A Smart Lunch

Today I had the pleasure of meeting the Market Development Manager from Steljes, who supply Smart Boards in Ireland. I was looking forward to this meeting because I like Smart Boards. I like the way you can use your finger to interact with the board. As far as I know, it’s the only board that allows this. However, some companies try to badmouth this with scaremongering and I was interested to see what they had to say. I also wanted to see what their plans were for their new version of Smart Notebook 10, which I’ve heard rumours about.

So, first up, prices. It looks like Smart are going to be as competitive as Promethean and be of similar price to them. I get the impression that if one company offers a price, you could probably get the other company to match it. Prices seem to be flexible to a point. I wasn’t told this at the meeting. I have heard from other teachers in the last couple of months who have suggested this.
Next is software. My mind has changed lots of times since I started on this voyage of Interactive Whiteboards. So, for me, I would say Promethean’s software is ahead of the rest by a long way. I asked would Notebook 10, (the next version of Smart’s software), match ActivStudio’s brilliance. The answer seems to be a resounding maybe.
The brilliant thing about it is that you will be able to save your work to a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). This means that you’ll be able to run it on any computer – not just ones with Smart Boards. The downside is that the interface still looks the same. I suggested that they look into making their product brighter, bolder and more child-friendly. The guy took this point quite seriously, so you never know!
Other cool things that they didn’t offer before include the ability to freedraw shapes and they automatically form into proper shapes. Promethean’s software has done this for a while so this is a good addition. It was certainly an issue that was brought up at my course in June and this will be welcome news to the Smart fans.
The guy from Smart also wanted to disprove all these myths about SmartBoards. I don’t think he needed to. But here are a couple of points which I agree with: 1. They are as hygenic as any board – the same dirty hands touch the pens as the whiteboard itself. 2. They are very durable and are getting more and more durable as time goes on.
So it looks like this year will be an interesting year for all IWB companies. The portable boards are no longer much cheaper than the permanent solutions and prices seem to be about the same for all companies. I think this year will be all about the best software, the best support service and the best “cool” gadgets.
Where do I stand? My ideal Interactive Whiteboard would be a SMARTboard with Promethean software. If SMART do change their interface to be more cartoon-like and kiddie-friendly, then it would be SMART all the way.

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