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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 10:13 GMT
Digital change at the chalkface
The Mimio works by capturing movement
Could this set of kit replace traditional blackboards?
test hello test
By BBC News Online's Jane Wakefield
A digital whiteboard that costs a fraction of many on the market could be the answer to interactivity in British schools.

So-called smart boards are often way out of the range of most school budgets, with a hefty price tag of around 2,000.

The alternative could be a product called Mimio. At a cost of several hundred pounds, the Mimio creates a digital whiteboard that can project the internet and allow teacher and pupils to write on the screen.

At Queniborough School in Leicestershire, the teachers are big fans of the Mimio.

A teacher writing on a blackboard
Blackboards could become obsolete
Head teacher Chris Davis was able to buy one for every classroom because of its low cost.

"We use the system to project the internet in real-time and we can also use it with DVD and VHS video.

"There are an awful lot of things you can do with it and it enables real interactivity in the classroom," he said.

It does not require a great deal of technical know-how either.

"After a two-hour training session, the staff felt very confident about using it," said Mr Davis.

Take notes

For many teachers, the most exciting aspect of the Mimio is its ability to capture information.

Without needing to be connected to a computer, the device can record up to 12 hours of information written in the teacher's own handwriting.

It makes learning so much fun

Sharon Deackes, teacher
The handwriting can later be converted into print for use as class notes, for students who were absent for the lesson, or for teacher's own assessment or records.

But some users find the Mimio unreliable for pen strokes, so spellings or formulae details may be saved incorrectly.

Sharon Deackes is one of Queniborough's teachers and often uses a Mimio for her class of 10 to eleven-year-olds.

"I have used it for all elements of the curriculum, from numeracy to literacy.

"For example, we brainstormed ideas for story-writing. I wrote it on the whiteboard and saved it as text to use as self-assessment some weeks later," she said.

"It is wonderful for children to look at a large piece of text and for that text to become interactive is amazing. The children say it has helped them remember things and they are very focused. It makes learning so much fun."

A new model of the Mimio goes on sale next month for 599.

It is the brainchild of US start-up firm Virtual Ink. So far around 100,000 Mimios have been sold.

It works by using infrared and ultrasonic receivers, which track the movement of a stylus on the whiteboard.

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