers
Seven experts, representing diverse districts across the country, balanced cost and function to find the right whiteboards for students and teachers.

Sheri Alford
Director, Educational Technology
Spring Branch Independent School District
Houston, Texas

Jeff Caswell
Seventh-Grade Math Teacher
Arlington Middle School
Arlington, Tennessee

Robert Fishtrom
Administrative Vice Principal
Carlmont High School
Belmont, California

Lindy George
Instructional Technology Specialist
Collier County Public Schools
Naples, Florida

Shan D. Higginbotham
Technology Coordinator
Jackson Intermediate School
Jackson, Alabama

Rick Rose
Director of Technology
Moses Lake School District 161
Moses Lake, Washington

Jim Wolff
Director, Information Technology
Tustin Unified School District
Tustin, California


Interactive Classroom Part 2: Digital Pens, Interactive Slates, and Response Systems
Going beyond the whiteboard

Our reviewers wanted to bring their districts closer to total interactive teaching and learning. Here’s a rundown of the gadgets they chose, and how they use them.
SMART AirLiner
Goal: To provide an interactive presentation experience without an interactive whiteboard.
Response: Teachers like the SMART AirLiner wireless slate because it brings the board to the student. It works well when students work in small groups for presentations or problem solving. The district loves the reasonable cost, and students like that it takes some pressure off being in the front of the class.
Learning Curve: The challenge for (adult) users is to get used to writing on the slate, away from the screen.
Usage: The AirLiner is like having a portable interactive whiteboard. It provides you with all the tools, features, and power of Notebook software in something that fits in a backpack. It’s a travel-size SMART Board with a rechargeable battery that will last about 30 hours.
Future Plans: Multiple AirLiners work at the same time. This could allow small groups to contribute simultaneously.
Cost: $399. —Christine Voigt

Qwizdom Q4 and Connect
Goal: To provide every teacher with a system that offers specific, immediate feedback.
Response: The classroom voting system allows assignments, quizzes, and tests to be scored efficiently. Teachers can make real-time decisions that positively affect student achievement.
Learning Curve: Qwizdom provided training that helped us develop in-house training materials.
Usage: All of our classrooms have Qwizdom Q4 remotes. The system delivers content, reinforces basic skills, and aids in assessment.
Future Plans: We will begin introducing Qwizdom Connect, which offers online resources.
Cost: $1,200 per classroom. —Rob Stratton

AVerMedia AVerPen
Goal: To engage all students in small group discussions, increasing communication skills.
Response: Students are engaged, because they want to use the AVerPens. Administrators like the fact that using the pens involves social, comprehension, and critical thinking skills.
Learning Curve: Training is needed to hook up the document camera, run the AVer+ software, and activate the pens. The pens, however, are very easy to install.
Usage: Students collaborate and problem-solve. Our school went green last year, and the pens have allowed us to save on paper.
Future Plans: To start teaching units with AVerPens, rather than just mini-lessons.
Cost: $699 for teacher pen, four student pens, and AVer+ software. —Breann Downey

QOMO HiteVision QRF 300 Audience Response System
Goal: To increase participation through tech.
Response: Students have piloted the system with very positive feedback.
Learning Curve: QOMO made personal visits to answer questions and explain the inner workings of the software.
Usage: I use the system as a PowerPoint lecture supplement so students can answer multiple-choice discussion questions and earn participation points.
Future Plans: We plan to make our classrooms paperless.
Cost: $1,200. —Mike Wolschleger 
 
Promethean ActivClassroom
Goal: To immerse the video game generation in multimedia lessons.
Response: From excitement and enthusiasm to apprehension.
Learning Curve: We have online learning modules and face-to-face instruction.
Usage: The ActivClassroom provides opportunities for authentic student interaction while instruction takes place.
Future Plans: Teachers will continue to develop their skill set to optimize learning.
Cost: Approximately $4,000 per classroom. —Joe Binswanger
 
Turning Technologies ResponseCard RF
Goal: To engage students in tracking their own progress toward proficiency; it’s a way to provide immediate feedback to students during daily review and preview.
Response: It helped our school become the highest-performing school in the Victor Elementary School District. Teachers enjoy having more time to plan instruction and to meet individual student needs.
Learning Curve: Teachers were using the software with ease after only a short in-service. The program is loaded and the response devices are programmed and ready to use within 15 minutes.
Usage: It is used in grades K–6 to implement daily review/preview and to check for understanding.
Future Plans: Continue to use the devices to dramatically influence pedagogy.
Cost: $695 for a 24-seat system. —Linda Mikels
 
MORE Interactive Choices
Renaissance 2Know! Learning Responders
2Know! responders transmit results wirelessly to a computer. They have two-way communication and a large screen that can display both questions and answers. Free content and easy-to-use software make it a good classroom choice. Teachers will love the toolbar, which is designed for surveys and quizzes on the fly. With the Pulse feature, educators immediately know what students understand before moving on.

eInstruction CPSPulse
CPSPulse Classroom Performance System keeps students engaged and encourages interaction, discussion, and participation—even among students who are usually silent in class. Educators can use the three-line display to capture real-time assessment data and differentiate instruction as needed. It’s great for any class size, grades 6 and up. CPSPulse works with CPS 6.0 or Response 6.0 software, and integrates with EXAMVIEW. The wireless device is plug and play, and has text and numeric entry for various question and answer choices.
 
Meet Our Reviewers
Six experts give their opinions on the interactive classroom options that are out there, and how they are best used in the classroom.

Joe Binswanger
Manager of School Support Services
Sarasota County Schools
Sarasota, Florida

Breann Downey
Fifth-Grade Teacher
Soaring Hawk Elementary
Castle Rock, Colorado

Linda Mikels
Principal
Sixth Street Prep School
Victorville, California

Rob Stratton
Technology Specialist
Gulf Elementary School
Cape Coral, Florida

Christine Voigt
Instructional Technology Coordinator/Teacher
Bishop Dunne Catholic School
Dallas, Texas

Mike Wolschleger
Law and Finance Instructor
Harrison High School
Farmington Hills, Michigan

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