It seems that both Promethean and SMART UK are listening to teachers as both have recently made considerable improvements to their interactive whiteboard software tools. These, by and large, reflect what we have been asking for during the past year. ACTIVstudio2 has been radically revamped for today's classroom, underlining the fact that this lesson development software is a key component of Promethean's "collaborative classroom environment". It builds on the features and functionality of the original software, but with additional tools and the incorporation of an advanced graphics engine and comes in two versions: "student" and "professional" catering for both teacher and pupil.
The package now features drag-and-drop objects and the ability to have more than one flipchart open, providing a truly flexible user interface. Objects moved by students and teachers during the lesson are always visible in movement, allowing pupils to participate in hands-on activities such as moving coins, sequencing objects, labelling images or eliminating the incorrect component by placing it in the new on-screen rubbish bin.
The new, colourful tool palette can be resized, used horizontally or vertically, and positioned anywhere on the ACTIV board for easy access by even the smallest child. ACTIVstudio2 has a vast selection of new tools in the "tool store" for teachers to use with pupils, such as the Reset button (whole screen undo feature) and Notes tool (for writing hidden notes).
I particularly like the fully functioning protractor, dice and ruler tools.
The Zoom tool now allows pupils to see precise details from anywhere in the classroom without losing quality.
SMART Board 9.0 also comes packed with new content and features. Highlights include a more intuitive interface, movable toolbars to give children better access to controls, simplified content management, enhanced drawing and text tools and much more.
In the new Start Centre you can drag and drop any frequently used software program on to this toolbar for instant access. The Notebook software has a more simplified, uncluttered interface, providing increased work space and easy-to-find features that are never more than two clicks away.
Teachers I have spoken to love the new simplicity and the fact that tools are always within reach for all users by moving toolbars to the bottom of the screen.
You can now use and store Flash files within the Notebook software. Version 9.0 includes curriculum-focused Flash content, such as rolling dice, a fraction maker and tools for teaching probability. There's improved access to clip art, background images, Flash files, animated GIFs and photos, and enhanced drawing tools help invigorate information with new connectors, colourful creative pens and dashed lines. SMART UK claims you can even use files saved from other whiteboard software and use them within the Notebook.
Don't forget there are more than 1,600 lesson activities freely available from www.EDCompass.com. I particularly like the new on-screen configurable keyboard where you switch between several styles of keyboard to suit your task. This is a real gem.
Version 9.0 also provides take-home privileges, giving all teachers and pupils access to SMART Board software features necessary to work on SMART Board files beyond the classroom. The improved magnifier, floating tools and recorder all add up to a substantially improved software toolkit.
Which one is best? If you ask Promethean users they will tell you that they love the fact that everything is in there (once you know how to access it).
SMART Board users will say that they love the simplicity and the short time it takes to get to grips with the board's software.
I am just pleased that both companies are listening to teachers and are responding accordingly with products which can only bring benefits to teaching and learning.
Promethean Stand B118 SMART UK Stand B512