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How A Little Bit Of Magic Livens Up Classroom Dry Erase Whiteboards

The Mimio interactive system from DYMO turns a conventional whiteboard into an extraordinary teaching tool

Roland Rios thought he'd found the perfect, inexpensive solution for interactive whiteboards in his Texas school district. But first he had to convince his lead tech specialist he wasn't crazy.

The product was the Mimio Interactive Xi Bar; a compact device packed with sensor technology that mounts to a standard whiteboard. Paired with an interactive stylus and the Cambridge, Mass., company's proprietary software, the bar creates a dynamic work surface that can summon up images, sounds and animation directly from a teacher's computer. It sets up in a few minutes, costs at least half the price of conventional interactive whiteboards—and seemed almost too good to be true when Rios tested it for the first time in his teacher training lab.

"When I told my lead technician about it, he said there's no way it would work," said Rios, director of instructional technology at Fort Sam Houston Independent School District. "He was amazed at how easy it did."

Rios' district has 1,300 students from pre-K through 12th grade and is contained entirely within the Fort Sam Houston military installation. After the initial Mimio bar passed its test last year, the district ordered 42 for high school, secondary science and pre-K through 1st grade classes. Another 54 are on order this summer so that every teacher in every classroom has one.

"The kids love it," Rios said. "My science and math teachers, particularly those at the secondary level, are going bonkers."

"You can take that Mimio bar down and move it right into another classroom."

Mimio was founded in 1997 by five MIT graduates, one a teaching assistant who had discovered that his students were so busy writing down formulas that they didn't participate in class discussions or grapple with underlying concepts. A device that captured all of that information digitally for review later would eliminate that problem—and so Mimio was born.

The company refined its technology over the years and just introduced the new wireless and rechargeable MimioTeach? system which triangulates the location of the stylus so that a conventional whiteboard is turned into the equivalent of a touch-screen. Roughly the size of a ruler and weighing less than 12 ounces, the new system can be set up or taken down in minutes. The organization caters almost exclusively to the education market and was purchased four years ago by Newell Rubbermaid.

The MimioTeach solution costs around $799, while interactive whiteboards from competitors can run more than $1,200. There is a substantial difference in ease of use, too. A regular interactive whiteboard requires the kind of wiring and installation preparation you'd find in a home theater. Once it's in place, it's not portable. Mimio, on the other hand, can be shared by different teachers.

"You can take that bar down and move it right into another classroom," Rios said.

Beyond hardware, Mimio products provide ready-to-use interactive lesson plans that can be tailored, and allow migration of a teacher's existing files from Powerpoint, Word and other programs. The company also provides online and in-person training for teachers. Rios recently became a "Mimio Master" after completing a three-course program designed to improve teaching methodologies with the technology.

"The bottom line is student engagement—how do we keep these kids interested and trying in the face of adversity?" Rios said. "Those interactive whiteboards do make a difference."

For more information contact Mimio at 877-MY-MIMIO or visit