Here’s a quick round up for some of the things that caught my eye at this years BETT exhibition.
For interactive whiteboards, the big two; Smart and Promethean were there, as well as some new kids on the block.
The big news for Promethean whiteboard users is the launch of the new ActivSoftware Inspire edition. This is going to replace ActivPrimary and ActivStudio with a single product which will hopefully be less confusing. The software settings will let you view your work area as either Primary or Studio mode, and let you switch between the two easily if you so wish.
Activsoftware inspire will provide one platform across Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. Apparently the software is a complete rebuild from earlier versions of ActivStudio/ActivPrimary and as such they’ve taken into account the full range of other devices that will connect and communicate with the boards such as voting/response systems and future promethean developments. Multi touch is now incoporated into the software, and a firmware update will allow your promethean board to use two pens at the same time. You can even get a version to run on other whiteboards – very interesting if you’ve bought a cheap board and do not like the software that comes with it.
The preview version of Activsoftware Inspire Edition is available from Promethean Planet until 1st March 2009, after which the trial expires and you will be able to upgrade.
The Smart Table probably had the most useful resources on show for education purposes, whilst the Surface was still very much a “hey wow, look what this can do” blue sky demo at present. Both are very expensive, but the price should fall as they get mass produced. I’m still not totally convinced how useful they will be, especially as you could get 4 or 5 Smartboards for the price of a smart table, but as an emerging technology its pretty interesting.
Smart were showing off version 2 of the Senteo software to use with their senteo response systems. This is much improved from the last version – gone is the little flash window that sat on your page and Senteo now has its own tab on the sidebar of your Smart Notebook software. It gives much easier access to all the quiz control features. Reporting is much better, it will still export to Excel and you can even set up gradebooks and print whole reports on your class. Download v2 now from www.smarttech.com
In terms of alternative IWB platforms, Ebeam and Mimio were both at the exhibition showing off their portable whiteboard solutions. Ebeam have released a new version of their software which you can download from their website for free. Likewise the Mimio software is also available for download. If you use these and haven’t updated for a while, it’s always well worth getting the latest versions.
A new kid on the block was Clasus who are a portugese company producing a tough, hard induction whiteboards similar to the Promethean-type board which you can also write on with regular whiteboard pens if you so wish. It comes with A-migo software which looks like they’ve taken a long look at Smart Notebook and copied the features that make it very easy to use. The firm have yet to get a real foothold in the UK but they may be one to watch.
If you do have a whiteboard, and don’t like the software that comes with it then you might want to check out Word Wall. It’s a paid for piece of software, but it comes with a wide selection of game and puzzle templates that would work really well as lesson starters or plenaries. I wrote about them already after seeing them at the ASE the week before.
Other good things that caught my eye included Task Magic which lets teachers enter a block of text, or a selection of words and then produces up to 21 different interactive games/exercises based on the text that require students to interact with it in different ways. A great tool for making lesson starters and plenaries very quickly. You have to buy it, but it’s not too expensive.
If you have very young students then check out IBoard who provides interactive games for Infants (reception, yr 1, yr2) and also Q&D multimedia who also produce some lovely early years software. There will be an online version of their resources in April at http://www.busythings.co.uk/ so bookmark it and go back in the Spring.
And a final shout to 2 Simple software who have produced yet another brilliant piece of software in 2DIY. This lets you produce very simple flash games which can be exported to use on your IWB or onto the web. It’s aimed at KS1 (K-2) but other teachers may find it an easy way to produce quick resources.
For more information about all the exhibitors at BETT, then check out their website.
Finally, a big thank you to the organisers of the TeachMeet@Bett unconference that took place on the Friday evening of BETT. It was great to see so many great users of IT in on pl.ace sharing what they have been doing. Sorry I couldn’t have attended the pizza, but I had to get home.