We bought a SMART kapp

SMART kapp capture boardYou may have heard that SMART Technologies has a new capture board on the market. It’s called the SMART kapp. We bought one at MPOW to install in the learning commons in October. It arrived on campus after Thanksgiving, but we waited until after Christmas break to install it.

The current version of the board available measures 42.25″ by 25″. SMART will be selling a larger version of the board in the future. You can use any type of dry erase marker with this version of the board. It comes with three standard dry erase markers and a round eraser. The eraser is magnetic and sticks to the board (you can see in the picture) when not in use.

Using the SMART kapp is mostly intuitive. It is designed to be used with either an iOS or Android mobile device via a Bluetooth connection. Alternatively, it can be used with just a USB drive plugged into the side of the board. The use of Bluetooth to make the connection between the board and the mobile device means that you don’t have to get the capture board itself connected to your campus or office wireless network.

SMART kapp appOnly one person can connect to the capture board at a time. This person then uses the SMART kapp app for iOS or Android to either email a URL to others to view a live session in a web browser or capture what is written/drawn on the board. It is not necessary to install the SMART kapp app before using the board. A person can scan the QR code first, which will launch their mobile device’s app store and go to the SMART kapp app. The next time the person wants to use the board they can either scan the QR code, open the SMART kapp app, or hold their NFC capable and enabled Android device near the lower left side of the board. The least intuitive aspect of using the board is knowing that Bluetooth must be enabled on your device before you attempt to use it.

The collaboration aspect may hold the most value for this device. The person connected to the board can share (Invite) others to join them for a live session. Those invited will receive a URL (via email or other method chosen by the person inviting). Clicking the link makes a web browser connection to a real-time session where invitees can view what is being written (and erased) on the board.  I am not certain that many (or any) of our students will use the collaboration feature. I suspect this function is more useful in a corporate setting (see the promotion video below).

Saving what is written on the board is straightforward. An illuminated Capture (camera icon) on the board itself that can be touched to initiate a capture in the app. Alternatively, the person connected to the board using the SMART kapp app can touch the Capture icon in the app itself. Images captured in the app persist after the person is done using the board and ends the connection. The images captured in the app can be exported as either JPEG or PDF files. The text or drawing captured from the board only displays as black and white in the saved images. A colleague read that a future version of the board will support the use of colors. I suspect that means that special dry erase markers would be required for that version of the board.

As mentioned earlier, the board also supports direct capture to a USB drive. I think this is a good alternative, especially for students who have a mobile device that doesn’t have a lot of charge left on the battery.  Once a USB drive is plugged into the board, the USB icon will illuminate. The person just needs to touch that icon or the Capture (camera icon) to save what is written on the board as a PDF to the USB drive. I do find it an interesting decision by SMART to have the save format for the USB drive to be a PDF and not a JPEG.

It is too soon to share student reactions to the capture board. We are just starting to promote that it exists. We installed it in a visible part of the learning commons. The board doesn’t come with anything that we could hang for basic instructions. I created a brief document, with a URL to a LibGuide for more information, that describes how to use the capture board in three steps.

Is the SMART kapp worth the cost? It would seem that there is student interest in capturing what they write or draw on a white board. I have observed students taking pictures of white boards in the learning commons and other parts of the library. I have no idea if or how they use those images later on.

We are viewing our deployment of the SMART kapp as an experiment. One of our goals for the learning commons is to offer students a variety of collaborative technology options. I don’t know if we will buy any more for use in the learning commons or library. My IT collaborators may decide that it is a good collaboration tool and install more in meeting rooms on campus. I’ll do a follow-up post towards the end of the semester after we have more feedback from students and faculty.

Our iPads arrived this week

One of the goals of our integrated learning commons is to provide technology tools for teaching and learning to our faculty. I used some of my FY2009-10 budget dust to purchase two Kindles and two wi-fi only iPads. The Kindles arrived in two days, but the iPads took the slow boat from China (literally) and arrived on Monday while I was in DC at ALA.

Ryan, aka GQ computer dude, configured one of the iPads this morning and gave it to me to use over the weekend. I will admit that I am impressed. I am not an Apple fan boy. I personally can’t stand Steve Jobs. However the speed, size, and screen make this device captivating.

The iPad connected easily to my home wireless. I’ve streamed from Netflix and the ABC apps and found the NPR and Pocket Pond (think koi, lily pads, and rippling water) apps addictive. I still need to do some research before buying any apps.

What are we going to do with our two iPads? Experiment. My reasons for purchasing were simple. I want to make sure our computer guys have some hands on-time prior to August. I’m confident that we will see more than a few students show up in the Fall with an iPad in hand. I am curious to see what role an iPad (or tablet) might play during library instruction or reference work. Based on my limited experience so far, the iPad is ideal for roving reference in and/out of the library (based on your wi-fi infrastructure). Searching and reading articles on JSTOR using the iPad…wasn’t quite magical, but it was cool. Finally, I want to give our faculty an opportunity to touch an iPad and figure out if/how it or another tablet device might be used for instructional purposes.

To be clear, MPOW has no plans to give away or require our students to have an iPad. The initial hands-on use will be by computer services, library staff, and faculty to discover the potential and the weaknesses. My intent is to lend the iPads to students starting sometime during the Fall semester.

I will continue to share our experiences with the iPads here. I’m curious if your library is lending iPads to faculty and/or students? What are your reasons/goals for lending? How much or little policy do you have in place for this type of technology? Please feel free to share your experiences by leaving a comment.