Oct 15 2010

EDUCAUSE 2010: Eno IWB Explained

The Buzz Blog explains the Eno interactive whiteboard.

A mere two years ago, I never imagined I'd be using the kinds of high-tech tools I now use every day in my classroom. At first, I was overwhelmed by the vast array of products available. I remember flipping through EdTech magazine, thinking every new device accomplished a different task. How would I ever understand it all? But I'm learning that there's tremendous overlap in the market and that companies are trying desperately to distinguish their offerings – and rightly so, because it's a dog-eat-dog world out there (especially in the education market). Any feature that can uniquely separate a product from its competition is going to help that company's bottom line.

With that in mind, I'm fascinated by the technology and the openness behind the eno interactive whiteboard (IWB) from PolyVision. It's easy to understand how it works if you know anything about Livescribe's smartpen, because it's based on the same technology. In fact, it's under the same license. In a nutshell, the board itself has a microscopic pattern baked into the surface. PolyVision's proprietary stylus has a special camera inside the tip that transmits back to the computer the precise location of where the tip touches. The result is that I wrote with more accuracy on the eno than on any other IWB I've ever seen. The company's wireless pad has the same pattern baked into its surface. It's not even fair to call it a wireless pad because there's no battery or power of any kind required. That's because all input is coming from the stylus, not the board or pad! Remarkable.

There's an openness to the eno that you don't see from other IWB manufacturers. Every other IWB company on the market locks users into its own branded ecosystem; but not the eno. The only real components that you actually "need" are the surface, which is the lifetime-guaranteed board itself, and the proprietary stylus. If you want to interact with the board from across the room, you'll also need its special pad with that unique baked-in pattern.

PolyVision does offer a bundle that includes everything you need if you want to be an eno "purist," but if you want to use your own projector or mounting hardware, no problem. There's a PolyVision-branded LCD projector that does offer a few subtle conveniences, and using the company's own mounting systems does make it easier to set up, but you're not beholden to the company for any of that. PolyVision also includes an adequate IWB software app, so you can use it right out of the box, but you don't have to use that either if you prefer another application. Eno is a compelling choice for universities due to its openness, cost of ownership and outside-the-box technology.

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