I put another $50 interactive whiteboard in another teacher’s hands recently. Ivan primarily teaches in the ESL composition program at Ohio State. After doing the mandatory “hi” in MS Paint, Ivan began asking some really interesting questions. He wants to be able to interact with longer texts. For example, he would like to show an example paragraph from a student’s composition to the class and then mark it up as he would a paper: crossing things out, drawing arrows, highlighting key points, etc. Essentially, Ivan would have liked to make the background of the Paint program transparent so that he could draw or write on his text.
I know that Smart Technologies (makers of Smart Boards) have proprietary software that can do this. The Smart application, from what I know, also has a text-capture component which converts your handwriting into text that can be imported into another application. I assumed that we were discovering where our $50 version came up short.
But, as we were poking around within PowerPoint, we discovered that it is possible to change the pointer into a pen so that you can draw on your slides. So, PowerPoint already has a feature that converts your mouse into a pen and we have a device that converts a pen into your mouse. Our excitement at this prospect must have been akin to the first person to drop a bar of chocolate into a jar of peanut butter. We could use the infrared pen to write on the slides!
Ivan was pretty excited, as you can see from the second photo. His version of PowerPoint has options for pen, marker, and highlighter. Mine only has the pen. Peter (ESL Tech Support) tells me that not all versions have this feature, or some components may have to be installed the first time you try it, but it’s worth exploring because this is an interesting way to interact with the text.
Ivan also discovered that his laptop has tablet-PC software installed, which may include some text-capture features. I’ll post his findings as they are made and as we keep discovering new uses for this technology.