10 August 2008

Interactive Whiteboard on the Cheap

Like many teachers, I work in a school that doesn't have extra money for tools like interactive whiteboards (in fact, I don't know if any school in my district has interactive whiteboards....). Probably the most well-known of these tools is from Smart Technologies, but there are others out there. There are at least two companies (Mimio and the e-Beam by Luidia) that have created gadgets that physically attach to your plain old whiteboard and, through the magic of Bluetooth or a USB connection, you get a nifty interactive whiteboard. The only problem is that even these tools start at $600+. Too much for my budget.

These tools do offer a wide range of features. I especially like e-Beam's ability to save presentations as a slideshow that can be viewed on any computer (so you can email it to absent students). What a great idea for math and science classes! Students can see problems being solved as they were done in class. The Mimio product even allows you to save handwritten notes on the whiteboard. I love all of these features, but still can't afford them.

A few months back, I found out that there are people out there looking for an extrememly low cost version of an interactive whiteboard. Johnny Chung Lee has created a basic interactive whiteboard. His video on the topic is informative and easy enough for me to follow. This tool does not allow you to create fancy slideshows or anything like that, but it does work. Don't let the messageboards at SourceForge.net scare you away. It's not as hard as it looked.

My husband found a cheap bluetooth dongle somewhere online (it was under $10). I got a used Wiimote at my local GameStop, where it turns out, a discount card gets you another 10% off the price of used equipment. The pen scared me so I searched the internet until I found one. Turns out that Amazon has a great little pen from Streamlight. Remember that the pen doesn't have visible light. I checked mine using my cell phone camera (a tip from the message boards).

The Blue Soleil software that came with the dongle was easy to install on my XP machine as was the .NET software from Microsoft. The most difficult part was getting the Wiimote into the proper position to see the board. I am still working on that one. I got it working temporarily, but need to get a more permanent solution. I'm thinking of trying to mount if from the ceiling.

Total cost for my Interactive Whiteboard on the Cheap? About $57. Can't beat that.