So, it’s been decided that from September 2014, Smartboards will be no more in our school. The physical boards themselves will remain (as they are pretty good data projector screens), as will the speakers and projectors, but the USB cables will be ceremoniously removed from the Macs and Notebook software will be aggressively uninstalled from every Mac in the school.
Instead, teachers will be encouraged to use ExplainEverything, or even just Keynote (on Mac or iPad). Or in fact anything they like. If they just want a set of slides, Keynote will do the trick, and if they want interactivity, a mirrored iPad + stylus will suffice. And if they want to just do some writing, there’s always a whiteboard and dry wipe pen!
Why the big move?
Well, for a long time I have had a particular dislike for Smartboards. They are very expensive for what they are (a giant touchpad) and they never really work properly (always needing aligning, and once the surface gets damaged, are useless for writing). The Notebook software for the Mac isn’t really the greatest of Mac citizens, and using a giant but not always accurate touch interface to control OSX isn’t always very pleasant. Apple has long realised that a touch interface needs a different user interface (as have Microsoft to a certain degree), but Smartboards seem to just try and fudge the issue.
Now that we have iPads, and the ability to mirror the display to the Smartboard display (via Reflector App), it in many ways removes the need for a Smartboard. The interactive surface is freed from being fixed to one spot and can instead be wherever the teacher or child wants in the classroom. No wires!
The other issue is that Smart are now charging for their Notebook software via a subscription model. It used to be that the software was free because everyone was buying the interactive boards. But I suspect that schools aren’t buying or replacing boards very often (for example, we have some very old boards at our school), but are continuing to use the free software. So Smart needs to make some money somewhere…
So we are left at a crossroads: do we pay (potentially) lots of money to keep using the Notebook software on interactive boards that increasingly don’t work? Or do we move away from a technology in its autumn and instead embrace the one that it’s still in its springtime. It’ll probably be as popular as Apple’s position on Flash on the iPad, but I do think it’s the right thing to do.