The Death of the Interactive Whiteboard?

There has been a good deal of discussion recently in K-12 education about the next generation of “interactive whiteboards (IWBs).”  Many IWBs purchased during the initial wave in 2006-2010 from SMART, Promethean, etc. have aged out and – in New York State – a number of districts have been considering replacements through their Smart Schools Bond Act funding allocations and/or capital/technology bond projects.

There are three significant concerns I’m feeling about these next generation boards:

  1. Are instructors any more prepared to teach with a next generation IWB as they were with first generation systems? While I’ve seen some great use of IWBs to engage students and better illustrate many learning objects, I’ve also seen and schools have talked about too many instances where the IWB was a glorified whiteboard/chalkboard/overhead projector.
  2. What truly makes them different from the older IWBs? Sure, their “touch-enabledness” is more robust, they have more abilities for multi-users, wireless screen sharing is becoming more standard, many are equipped with a basic webcam/microphone – but are they really helping to transform learning spaces and pedagogy?
  3. If we are trying to move towards more student-driven, active learning spaces, aren’t IWBs (new, old, whatever) further perpetuating a teacher-centered model – teachers standing and delivering from the front of the room, just now with a fancier screen or projector?

Ultimately, if the older IWB’s made a marginal difference (at best), what makes this new generation of IWB’s truly any different?

This all said, there are some interesting new “interactive whiteboards” coming to market that I don’t think are truly IWBs  In fact, there’s even a question about what to call these technologies (Team collaboration device?  Visual collaboration device?  Cloud-attach device?  Ideation unit?  Giant tablet?).

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Cisco Spark Board

This is where products such as Cisco’s new Spark Board are coming in.  I would include Google’s recently announced Jamboard as another potentially impactful product in this new market (although it would be great to learn more about when it will be available for purchase in schools, can we trial it?).  In private enterprise, the Microsoft Surface Hub is considered another product in this category – with linkages to the Microsoft virtual ecosystem of Skype for Business, Office 365, etc..  This device has just not seemed to catch on in K-12 for a number of possible reasons (price point, delays in bringing it to market, lack of buzz).

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Google Jamboard

What is intriguing about these products is, while they are physical devices, they are intimately connected to their respective virtual platforms (Cisco Spark Board with Spark, Google Jamboard with G Suite).  The best description I’ve heard for these devices is from @LetsDoVideo  (David Maldow) – he said the Spark Board is “not a device. It’s a physical manifestation of a Spark workspace.”

When districts and teachers are thinking about replacements for IWB’s, perhaps we should be thinking more about this concept of directly linking physical spaces to virtual spaces.  Considering questions such as how will these new devices link our classrooms to the virtual platforms we’re using?  How do these devices further break down the walls of our classrooms and allow our students to connect and collaborate natively with other classrooms, community members, peers in other neighborhoods, communities, states, and countries?

Devices such as the Spark Board and (potentially) the Jamboard appear to do this – or at least the vision behind these devices seem to point to this: seamlessly linking the physical with the virtual/collaboration worlds, rather than simply replacing an older IWB with a new flavor that essentially does the same things.

As a starting point, I’m looking forward to an opportunity this week to actually get my hands on a Spark Board to being to see if it delivers on its promise (more to follow).  Based on what has been shared to date about the product, I have significant reservations the device will be an affordable fit for K-12 schools – but I am excited to see the potential this new class of products could have over time to help transform our learning spaces.

Taking the Plunge

I have been thinking for some time now about whether to start a blog.  It was on my list of “social media things to do” when I started getting serious with social media back in 2013.  I started with LinkedIn, Twitter, and (more recently) Instagram – but I always felt a blog would be so much more time consuming than some of the “quick hitter” forms of social media…  and where would I ever find the time for that?

Beyond that, I wondered (like so many other bloggers do) why anyone would care what I think or what I have to say.  Sure, I have had colleagues encourage me (thank you @BoyePitcher in particular) when I suggested I might start a blog.  But I still wondered whether people were just saying that to be nice.  Yet, in spite of my hesitancy, I still had it in the back of my mind to at least start something.

Recently, I started looking more closely at other people’s blogs – both some great educator and industry bloggers themselves and other professionals who give good advice about what elements should be in a good blog.  This helped.  (Check out @ajjuliani‘s recent “30 Day Blogging Challenge” for example).  That said, I think the tipping point for me was a recent workshop I attended sponsored by @DellEMCedu and facilitated by @ideaguy42 (Bob Dillon).  During the workshop on active learning spaces, Bob reinforced the value in “reflection,” and asked “how can we create moments to decompress [for kids and adults]?”  Participants discussed how none of us tend to spend enough time reflecting and we agreed there is great value in professionals writing down their reflections.  Ironically, as I “reflected” on Bob’s comments, I thought that a blog could be that vehicle to drive me towards regular reflection.  I mean, we talk all the time about the value in having our students publish their work for community consumption – why shouldn’t I do the same?

So, with all humility, I’m motivated to start this blog as much (probably more) for my own personal growth as I am to (hopefully) share at least a few words of wisdom with anyone who is willing to spend a couple of minutes to listen.  I also have hopes this endeavor will allow me to further connect with professionals I already work with and learn from, as well as expand connections with others with other perspectives I have not even considered.

So what am I going to talk about in this blog?  I’m not exactly sure.  There are some incredible directions right now in E-Learning that can (will) have a tremendous impact on the ability for students to access new learning opportunities…  and be challenged & engaged in new learning environments.  Perhaps even more notable, there are some transformative technological developments right now in industry and in culture – and if schools do not evolve in conjunction with these developments, I fear our students will not be prepared for the world as it will become (not what it is today) when they leave our schools.

So I am looking forward to this journey.  I’m looking forward to sharing thoughts about E-Learning, about instructional technology, and the impact all of this can (will) have on our schools and communities.  I’m hopeful that, by “taking the plunge” and publicly reflecting through this blog, it will help me grow professionally, grow personally, and possibly even help others grow just a little bit too.