Four companies were kind enough to send me samples of their IR pens for my review. These pens were tested for several months in my high school science classroom. Here are the results.
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4/15/2010 Update: Penteractive has recently updated their classic IR pen. John Mitchel was kind enough to send me a sample of version 2.0. After some testing I'll post my review.
$8 $10 (price recently changed) pens are simple and effective. They run on three hearing aid style batteries and feature the brightest LED available. I purchased this IR pen over a year ago and it has yet to need the batteries replaced. The Penteractive pens are switch operated. I like the fact that when you press the switch you will hear and feel a "click" that indicates the switch is working. These pens are the size of a small highlighter which makes them ideal for small hands. The durability of these pens is awesome. They have been dropped countless times with any adverse affects.
In addition to providing a quality product, Penteractive offers great customer service. Emails are answered promptly and orders or fulfilled quickly. I made several purchases from Penteractive and highly recommend all of their products.
The Groove 1.5 by irpensonlineThe Groove is an IR pen with a pressure sensitive tip. The Groove can also be activated through the red button found on top of the pen. The second generation of the groove (ver. 1.5) is remarkably better than the original version which I previously reviewed. Owner Tino Aginitti listens and responds to his users suggestions. The most notable improvement is a reduction in the amount of pressure required to activate the LED. This is especially important in instances where images are projected on a soft surface such as a free-hanging overhead screen. The pen casing has also been improved and is much more aesthetically pleasing and more durable.
The LED intensity of The Groove is excellent. One of the most convenient features of The Groove is the fact that it runs on one AAA battery that can easily be replaced by removing the cover on the bottom of the pen.
I would highly recommend The Groove for use in the classroom, especially with younger ages. The pressure sensitive tip makes using this pen very intuitive.
The Laser Sword."
Although it looks cool the gum box pen did not perform as well as its counterparts. The LED used in this pen is noticeably dimmer than those of other pens. In this pen the IR LED faces up and back. This makes precise navigation difficult. Ergonomically the gum box pen is awkward to hold. Its width makes it difficult to hold naturally in your hand and the activation button is poorly placed. At $9.95 each (including shipping!), these pens are affordably priced. They are powered by one 3v watch style battery which is not easy to replace.
Although the activation switch on the WIB Scrib is effective, it does not have the helpful sound and feel of a click upon activation. From my observation of students using IR pens I have found that this feature helps students feel like something is happening, especially since IR light is invisible to the human eye. This would be my recommendation for future improvements of the WIB Scrib.
My thanks to each of these companies for allowing their pens to be rigorously tested and critiqued. I hope that this post will generate business for each of them. All four companies are small business operations run by good guys. None of them are large corporations. I would encourage you to support their innovation and creativity and to provide feedback to them to help improve their products.
If you have had experience with any of these products I welcome your feedback and critique. Help make sure that each of these companies have a fair review! If you're a manufacturer of IR pens or other products related to the Wii interactive whiteboard and are looking for a rigorous tester, send me an email: jsowash [at] southfieldchristian [dot] org.