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Simultaneous pen and touch writes a new chapter in classroom learning

Promethean's ActivBoard 500 Pro-series allows multiple users to draw and move objects at the same time

It's an old question in the relatively new world of interactive whiteboards: pen or touch?

With Promethean's ActivBoard 500 Pro-series, users no longer have to choose. The ActivBoard 500 is the first of its kind to accommodate pen and gesture touch simultaneously. In addition, multiple users can collaborate on a single task at the same time.

"There are so many times we have to use a pen but also be connected with what we're learning by being able to touch something on the screen," said Tim Clark, district instructional technology specialist for Forsyth County Schools in Georgia.

"It takes away the keyboard and mouse, and you can really connect with what you're doing."

Forsyth has been testing the ActivBoard 500 in an elementary school media center since fall. The new technology has been such a hit that there will be an ActivBoard 500—or the newest model available—in every classroom as new schools are built in the district, Clark said.

Among the ActivBoard 500 Pro-series features:

  • NoteBoard and TouchPad, applications that allow teachers to aggregate ideas, collate learning points and use interactive post-it notes to promote simple mind-mapping activities
  • "It helps to have one device do so many different things and enable the whole class to see and participate in what's going on."
  • ActivInspire Professional Edition software, which gives students access to math tools, sounds, templates and gesture touch applications
  • Fixed, adjustable or mobile system with a choice of extreme short throw or short throw projectors
  • 87-inch or 95-inch wide-screen boards
  • Integrated sound system

"This is working with students of every different ability level," Clark said. "It helps to have one device do so many different things and enable the whole class to see and participate in what's going on."

Forsyth schools already have earlier generation Promethean interactive whiteboards in every classroom in the district, which has approximately 30,000 students in 19 elementary, nine middle and five high schools, and an academy of creative education. Students love using the stylus, but the current set-up requires them to hand it off to the next person, Clark explained.

With four pens (two teacher and two student), more people can work together, increasing teamwork and collaboration. The ActivBoard 500 technology also makes it easy for a teacher to draw an object—a cube, for example—then resize or move it while simultaneously drawing a second shape for comparing or contrasting.

"The students readily adapt to it," Clark said. "To them it's very natural that you would just pick everything up and move it around the board with your hand or finger. The board is very large and has a wide screen so you can have several kids at the board at the same time, interacting and collaborating as they navigate through activities. We've also used it to collaboratively draw pictures of the setting of a story."

Teachers are developing flip charts through ActivInspire, which comes with the new ActivBoard, and can then reuse the project or activity with different classes, Clark said. In addition, students can install Promethean ActivInspire Personal software at home so they can do the same activities, then bring them to school on a USB flash drive, for example, and present them on the board.

"Students have become very used to touching a device in order to interact with it," Clark said. "It helps make lessons more interactive for students. It also has integrated sound, so the quality of video makes multimedia very engaging. The kids are accustomed to surround sound and high definition at home, so it's good to offer that same experience at school."

For more information about the Promethean ActivBoard 500, please visit