Posted on 13-06-2008
Filed Under (teaching, Technology) by gashed

Mimio is due in the next few weeks to release a new version of its studio software. This is the software used by its popular interactive whiteboard devices. 

These devices are attached to the side of a conventional whiteboards and may be connected to a computer either wirelessly or via a USB cable.  Due to their size they are often called portable interactive whiteboards.  They generally cost about a third of the cost of a traditional ‘fixed’ interactive whiteboards; however with these devices it is not a case of ’you get what you pay for’.  My experience is that you get hardware that performs to comparable standard to the more expensive boards in every regard.  I have already posted previously on how good these types of devices are.

The studio software is used both to record whiteboard markers detected with the Mimio device and when a pen is used as a mouse on a projected computer screen.  I was disapproving of Mimio’s current studio software, and have been given a preview of the latest beta version of studio, due for release in July 08, and it is a significant advancement from the last release.

Mimio was acquired by Newell-Rubbermaid group 2 years ago, and it has been working to develop its range of integrated educational solutions, both hardware and associated software, such as the studio suite.  The sudio software suite actually contains 3 programs:  Notebook, Recorder and Tools

Notebook is the multipage workspace that teachers would use when they are using the Mimio system to capture whiteboard markings, or when used with a projector as an interactive whiteboard.  The fact you can use the same software for both applications is a nice feature.  Tools contains a range of functions that may be used with Notebook  or to annoate over other applications.

I was not fond of the tools palette on the last version of studio.  The primary tools were listed as small icons around the edge of a box, the inside area is reserved for options related to each tool.  I found the buttons difficult to differentiate and the central area was latent, wasted space for much of the time.  The tools palette on the new version is excellent.  Much more visually appealing, discrete and it’s easier to select quickly the function you are looking for.  It also retains the windows feel that teachers can feel comfortable with.

new tools

old tools

Over the last few iterations of the software, mimio has been looking to produce software with which teachers can easily generate interactive lessons.  Essential is the ability to easily and smoothly integrate media – pictures, flash files, audio etc.  This version of the software allows teachers to do this.  Pictures can be extracted from any application using the clipping tool and dragged into your notebook workspace.  Also picture files can simply be dragged and dropped onto your workspace where they are instantly available to be manipulated, resized etc.  Similarly flash files or audio can be simply dragged and dropped into the work area.  Flash files can be moved or rotated as required.  The imported audio takes the form of a switch that can be turned on or off.  Such is the ease that media files can be used in this software that many files may be used at the same time on a notebook page.  As you’d expect these objects can be annotated, typed on etc.

Mimio’s focus on objects in the notebook file can also be seen in the smooth dragging of objects around the screen.   As they are moved they are clearly visible at all times during the transition.  Another nice feature introduced in this version of the software is the ability to lock objects in position.  Objects can be fixed in position; this will allow teachers to create a template for pages in a lesson.mimio gallery

Also impressive is the new gallery feature.  It has a familiar windows feel to it.  The bundled range and quality of clipart/flash files is quite impressive, however I’ve never been too impressed with packaged media.  What is more important is can the software easily be used to collate, and store, pictures and other new media.  It this regard it is very good;  pictures can be cut from a webpage and dropped into notebook, and then to save it, you just have to drop it into the gallery, where it is automatically saved.  This capacity to simply drop items from your hard disk, clipped pictures or any objects from the workspace to the gallery is the ideal way to start building up content.

In seems also that Mimio are really looking to make headway against the promethean etc. range of products.  These are often chosen due to the range of pre-made resources for those boards.  Included with studio is an amount of pre-made lessons.  I have a bit of a mental block with pre-made content, I have never been happy with it, perhaps it is often more applicable to primary level, I don’t know.  I am evaluating this from a secondary viewpoint.  That said there seemed to be much content that some teachers may find useful, and the lessons do give a good indication of the potential of the software.

Another aspect of the studio that I discovered (although I think this functionality was there previously) was that the integrated text recognition software can be used both with the interactive projection use and when capturing from the whiteboard.  So the system can convert from the captured whiteboard markers to text afterwards.  This could be a useful feature for some second level teachers.

In order to extend their classroom hardware solutions, Mimio also plan to release a writing tablet to compliment and extend the capabilities of their whiteboard.  The tablet they propose to release will be specifically designed to integrate into studio.  It isn’t clear when this will be released on the market, or how much it will cost.  It does give an indication of where Mimio are heading.

It would appear that this new version of studio will be released (free to Mimio board owners) in July 08.  It is a welcome upgrade to the Mimio system.  I felt that the old version was the weakest part of their ‘package’.  This new software looks and feels better and adds functionality to where it is needed, in content creation and integration of media.  There are areas that I am still not sure about; I didn’t find out about the capacity to broadcast lessons, or if with the improvement in the handling of media would extend to embedding the flash files when exporting notebook files as a web page, rather than just a picture as it is at present. 

Overall, this is a really positive release and will be welcomed by Mimio users.  It also indicates the direction Mimio are going, concentrating on the educational market (as opposed to the corporate) are looking at the needs of teachers as they develop their products. 



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