As stated in a previous post, the decision has been made to move forward with an ambitious plan to implement over 500 Polyvision eno interactive whiteboards.
This decision was not arrived at without much contemplation and evaluation. Other whiteboards were considered and thoroughly researched and tested. Boards from Promethean, Hitatchi, Mimio and 3M, among others, were also researched. The decision not to go with products from one of these manufacturers is in no way meant to reflect a bad experience with any of the products researched and tested. In fact, with little exception, all of the boards tested performed extremely well. Instead, the decision is based solely upon the strengths of eno.
Aside from the incredible durability factor of the eno, there are a number of other very impressive features. For starters, through its unique design, the eno interactive whiteboard contains no electronics components. This leaves no room for mechanical failures. As the Polyvision representatives were quick to point out, if (they say “if” because the product is new and therefore doesn’t have a track record) there should ever be any problems, the board and stylus can be swapped out separately. Again, the boards come with an unprecedented “lifetime warranty.”
The eno package includes the board and a teacher’s kit. The kit contains a bluetooth dongle and a stylus, along with replacement stylus points and batteries. The stylus, or more precisely, the pen, is by far the best of all that were sampled. Using this pen is more like writing with a pen on paper, than any of the devices from other manufacturers. Unlike other packages, the eno does not smear a line across the board when the outside of your hand leans against the board while writing, which happens quite frequently. Children will also feel more comfortable with this pen because using it more closely resembles holding the pen as they are taught to write with pen or pencil on paper, when first learning to write.
The software that comes with the eno is RM Easiteach software from RM Education. Armed with this software and the online resources that go along with it, a teacher can bring the classroom to life. To further prepare teachers, the Professional Developers from Polyvision are available to help. Arguments can be made that the “notebook” software from SMART is more readily identified as the industry standard. Polyvision reps will counter that the notebook software does work with the eno. They are correct. It does work, but at this time it does not offer the same Flash component functionality.
Often when teachers are told they are the lucky recipient of a new interactive whiteboard for their classroom, they inevitably bemoan that they do not want to lose valuable chalk board space. Fear not! The eno can be written on regularly with dry erase markers. Other boards make the same claim but come up short in this area. Often dry erase markers will leave behind a residue that can even permanently stain the boards.
For all the wonderful things uncovered about the eno in testing, this package is not without some issues of its own. As mentioned earlier, there are some software issues that will likely be improved as time goes on. While the ceramic design and lack of electronics in the board provide durability, they also prevent interaction without the stylus. A teacher or student cannot simply use their finger to work with the board. This is more of an issue in the primary grades.
There is also some concern about the battery life of the stylus. Further, since the stylus is integral and extremely portable, there is an obvious concern about loss or theft.
While the eno presents a solid new approach to interactive whiteboards, much remains to be seen about how successful this product will be.
I am am moving directly into unchartered territory. While many schools these days are content with the wonders of the SMART brand Interactive whiteboards from Smart Technologies, I am instead going to be working with the new eno interactive whiteboards from Polyvision.
SMART brand boards have become the industry standard. Often people will refer to any brand of interactive board as “Smart”, simply because the brand name has taken hold in much the same way tissues are often referred to as “Kleenex.”
I have taken a very close look at the SMART brand boards and found them to be outstanding. They are covered in a soft membrane making them sensitive to the touch of the hand. This is especially attractive in early elementary classrooms. In addition, the wealth of online resourced about and for the SMART brand boards is quite impressive. Teachers love them. Kids love them. Administrators love them. So why not go with them?
In a word, durability! I am anticipating integrating up to 500 interactive boards throughout 11 buildings (pre-K – 12.) The eno boards are the most durable material I have found. They are guaranteed for life. This is huge when you are talking about implementing as many boards as I am.
more to come…
The decision has been made to allow 800+ teachers throughout the district to create their own personalized web pages using Google Sites. A PDP was provided at each building. Following the brief overview of Google Sites for all building teachers during the 30 minute PDP, a staff developer stayed in each building for the remainder of the day.
Ideally, teachers could work with the staff developer during their free time throughout the day, such as prep periods, lunch, etc. Usually in small groups, the staff developer was able to help teachers access our Google Partner Page, login for the first time and change their password.
Teachers were then provided an opportunity to create their own “site(s).” This is where things got a little tricky. A main landing page was envisioned, where anyone looking for a teacher web page could go. From this landing page, a viewer could navigate to a particular building’s site, drill down to the appropriate grade level or subject and then down to a particular teacher’s site.
This design works well as long as teachers are aware of precisely where in the overall structure, they need to place their site to begin with. Another issue that cam up is rights…making sure each teacher has sufficient rights to create their page in the appropriate location, without having the ability to modify other pages (unintentionally or otherwise.) More to follow…
I have recently become very interested in Google Apps Education Edition. Google Apps Education Edition is the free version for schools of Google Apps Premiere Edition.
Included are free email, messaging, and shared calendars for all staff and students (if desired), with no advertising. Included collaboration tools enable real-time and access to documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and sites from anywhere, on any device. Any device, refers to any device with an Internet connection and web browser, which may provide a low-cost options for classroom computing using such devices as, dare I say, mobile phones. More on this prospect at another time.
Teachers can now access/create/edit their own web pages from any where, at any time of day.
Also appealing is the potential to reduce school IT infrastructure costs since all apps are hosted on Google’s servers. No more upgrades/patches. No more increasing memory. No annual license fees. Web-based apps also means no more client maintenance costs. Everything is accessed via a web browser.
While this all appears to be great, there are some issues that I am still working on. The biggest issue is overcoming the confusion of private (district) Google accounts vs. public Google accounts.
1000 teachers and staff accounts. 8600 student accounts. 11 schools and a district office. Stay tuned…