Integrating Presentation Software with Hardware

28 09 2010

After visiting the University of Surrey’s SPLASH space, I was put in contact with a company called Reflex, who is their preferred integrator. Andi Allan, Technical Sales Manager, very kindly answered the following questions:

Q.1. Are there incompatibility issues with the hardware and various operating systems?

No real incompatibilities, but multi-touch (like an iPhone or iPad) is only available with Windows 7. Otherwise the Sympodium and Smart boards are compatible with a decent range of operating systems and any hardware that can run them.

Q.2. Do you have any advice to offer regarding mobility of devices e.g. to share in a large informal group (i.e. sharing the computer by physically moving it around rather than watching or participating in a presentation)?

In general mobile audio visual equipment is always more prone to failure than fixed installations. This can be mitigated by using solid state drives, shock-mounting the hardware and so on.

Q.3. Are there any issues with different versions of Microsoft PowerPoint or Keynote?

The Smart software works ‘on top of’ any other software running, so should be fine with any version of Office or any other PC application. Effectively the Smart system acts as a replacement mouse.

[Andi has asked Smart and will get back to me about restrictions to do with specific software versions.]

Q.4. The University of Surrey directed me to a website with training videos, do you find that staff use the videos or prefer support face-to-face?

I think a mix is most effective. An initial in-person training session (which we can provide via a partner) is good for showing people how to use the technology and to inspire them to use it creatively and make the most of it. Online videos can then be very helpful for reminders, quick reference and so on.


Visiting SPLASH at the University of Surrey

6 08 2010

Yesterday afternoon, Alistair Morey, Learning Development Coordinator for SPLASH (Student Personal Learning And Study Hub) at the University of Surrey, gave me a tour of SPLASH. This innovative space is described well on their website, however it was useful to get a tour and have a chance to try out some of the technology, especially since I only passed through on my last visit, two years ago.

SPLASH includes: space to work quietly in front of PCs or with your own laptop; an informal area with moveable furniture, plenty of space, and two ‘work pods’; three bookable meeting rooms; and a larger training room. The training room features a dry-erase white wall, which looks like an ordinary wall, and a Sympodium PC connected to the projector.

As well as the novel experience of being asked to ‘write on a wall’, Alistair commented on the way students have to interact as a group, working together, and sharing the whiteboard pens.

I was able to have a go on the Sympodium PC, now renamed SMART Podium interactive pen displays, and although it was very easy to use I could also see that practice would be required to give a seamless and professional presentation or workshop.

There were some concerns that the informal area might turn into a bit of a common room, however this has not happened. I wonder if this is partly because food and drink are prohibited in this area. There are also two Sympodium PCs, attached by a moveable armature to a coffee table, in front of a circular seating area. This enables the students to collaborate by sharing the PC amongst the whole group, literally passing it from one person to the other by use of the swinging armature.

The University of Surrey were early pioneers in the UK in this form of social learning, but it has now taken off at a number of other Universities as well.

Follow-up: some comments on the features of SMART Podium interactive pen displays

Learning and Teaching Hardware

22 07 2010

This morning I met with Penny Burden, Learning and Teaching Developer at the University for the Creative Arts. In her previous role as Head of Skills and Personal Development at the University of Surrey she was responsible for setting up SPLASH, the Student Personal Learning and Study Hub. We discussed some of the hardware that was used in this area such as: Sympodium computers (now called SMART Podium interactive pen displays), which let you write on the screen and also project to a screen behind you; and a wall covered in dry-erase technology i.e. like a giant whiteboard.

Penny advised me to look at what has been done at the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Inquiry-based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences (CILASS). At the University of Sheffield they use huddleboards (lightweight whiteboards) to “…record discussions, plan activities and map out knowledge.” The boards can then be placed underneath a CopyCam which will take a digital picture that can be saved and imported into a PowerPoint or used elsewhere.

Penny also kindly filled in my questionnaire.