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When my ActivBoard was installed last fall, it came with two ActivPens. I expected, being inexperienced with the workings of the interactive whiteboard (IWB), that two pens meant two people could write at the same time.

I was a bit disappointed when I realized the second pen was only a spare. It turned out that just one person could write on the ActivBoard at a time. It was a sad realization, but we were still amazed with the other capabilities of the IWB.

Fast forward a few months…
This spring, I upgraded to Promethean’s new (and incredibly refined) software: ActivInspire. As I looked through the application, attempting to familiarize myself with its features, I noticed a menu item called “Dual User”. Curious, I jumped on Twitter and fired off a question to @ActivEducator.

“What’s the ‘Dual User’ thing all about, bub?” I asked.
“It’s a new feature we’re premiering at NECC” said @ActivEducator.

After a bit more of this back and forth conversation, it turned out that the menu item was tied to new product Promethean had dubbed the ActivArena. It was, at last, a way for TWO people to annotate and use the ActivBoard AT THE SAME TIME! WOOT!

(NECC, by the way, is the National Educational Computing Conference. It was held in Washington, DC at the end of June.)

Fast forward a few more months…
After another round of tweets with @ActivEducator and a couple of emails to Promethean’s project manager in England, I was given the honor of testing the ActivArena system here in the DreamExtreme classroom.

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When I received the package this week, I could barely keep from jumping in the car and racing to school to get everything installed. It’s thrilling to be able to tangle with new technology and experiment with how it might serve instruction and learning in our classroom.

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I installed the software upgrade, calibrated the ActivBoard, and took an ActivArena pen in each hand. It was like firing up the IWB for the first time, all over again!

With the Dual User option selected, two toolboxes appear on screen. The black pen is for the teacher and maintains the full feature set offered in ActivInspire. The orange pen, slightly smaller and kid-sized, draws from a less feature-rich selection of tools. Even with the more limited offerings, I think a student will have everything she or he needs to effectively use the ActivBoard.

Both pens seem responsive and accurate. The new body shape takes a little getting used to, but I really like how the option button on the pen barrel is now recessed slightly.
I will experiment more and post some video of the ActivArena pens in use.

Thank you, Promethean, for giving the DreamExtreme classroom an opportunity to test drive this exciting new product!

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