Sunday, October 7, 2012

Apple TV: Will it Replace the Interactive White Board?

My teaching career and my philosophy on education did a backflip about 8 years ago when the school that I was teaching in was closed down and the elementary school was relocated to a brand new building. This building was primarily funded by the state, and long over due in my eyes at the time. Along with some “green” spending, such as light sensors in every room, each room was also outfitted with a new mounted SMART board. 

Now personally I do not believe that the tools themselves make teachers better, but I have witnessed first hand that good teachers will use tools effectively to grow and enhance their instruction.

It changed my philosophy as I saw the power of the interactive white board at the front of my room. It was a great tool for presentations and on the spot learning, but the real power was in the way it pulled me away from the front of the room and allowed the students to be the center of attention. I could often find myself roaming around the class asking clarifying questions, and digging for deeper meaning, while students would raise their hands enthusiastically to provide a solution and demonstrate their thinking up on the board for everyone to view.

If you had told me then that the interactive white board would be extinct in 10 years, I would have thought you were crazy! I mean sure, I saw some teachers use this $3,000 piece of equipment as nothing more then a fancy projector, and classroom instruction didn’t change much for them, but how could this tool that could revolutionize the teaching standard have that short of a life? Technically in the technology field 10 years is a pretty good life these days.

So why are people asking the question, “Is the interactive white board dead?” Again, the world of technology is going through an entire flip. Apple has really pushed the computing world into consumer devices and personalized tools to sync, create, collaborate, and share media and all wirelessly with great simplicity. 

The role of the technology department in schools has drastically changed too! No longer are these teams making all of the decisions and managing all of the updates on these devices. The simplicity of these devices no longer makes it necessary to have an engineer in the background managing all of these items. A great deal of thought still has to be put into a deployment of these new devices, however the conversation has moved towards how best to support education and not so much on the technical needs. These devices have become more personal and adaptive.

For instance, an iPad can now wirelessly connect to an Apple TV, a black hockey puck that sits near your HD TV or projector connected via HDMI cable. Wirelessly across the network an iPad, iPod or iPhone running the latest iOS software can mirror the display for the whole class onto the projection. 

Air Server now allows your Mac or Windows computer to mirror an image from these devices as well. Hook your computer into a projector or TV and you have just created a cheap version of an interactive classroom solution. Instead of students going to the front of the room, they are demonstrating from their seats. The teacher can still become a facilitator and walk around the room dropping the iPad down at a desk to give the student a heads up that their demonstration will be shown next.

From a budget stand point, it’s a no brainer. An iPad, projector and an Apple TV is cheaper then interactive white boards. Assuming your teachers already have laptops, purchasing Air Server ($59 per 15 teachers) and a projector for the classroom is a low cost solution for an interactive display.

The interactive white board is not dead, yet. I still love observing a well designed lesson using this tool, but there is a reason why the leaders in this industry are dropping their prices. The greatest advantage to interactive whiteboards are the software packages that come with them. This is why I have always been a fan of SMART and Promethean. Both come with superior software packages to other companies in the field for education, especially at the elementary level.

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