Over the past few days I have been trying out a now!Board. What is a now!Board you ask? Well, its a portable system that, when combined with a computer and projector you can turn any surface into an interactive space.
The folks over at Learning Resources sent me one to try out so I have been taking it around and trying it out in several types of situations.
First, here is their promotional video to give you a better idea about what we are dealing with.
So you can see the basic idea. The now!Board takes the idea of the Interactive Whiteboard and has made it portable.
Set-Up-This was super easy. Basically insert the disk and install the software. It works on both Mac and PC (no Linux version) and is a self installer. Once the installation is over you have the chance to watch some videos on setting up the hardware, software and how to use it overall.
Getting Acquainted And Orientation: This was a little tricky. Basically there are 3 parts. The sensor sits near the projector and it shines a laser towards the projected image. The receiver is what is used to actually control things. And then the software is what does all the hard work. The sensor has to be positioned just right towards the surface so that it registers with the receiver. Orientation is pretty straightforward. Point the laser at the surface and touch the receiver in the cross hairs and repeat 7 times. Easy.
Using The Software: You can use the now!Board both as an interactive mouse or as a whiteboard. There is software built in that provides a whiteboard surface and basic tools (pen, shapes, lines, etc). It isn't quite as advanced as a Promethean ActivBoard but it does provide a level of functionality that allows for some interactivity. You can also use the software with programs and apps already on your computer. If you can do it with a mouse you can do it with a now!Board.
With Kids: I was able to try it out with a group of kids, aged 7-9. They took to it pretty well and were naturals at using it. I also used it my 2 yr old daughter. She took a little practice with the wand but did a pretty good job. The key for me was to let them go and just explore. I gave them some simple instructions about how to use the hardware and that was about it. They just played. I asked them afterward what they thought. They said it was pretty cool and would like to have one in their classroom.
What I Didn't Like: There were a few things I didn't like about this set up. First, if the projector got bumped or if the sensor was moved you had to re-orientate the board. Now, depending on your situation and set up this might not be a problem. But I could see it being an issue some places. You also had to be very careful about how you held the receiver. For me, being left handed, it felt unnatural. And I had to change the way I use a board because of where my projector had to be in relation to the sensor.
At $499.00 it is a less expensive alternative to the mounted interactive whiteboard. And the ability to take it and set it up in virtually any space is appealing. I would recommend the now!Board for folks who want to add an element of interactivity to their classroom but can't afford the full IWB set up. This could be a great alternative.
(My good friend Nick, also reviewed the now!Board and you can read what he said here.)