Monday, 30 May 2011

Pure Luxury in the Classroom

Some of us have been lucky enough, occasionally, to experience pure luxury: the smell of soft leather in a new limousine; the service on board an aircraft when unexpectedly upgraded to Business class; the comfort of a 5-star boutique hotel; or the mouth-watering delights of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Every once in a while we can get to appreciate what luxury looks and feels like, and this is exactly what I experienced when I picked up and used the Mobi View wireless slate for the first time at BETT. An overstatement? Not at all. Now I have been able to take the device for a full test drive I appreciate just how far wireless slate technology has developed since the very first one landed in London for us to try out more than ten years ago, and incidentally made by the very same people as the new Mobi View. The look and the feel of the Mobi View oozes luxury and quality in every way.

What really sets this slate apart from the competition is the embedded touch screen, about the size of an iPhone screen which you can use to type with, as it has a on-screen keyboard just like you would find on many smart phones. Not only that though, there are icons for controlling the slate functions and for launching web sites, files and applications. This means that you can move the lesson forward from anywhere in the classroom. There is no need to stand in front of the screen as you would with a conventional interactive whiteboard, or return to the computer at the front of the classrooms in order to switch from, say, annotating an object on the visualiser, to launching and running a video, to typing a password (without anyone else seeing either the keyboard, or what keys are being pressed).

The Mobi View is very easy to set up and connects seamlessly, and very quickly, to a USB dongle placed in the computer. The battery charge seems to last forever, and ingeniously the special pen charges whenever it is placed in the slate, regardless of whether the slate itself is plugged in. Several slates can be connected at once, so the teacher can keep hold of one, and have one or more others being passed around the classroom.

The software which is bundled withe the slate seems to combine the best features found in many other similar programs. A single touch of the pen and you can annotate any screen such as a web site, a presentation or an image from the visualiser, and save these screens for future use, as one would expect. The 'whiteboard' software has all the content creation tools you would need, and content and screen annotations can be saved in a wide range of formats, including PowerPoint, JPG or PDF, as well as the native GWB format.

The slate comes with a base unit rather like the base of a cordless kettle. You just drop the slate down on the base and it starts charging straight away. However, you can also plug it in directly to a mains charger with the USB lead.

I have long believed that wireless slates are much better classroom tools than interactive whiteboards. After all, they do everything a whiteboard can do, and much more besides. But for typing you also either had to have a wireless keyboard, or you had to use the pop-up on-screen keyboard where everyone can see what you are typing and which obliterates whatever was on the screen before. The built in touch screen display on the Mobi View gets around all of that. It means that when the device is passed around the class, pupils can do more than just point, drag and click, they can type too in a way they will already be familiar with.

The Mobi View is being marketed as a mobile interactive whiteboard, and of course this is exactly what it is. It gives you interactivity anywhere in the classroom and empowers the teachers and the learners, rather than just empowering the classroom wall.

Why shouldn't teachers be given the best tools? And why not a taste of pure luxury? In my last post I argued that in these tight times every penny spent on ICT has to count more than it did it the days of plenty. A projector, big screen and wireless interactive slate in every classroom does make a difference, as we saw in the ICT Test Bed Project. Add a visualiser to the mix and you have a truly value for money teacher and learner productivity kit.

Share this article on Twitter

Mobi View website