I’ve been meaning to write about Doceri for a while now but haven’t gotten around to it but here goes. We’re building a new high school (moving in Jan. 3, after December break; that’s a bit terrifying) and one of our concerns from a technology standpoint is the extent to which interactive white boards would be utilized by teachers in the new school. A few of us have them in the old school, but we of course are those that have committed to using them (and I think there are maybe 5 in classrooms in the old school). One of the iPad questions was can it function as a white board, i.e. can we simply install regular white boards at a fraction of the cost and use the iPad plus a projector to simulate an interactive white board. Obviously this does away with a lot of the whistles and bells of the interactive white board and focuses almost entirely on annotation / preservation-of-notes but this is the majority of what the white board is used for (at least that’s my impression; I’ve been using a Promethean ActivBoard for maybe four years now and, while the whistles and bells – the clip art, the sounds, magic text, etc. – are fun to both explore and implement, it is rare that my lesson is incumbent upon them.

I had downloaded (before the iPad pilot with the class) some white board apps: ShowMe and AirSketch. ShowMe is really a screencasting tool that allows you to record yourself drawing and speaking and then post it to the ShowMe website. I’ve not played around with it much but it has potential, especially the combo of audio and (self-generated) visuals. AirSketch works through a web address provided by the app. As long as the iPad and the browser are on the same network it projects through that web address. You have a nice selection of colors and thicknesses without being overwhelming, and can save what you do to iPhoto or email it, etc. (a fairly standard selection of options). There is also of course the category of iPad notebooks (e.g. Penultimate and Memo) which allow (hand)writing but have limited save and share options. With the project-able iOS 5, these can be used as white boards of sorts.

Doceri reflects the same basic model of the iPad-as-interactive-white-board with one important distinction: it doubles as a remote mouse. Now this too is a category all its own which I’ve explored, having used MobileMouse and Logitech’s TouchMouse. TouchMouse is nice for the iPod Touch / iPhone because it is simple and is best used for basic mouse functionality (advancing slides, simple clicking, etc.). MobileMouse makes your iPad into a track pad, supporting gestures and replicating your dock to allow for simpler toggling among applications.

Doceri combines the remote mouse with the interactive white board. It is pricey ($50.00 or so for the desktop software and a free iPad app) but if it can replace an interactive white board, the price becomes negligible. It connects to your computer via its IP Address (one concern about the remote mouse apps that use a utility on the computer but otherwise connect via the wireless network is what if every classroom has that set-up; how does my iPad know to control my computer and not the one next door; when I was first showing MobileMouse off, I was in another building on campus showing it to an administrator; when I returned to my room, I realized that, rather than just showing him the interface, I had actually been controlling my computer from his office). Once connected, on your iPad, you see your desktop, whatever’s on it. You can then be in mouse mode, annotation mode, or pointer mode. The third allows you to point (using a big arrow or hand-with-outstretched-finger of different colors) to various things; imagine the mouse arrow on steroids. If you want a blank white board, you can choose a background to write on: either blank (of different colors, including chalk board green) or with paper or math patterns.

I have not used my interactive white board since I got Doceri (sorry Promethean). It allows me to wander the classroom and write on the board, I can give the students the iPad for them to write on the board, I can write on a blank screen or annotate a web site, document, among other things.

Doceri is not perfect. It can be clunky at times. But more on that later.