The yearly BETT Educational IT trade show had some fantastic insights into the products and trends that will be big in ICT this year.
As always, SMART had some really innovative audio-visual gadgets on display.
Perhaps the most exciting of these was the LightRaise 60wi interactive projector.
These days, almost every school in the country has an Interactive Whiteboard and projector. These have now become the main teaching tool in the classroom in which teachers base their lessons around. Now the interactive projector has arrived and is looking like being the biggest step forward in AV technology in schools since the interactive whiteboard come on the scene.
Instead of a projector to project images and an interactive whiteboard to handle touch, the interactive projector handles everything. So no more whiteboard! The interactive whiteboard can project straight onto a white wall or a standard dry-wipe board and is still interactive! SMART previewed an earlier prototype of this product last year called a 40wi but it could only be used with a single pen. The new LightRaise 60wi not only supports dual-touch but the pen is no longer compulsory – finger touch now works too.
Using a finger touch to control a mouse cursor and move objects around on a plain wall is very cool indeed and undoubtedly will inspire pupils and teachers alike. The fact that the LightRaise system does away with the whiteboard is also a massive selling point for education – that’s one less thing to go wrong.
The LightRaise 60wi is due for a April 2013 release.
SMART also previewed their new SMART Table 442i.
These comprise of a touch enabled 42″ screen that comes with a cut down version of SMART Notebook. The idea being that this product is a more social tool, where a number of pupils can sit round the table and work together. This makes it ideal for the primary school market.
It is also wifi enabled to allow access to SMART’s online resources and for content to be sent between the table and a SMARTBoard.
So far so good. The only downside is the price. The SMART Table 442i’s predecessor was priced around £5000 and the 442i looks to cost around the same figure. Whether this will resign the SMART Table to be more of a classroom luxury rather than necessity remains to be seen.
If you have bought into SMART’s ecosystem with their various products, another one worth considering is the SMART Document Camera. This is SMART’s take on the visualiser and of course, integrates fully with the various models of SMARTBoard’s so its easy to show images up on the board and manipulate these.
The camera is an impressive 5MP, allowing for decent quality still images and HD video recording.
A new iteration of SMART Notebook is due for full release in Summer 2013 (currently in beta).
The big advantage of this release is full Windows 8 compatibility. This is a very exciting prospect considering how touch-oriented Windows 8 is. We are certainly looking forward to using a Windows 8 laptop on a SMARTBoard with the latest Notebook software.
SMART have also made some huge steps forward to allow viewing Notebook files on a number of different devices.
iPad users can now download the new SMART Notebook App from the App store.
For other devices such as smartphones, SMART have developed SMART Notebook for web. Simply browse to the smartnotebook.com site and open Notebook files right in your browser window!
Windows and Mac users can also download the free SMART Notebook Viewer.
Finally from SMART, comes the XC (Extreme Collaboration) tool.
This was one that we were particularly impressed with. XC is an add-on to SMART Notebook that allows anyone with an internet enabled device (iPhone, iPad, laptop) to interact with a SMARTBoard. Text and images can be sent straight to Notebook at the press of a button. This is very useful for creating interactive lessons and getting pupils involved with real-time surveys.
Many schools have voting systems such as ActiVote or SMART response, which can be very expensive for one per pupil. Now, the same functionality can be achieved for free using devices that are readily available in most schools like tablets, laptops or phones. Plus, pupils are already accustomed to these devices so it is even easier for them to contribute. Impressive stuff.
If any of these products are of interest, have a look at the following videos. Each is very short (around a minute long) and provides a great overview of how the products work.