I’ve got to be honest, a slow program of replacing defective interactive whiteboards with either like-for-like interactive whiteboards, non-interactive TV’s or generic touch screen TV’s is hardly high on my ‘excitement’ list. Mainly as most of them will not give anything else over the defective whiteboards other than a brighter screen and the ability to fairly accurately press where you actually want to press. In short, they are not going to impact significantly on learning for the price you pay for them.
Which is why I didn’t buy any. I went for something a bit more cutting edge, with the kinds of features that make everything just ‘work’ and a couple of killer features that really do impact on learning.
I went for Prowise’s Proline screens. The silver one in the image below.
Yes it does look slick doesn’t it. And it’s really well made too. I’ve already walked backwards into it twice with no ill affects occurring (to me or the screen). So what features make things just work? The NFC card for a start. You just hold the card on the Prowise logo when the login screen appears and voila you’re logged in, saving you a precious few seconds every time. Some of the other features that make an impact on learning are found in the Prowrite pen that comes with the Proline screen.
In Prowise’s excellent Presenter software, you can use the pen as a ‘remote’ for presentation slides. Meaning you can be anywhere in the room and move onto the next steps in your lesson.
You can also use the pen on the screen with your palm resting on the screen. It’s very successful (after a little practice) and is the best option around for any actual ‘writing’ on the screen. Of course, you can always use the other two, magnetic pens, bundled instead but you can’t rest your palm with those (or your finger!) Finally, and very slickly, you can turn the pen around (like a Primary School pencil) and it will automatically change to ‘rubber’ mode. Very nice.
It all sounds very expensive but in actual fact the Proline is priced very competitively, particularly when you factor in Smart’s subscription compared with the Prowise Presenter, for example. We have the 65" which is the smallest of the line but because of the beautiful screen quality, you can see small text from the back of the room (and it’s a large room) without any issue at all. And the screen is future proofed being 4k rather than 1080.
As you might have worked out by now, I’m very impressed with the screen. It’s definitely the model I would want to roll out across the rest of school in due course. Having said all that, this post is a genuine, voluntary look at the screen’s first month of use, it’s not a sales pitch and we’ve not been given a penny off the 2 screens we have for writing this post. To prove it, there are still a couple of things Prowise could do to add to the slickness and high quality experience that is clearly evident. Those things lie in the Presenter software. They are:
The rubber. Although you have options to undo, select elements on the page and the rubber icon (with changeable rubber size), the largest rubber size is just not big enough. 2 options here. Simply offer a couple of bigger rubber sizes or (and I can’t remember which package does this) make the rubber as slick as other areas by automatically enlarging the size of the rubber the faster it is ‘rubbed’ and make it smaller the slower it is moved.
Undo, pen and rubber options position. This is honestly the only other area which needs tweaking in Presenter. With these icons on one side of the screen, I have to really stretch, fairly frequently to get to them from my general position during whole class work, which is on the other side of the screen. It would be great to be able to drag those icons along the bottom to change their position (or have a flip from ‘right to left and back again’ button). It would also help people transitioning from Smart Notebook.
So how easy is it to transition from Smart Notebook and boards? I have to say I’m fairly technical so it was straight forward for me after a couple of lessons of playing around. A better gauge would be to look at how the 3 other teachers who have used or 2 screens have got on. Unanimously, they have all converted without even a minor glitch. The screen makes things a joy and the software is simple enough for 2 of the teachers to have instantly, and I mean instantly, dropped Smart Notebook (don’t panic there are import options available in Presenter — not that any of us have used them). The other teacher covers both class’ PPA so she needs to switch between Prowise and Smart throughout the week. She won’t mind me saying that she is not a techie type person and she floats between the two systems effortlessly.
So what have we done with the setup that really impacts on learning apart from making almost everything quicker, slicker and just work?
That’s where Proconnect comes in. Seen in action here:
We are lucky to have 1:2 IPads in Year 3 and 4 and Proconnect really gives you flexibility in how you run your lessons. Being able to beam the Presenter screen to the IPads (or other mobile tech), with the children able to annotate, send back and then discuss as a class is a key benefit. It’s basically a mix of whiteboards and a visualiser on steroids. You can even get up to 4 devices ‘live’ rather than a ‘screenshot’ in time. Not a feature I’ve used a lot yet (although when I have it has always been stable), but again it offers flexibility in how children can be asked to explain and draw at the same time, being watched by a group or the whole class and it’s a lot quicker than children individually airplay-ing in via Apple TV.
We’ve particularly used all this to the full in Maths, as we move to a Mastery focused approach. And it has clearly worked in making things simple for the children, engaging them and most importantly, making the investment in IPads better value as the whole setup clearly impacts on their learning.
I’m still looking at ways to really maximise the screen and paraphernalia in English in particular — although there has been a final killer feature of the screen that has helped a lot. Namely the ability to either swipe up from the bottom of the screen, or hold 2 fingers down for 2 seconds, to be taken to your input menu for hdmi. In other words, I can very very easily switch between Apple TV for all our visualiser needs, and Presenter. I’ve said it before. It just works how it should do. The only thing that could make this slicker is being able to ditch Apple TV completely and having a camera option in Presenter to be able to take a picture and instantly be able to have it in the Presenter environment to draw over etc.
So overall I’ve been incredibly impressed with the hardware and how well it works with the software and IPads as well. In short, it really is a cutting edge setup that maximises time spent learning rather than fighting technology. It’s been designed cleverly and thoughtfully. It’s fit for purpose and then some.