In the final part in our series ‘Time to upgrade the flipchart?’, we reach a technology that will have the most dramatic effect on mediation, bringing efficiencies to case administration.
Technology 3 – Interactive pen + projector
The interactive pen and projector solution is by far the most versatile type of technology, combining features of the ordinary whiteboard with digital technology. This enables drawing or writing as you would with a flipchart, combined with other programs which run on the computer. As you can imagine, this requires a degree of computer literacy which will put off some, and attract others.
Following discussions with several mediators, the one thing that emerged as the most time consuming element of mediations, and therefore an area which would benefit most from integrating technology, was the financial summary. To solve this problem, ideally the Interactive Whiteboard needs to integrate with a financial package which can present information quickly and easily. Many mediation services already use Excel for this purpose and therefore integrating with Excel is a key requirement.
After researching different interactive solutions available on the market, one clear winner emerged:- the Pen and Free U-Board. The U-Board enables you to write on a projected screen, capturing your handwriting, and allowing you to interact with Microsoft Office software. Using built-in functionality within Windows7 and Office (2007 and 2010), the interactive pen can be used to write in any Office program. This is converted using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) into characters (letters or numbers).
For example, you could use Excel to calculate a financial summary during a mediation. By defining formula within specific cells, and writing using the interactive whiteboard into others, you can easily calculate the financial position. Once completed, the clients can sign the screen to indicate agreement. This prevents the need for correspondence after the mediation as both clients can leave with a full financial summary.
Information screens can be prepared prior to mediation and then completed during the session. These can then be used as templates for future mediations. With full integration with Microsoft Office, any documents can be completed directly on the projected image in front the clients or children.
So we can summarise the main advantages and disadvantages thus:
– captures handwriting
– interaction with word and excel enabling huge time saving
– OCR (converting handwriting to characters)
– technical setup required, and training to learn how to use
– requires additional equipment
– cost of equipment
Out of the three types of technology which could be used, this is the most advanced (and therefore complicated) but the most impacting. We’ve demonstrated the use of this system to a number of mediation services, and in each case the mediators have been amazed at how easy it is to use, and how powerful a tool it could be in mediation. By seeing how it can interact with Word and Excel, you will find new ways of carrying out mediations that will save time and effort and therefore streamline the process. Prices start from £465+VAT for the wired version and go to £540+VAT for the bluetooth version.
We will be demonstrating the interactive solution with pen and projector during September. If you’re attending the Resolution conference on the 27-28th September why not come and see the demonstration.
Addendum – Projector choices
Following on from our conference demonstrations, we’ve had a number of questions about types of projectors, and how close they can be positioned from the projection screen or wall. Typically they need to be at least 1.2m. A distance of 1.5m between projector and wall gives a 98 x 61cm (width x height) size for a widescreen image.
However short throw projectors enable you to get much closer, typically 0.5m from the projection screen / wall. This will give a 81 x 46cm (width x height) size for a widescreen image.