After presenting on the Wiiboard at the MACUL conference, several people have spoken with me and e-mailed questions related to implementing the Wiiboard technology in their schools. In replying to them individually, I thought I would also share my thoughts here for others to read.
1. Can/will the Wiiboard replace our commercial interactive white boards?
I'm no fortune teller, but my guess is that Promethean, SMART, and the other commercial vendors of interactive whiteboards wont be knocked off of their pedestal by the Wiiboard. They may lose a few potential customers to the Wiiboard (like me!), but the customers they currently have will be loath to give up the products that they have invested thousands of dollars to put into the classroom.
While the Wiiboard delivers 90% of the function of the commercial boards, at 1% of the costs, it does not come with a suite of software to assist in creating lessons, tracking attendance, or building assessments. It is possible to collect a variety of different programs to use in conjunction with the Wiiboard so that you can create lessons and build interactive assessments, but it doesn't come in the nice, neat package that Promethian and the other giants have assembled. This is another advantage the commercial products have over the Wiiboard.
Another thing to think about before you throw your SMARTboard out the window in favor of the Wiiboard is technical support. The Wiiboard is a hack. We are using the Wiimote for something other than what it was intended therefore it is inevitable that problems will occur. There is no help line for Wiiboard trouble shooting. Creating and using the Wiiboard requires patience and enough PC savvy to problem solve the various issues that will pop up. Trying to implement the Wiiboard in an entire building or district would require a tremendous amount of technical support. Most tech departments have enough to do already.
2. What happens when Nintendo comes out with another game console and stops making the Wiimote?
This is a realistic question, however I wouldn't worry too much about it. You can easily purchase controllers for the original Nintendo game console. There will be enough Wiimotes around for everyone!
3. Is there an alternative to powering the Wiimote besides AA batteries?
A heavy user of the Wiiboard will quickly become frustrated by having to replace the batteries in the remote. I estimate that a set of batteries would last 3 days if the Wiimote is used throughout the entire school day. Fortunately, there are two options available. John Mitchell over at penteractive.us is selling a battery pack replacement that allows you to power your Wiimote through the USB port on your computer. He is also selling a USB to AC adapter that allows you to charge your Wiimote through a standard plug. I have not tried either product personally, but I use the IR Pens that John created and they are outstanding. I would highly recommend him!
The second option is a Wiimote recharge station. Dock and charge your Wiimote at night and you are ready to go in the morning! There are many different models available. This one is made by Griffin and is being sold at buy.com for $24.99. This one by joytech.net looks neat, but no price or purchase options are listed. I'm sure there are other comparable products out there.
Personally, I would go with the rechargeable option rather than the plug-in option because it provides the greatest flexibility. Plus I hate computer cables!
4. How do you mount your Wiimote?
Proper Wiimote placement is the greatest key to a high performing Wiiboard. If you are using Boonjin's Smoothboard software, you will be able to see the tracking resolution of the Wiimote. The higher the resolution, the smoother the line you will be able to draw. Each setup will be slightly different, but I have found the greatest success when my Wiimote is level with the center of the screen and is about halfway between the screen and the projector. Play around and see what works best for you.
I have a very unsophisticated setup for mounting my Wiimote. I have a standard microphone stand with a flexible mic clip that is wide enough to hold the Wiimote. I like this setup because the height is adjustable and the base is heavy enough to keep the stand from tipping over.
When I first started using the Wiiboard I set the Wiimote on top of my ceiling mounted projector. This worked okay, but I could never get the tracking resolution above 40% because the Wiimote was too far away from the screen.
John Mitchell (penteractive.us) has another neat product-- a battery cover with a 1/4-20 threaded bolt that allows you to attach the Wiimote to anything that accepts a thread such as a tripod. He also sells a telescoping ceiling bracket.
If you have other questions related to the viability of implementing a Wiiboard in your classroom, please post them as a response. I will do my best to answer them! If you have other suggestions for the questions posed here I would welcome your comments as well!