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Digital Blackboards
Digital Whiteboards

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Digital Blackboards

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.

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