There are several types of digital blackboards available on the market
today. Smartboard (Smarttech 2004) and Polyvison (Polyvision 2004) offer
the most expensive and best solutions for delivering distance education.
The main reason for this is that they don’t use a transmitter in
the pen to detect the position on the blackboard. Other producers use
solutions where the pen contains a small radio transmitter, which transmit
the signal when the pen is pressed against the blackboard. This is from
a technical point of view a solution that works. However, it is hard to
obtain efficient use in a distance-learning course, which is going to
use the technology for many hours. A pen that carry a transmitter has
one-week point, it transmits the signal even though the tip is pressed
by accident in the teaching process, i.e. when it is not on the blackboard.
The teacher will not get any information of this mistake, which he certainly
do as most teachers find it most time efficient to hold several pens in
their left hand, when writing with their right one. They don’t get
any feedback about these errors unless their system offers feedback from
a video canon. Once this has happened a couple of times, the teacher start
focusing very hard on obtaining a careful writing process instead of keeping
his focus on pedagogical and professional aspects.
Unfortunately, the software of the digital blackboards are currently
not at all interoperable, whereby it is not possible to reuse material
from one course into another course which don’t have access to the
same type of digital blackboard. This is a serious problem, which haven’t
been understood by the producing companies.
It is quite easy to communicate
a presentation made on a digital blackboard by using application sharing.
Both Bridgit, which is produced by Smarttech, and WebEX offer solutions
for interconnection of a large number of PC’s. This involves typically
up to 150 PC’s for each server, and multiple servers could be interconnected
in series offering an
even larger number of interconnected PC’s. The end-users might be
invited to join the conference through an email. It is also possible to
transfer writing access to the far end point. WebEX is the most expensive
one and uses a solution containing one central server, which everyone
uses. This removes administrative issues as they are maintained completely
by WebEX. Bridgit is running on a server which is managed by the university
it self. It is cheaper to acquire, but the first version did had certain
limitations as considers reproduction of colours. Certain colours might
be damaged or misrepresented through the Bridgit conferencing solution.
Finally, both Bridgit and WebEX handle communication through
firewalls quite easy.