Interactive Whiteboards on a Budget

By Eric Antuna on December 17, 2009

If your school is like mine your teacher budgets have been slashed, general funds are dwindling, and classrooms are brimming with students near capacity. The thought of a interactive whiteboard just makes you shudder when you think of the cost. However, here's a simple, cost effective solution for a classroom whiteboard that helps me reach more students and actively engage them in learning.

I have been interested in using an interactive whiteboard in my classroom, but always shied away from asking for one because of the exorbitant cost for one piece of equipment. I heard about the Wiimote Whiteboard sometime last year and then was reminded by Megan Power's post here.

I began to research a few things about the Wiimote Whiteboard application, first created by Johnny Lee. In addition to a Wiimote, I learned that I needed an infrared pen. I began to scour the internet for infrared pens (after few failed attempts at trying to create a homemade one!) and found a VERY inexpensive one at http://penteractive.us/ that cost only $8!  So, I set out to create an interactive board system in my classroom and have found it to be amazingly effective and low cost!  

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Here are the basic things that you would need to get started:

1. Download the Mac version or the PC version of Wiimote Whiteboard

2. A desktop computer or laptop with Bluetooth capabilities (if yours doesn't have Bluetooth, you can purchase one for $8 here)

3. A Wiimote (GameStop sells a red one for $29.99 I use this one in my classroom)

4. An infrared pen (Penteractive sells one for $8)

5. A digital projector (You can find digital projectors for as low as $200)

I purchased the following extras to make the whiteboard easier to use in my classroom:

6. Wiimote ceiling bracket ($24 from Penteractive).

7. USB powered battery charger for the Wiimote ($12 from Penteractive).

8. Wiimote Versiclamp ($10 from Penteractive).

With these extra components, the Wiimote is out of the reach of being moved by accident through teacher or student movement (you'll get countless questions about whether you have a Wii or not), and the batteries in the remote will never need to be charged.

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After downloading the program, be sure that your Bluetooth is enabled, launch the program and follow the on screen directions. You will need to start the Wiimote by pressing buttons 1 and 2. Note that you will NOT need the actual Wii to run this program. After you connect the Wiimote to the computer via Bluetooth (it may take a few times to get it to connect to your computer, but don't give up!), you'll need to put it in a place where it can "see" the whiteboard. Mine is just to the right of the board, hanging from the ceiling using the ceiling bracket. After that, you'll need to calibrate the program using your infrared pen (note: you cannot see infrared light, to test if your pen is working, shine your pen light into a digital camera and click to see if the light turns on and off).  After that, you'll have a great, low cost interactive whiteboard to help you engage your students!


You can download eBeam's software for free from http://www.luidia.com/downloads.html and use it as you would a normal interactive whiteboard - it works fabulous!


Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, please post them here as others may have similar ideas to share.


Happy Holidays!


Comments

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Following you ally the Wiimote to the calculator way Bluetooth (it might remove a handful periods to acquire it to link to your machine, only don't provide up!), you'll demand to put it in a arrange where it can "understand" the whiteboard. freedebtconsolidationquotes.com

I love my Wii SmoothBoard! It is a well worth the time it takes to get the equipment set up! My kindergarteners love it!! I teach Shared reading, phonics and math everyday with it. I know that my kids are more engaged and are learning so much. It is awesome and so inexpensive compared to a Smart board. I love it!!!

Bretta-

GREAT JOB! Thanks for the comment! Keep up the great work!

-Eric

I have the set up and use it with my third graders. My pen that I use is from the website infrawow.com . It is sturdy and easy to use for little kids. For only $20 , and it uses AAA batteries. The website also offers other components and a ceiling projector mount.

Judy-

Thanks for sharing!

-Eric

Wow! What a great idea! My grade level is thinking about doing this. Did you run into any problems with yours that we should know about? Do you have any other tips that would help us? Thank you!

Jenny-

So glad that you're getting started! Just remember it is not bug free. There will be times when you need to sync and re-sync the WiiMote and the computer. I have found it to be working very well lately (say, in the past month, I had to do that about 3 times). Also, having a place where things are always setup (away from prying hands!) makes it easy to just come in, sync, and get started.

Good Luck! Let me know if you have any problems!

-Eric

Eric,

Thanks for the great information. I have my IWB up and running and can't wait to show it off to my principal and colleagues.

Gini-

Thanks for the comment! Please let me know how it goes!

-Eric

I have this in my room,also, but I have downloaded Boon Jin's Smoothboard software at smoothboard.net. It adds functionality to the wiimote whiteboard.

I use a microphone stand and a usb attached wiimote so that it has continual power. I point it directly in front of my projector, which is on a cart. It works great this way. I also purchased "the sword" - an IR pen that looks like a light saber so that it can be used as a pointer and I'm not blocking the screen. You can find it on Ebay.

Also, if you are having bluetooth issues, download bluesoleil's latest software. You only have to download the free version - it's all you'll need.

Regarding smartboard documents, if you download Promethean's software called Activinspire, you can have it for personal use (even says so on the agreement) and it can read smart documents. It gives you more tools, also!

If you have anymore questions, please feel free to contact me at lmoon@teh.k12.ca.us

Laura-

Thanks for all the GREAT tips! Just FYI for Apple users: smoothboard.net's software is only for Windows-based PCs.

Thanks!!

-Eric

I am very interested in creating this IWB in my class. Am I able to use regular programs interactively like Word and PowerPoint or just certain online programs?

Hello Gini-

Yes, you can use all program, especially PowerPoint. This will act as a virtual mouse, so what ever your mouse can do, this can do. If you have Mac OS 10.6 you there is an onscreen keyboard for those sites where you need a keyboard. I'm sure that Windows has available onscreen keyboards as well.

Let me know how it goes!

-Eric

I was wondering if any of the whiteboard programs work on this. Like I hear that you can get smartboard lessons online. Will these work on this kind of whiteboard?

Jen-

Great question! I have not been able to successfully download the SMARTboard software as I don't have a purchase key, but I did find this software from eBeam that works with the WiiMote Whiteboard as if it is using their board:

http://www.luidia.com/downloads.html

So to answer your question: yes, you can use certain software with the program, but not all. The lessons you find online will only work with that particular software- so for example, if you have a SMARTboard program file, you'll need the SMARTboard software.

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have more questions!

-Eric

Eric,

Thanks for the tip. My "mirror displays" was checked. I tried unchecking and checking again -- oddly enough it worked (though it took several tries to get it through all four points). Then I tried using it, and it was way off -- in differing amounts and directions depending on which part of the screen I was working with.

Very frustrating -- I've seen it in action and it worked great!

Gayle

Gayle-

I'm so sorry it's so frustrating! In my room, the WiiMote is off to the right side so that it can "see" the entire board - the infrared grid needs to see the infrared beam from the pen, so I tell my students that the eye needs to see what they are doing. The little screen in the application shows where the camera is picking up the infrared light, so test it out and see where on the screen the WiiMote is picking up the infrared beam. Keep at it! It's a great tool to have!!!

Let me know how it goes!

Eric

Everything seems to be working for me, but I can't calibrate. Nothing happens at all. Any ideas?

Hi Gayle-

Are you using a Mac or PC? Make sure the settings are such that you mirroring your screen and not using it as if you have two monitors. If you have a Mac, make sure your projector is connected and turned on. go to System Preferences > Display > Arrangement > and make sure "Mirror Displays" is checked. PC steps are not as user friendly to me, I'll research on a desktop PC and see how it goes, if you have a laptop it will depend on the particular brand of laptop, but usually hitting "FN" "F7" will help get the screens together and allow the program to calibrate.

Hope this helps! Let me know how it goes!

-Eric

Glad to hear that everything is working well in your classroom Eric. Have you had good success with the MadCatz remote on a daily basis using the Mac software?

Hi John,

Thanks for the comment! Actually, the remote has worked VERY well with the software - better than the official remote. However, I cannot say the same for my colleague who has not been able to connect to it consistently, but I do believe he has a software issue, the program won't open at all.

Thanks, again!

-Eric

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