There’s no shortage of teachers of a certain age who don’t feel particularly comfortable with tablets, smart-boards and projectors that seem to have taken over the classroom. Many yearn for the good old days of blackboards and chalk or whiteboards and markers. Quartet Kapture bridges the gap between old habits and new teaching styles by putting digital smarts into a marker that captures what’s written on a big pad of paper and can be transferred to a computer and shared with the class.
When you get down to it, Kapture is very clever and potentially useful for schools, but can cost as much as a budget projector, making it a tough sell these days. It’s great of training sessions, curriculum brainstorming and especially in instruction.
Rather than working with a smart-board or an interactive projector directly, Kapture has an electronic marker holder with a camera in its tip that tracks what’s being drawn or written on large flip charts. The data is transmitted wirelessly to a nearby computer, where it can be saved, emailed, printed and even distributed over a network.
The Kapture Starter kit I looked at sells for $400 and comes with a single marker. There are other kits that have two and three pens for group or more colorful work that sell for $700 and $900. Three pens can be used at once, making it a great platform for collaboration.
Each set comes with at least one 22.5- by 33-inch pad of paper. Look carefully and you’ll see a pattern of tiny dots in the background that help the pen to locate where the pen is on the pad and captures all the written items. The back of each page has glue on it to put the sheets up on a wall in order to review a lesson. Two 30-page pads sell for about $40 each for 30 sheets.
Quartet sells a variety of optional easels for between $20 and $120 to hold the pad of paper in place during a lesson. With the creative use of a binder clip, you can put the pad of paper right on any wall.
The kit came with a USB Bluetooth receiver for a computer. On the downside, the pen has a range of about 25 feet, which might turn out to be tad short for some classroom situations.
Kapture works with recent PCs and Macs and the software loads directly from the USB Bluetooth receiver in about 5 minutes. After synchronizing the pen with the Bluetooth receiver, you select the color ink you want to use and calibrate the pen with the included card; it comes with red, blue, green and black ink cartridges.
Using the pen is a bit odd at first, but soon becomes natural, although the pen’s ink doesn’t always produce a smooth unbroken line. The best bet is to write slowly. A trick I learned early on is that even with one pen, you can fool the software into thinking you have four different colored pens by taping the color calibration card whenever you want to use a different color. It takes some extra concentration because it all looks the same on the pad, but the electronic version shows the different colors.
When I finished, I was able to edit the page as well as apply notes to any set of pages. Finally, I was able to save the sequence of sheets as a .jpg image file or as .pdf Acrobat document.
Unlike the pages that LiveScribe’s Echo pen delivers that can include audio and animate the action on the page, the output of Kapture is silent and static.
The pen uses an included AAA battery. If you don’t have fingernails, grab a screwdriver to open the back to insert the battery. While you can’t plug the USB receiver directly into a projector, the host computer can be connected to a projector for instantly putting what’s written on the pad onto the big screen.
When you don’t use it for several minutes, the pen has the annoying habit of going to sleep. It’s easy, though, to wake it up by taping on the pad.
After spending years trying out touch-screen computers, smart-boards and interactive projectors, using the Kapture pad and pen was a remarkably liberating experience. It’s simpler and has a better tactile feel to it. On the downside, it’s expensive and you can’t bring up a Web site on the pad or project a map’s image to mark up. I call it a halfway step towards interactivity.
In the final analysis Kapture misses a big opportunity to appeal to its target audience with an adapter that can use a white board or chalkboard. As it is, using paper and pen is a good way to bring a modicum of interactivity to the classroom.
+ Great way for technophobes to teach digitally
+ Easy set up
+ Wireless pen
+ PC and Macs
+ Works on white boards
- No chalk or whiteboard adapter
- Short pen range