iOS5 (iPads) and the Interactive White Board

Over the past two days, I have had the chance to think more about iOS5.  Although a beta version is in the wild, most users (like myself) have not had a chance to use iOS5.  There are a number of features of iOS5 that I am excited about, but none more so than Wireless AirPlay mirroring for the iPad 2.

A number of tech bloggers, including Fraser Speirs, have mentioned that AirPlay mirroring kills the IWB industry.

It’s very possible.

The lag in gaming that is demonstrated won’t be an issue for education.  What will be an issue is the design and distribution of an AirPlay receiver slated for education.  Specifically, most school LCD Projectors aren’t HDMI-capable.  So those projectors will need an Apple TV and a HDMI to VGA converter box.  Plus, currently with AirPlay at home, we’ve found that every receiver on the network shows up (including multiple Apple TVs), plus the last device that broadcasts to the Apple TV takes it over.  In a 1-on-1 iPad setting, there is nothing keeping a student from taking over the projector in the middle of a lesson.  A non-techy teacher could be destroyed by this.

Sure, an IWB gives you more area.  But it is generally a single touch device–or it relies on multiple “pens.”  They usually aren’t multi-touch.

In my opinion, it would be a better investment to buy the largest TV you can purchase, such as the 70-inch Sharp Aquos Quattron LC-70LE732U, a wall-mounting kit, an Apple TV, and an iPad 2 than to buy an IWB.  The TV will be brighter in all lighting conditions, will last longer (bulbs burn out), will require less wiring (only a power source with two plugs), and will have more flexibility with various kinds of inputs, should others be needed.

Does the IWB still have a place in education?  Possibly.  You can argue that the software included with each IWB is geared towards the specific device, and that a large number of resources, including standards-based lessons, are available as bonuses for teachers with those devices [At the same time, I wonder how many teachers are like me and end up creating their own materials, as the “shared” materials don’t fit our content?].

Truthfully, there’s little I can do on an IWB that I couldn’t do just as easily on my iPad, but the wireless concept of an iPad blows the IWB out of the water.  Another curse of the IWB?  You have to face it to write on it, away from your class.  Sure, you can get slates, but then you’re adding another peripheral to the mix, and you can’t see what you’re writing on anyway.  And a IWB is no more “touch sensitive” than an iPad.  You can’t write harder or softer (although some apps on the iPad do mimic sensitivity).  And I don’t even want to discuss brightness issues at the moment…we need to turn all the lights off in our choir room and close our windows to get a clear image with our projector.

How could an IWB stay relevant in the “Post-PC” and “Post-IWB” era?  Work with Apple and allow those devices to work as a controller for the iPad (e.g. our IWBs are Bluetooth enabled, although we’ve had issues with Bluetooth Connectivity–but we’re also still running Windows XP in our district and downgraded our computers from Windows 7 to do so).  But for all those IWBs that only hook up to a computer via USB?  As the iPad/tablet revolution continues, they’ll be relegated to functionality only as an expensive projection screen.

There are moments in life when you need to realize that a trend has arrived, or that it has passed.  The IWB is a movement drawing to a close.  If your school (like mine) invested heavily in IWBs, don’t fret–there’s no way to predict the future of technology.  And if you wait for the next thing, you’ll wait forever.  But it would be a grave error to stay committed to a form of technology that you knew was outdated by a better product.

Oh, and do you need apps that can do what some of the IWB programs do?  Create a market for them, and developers will build them–and sell them at educational volume discounts (If some of these companies were really forward looking, they would start making iPad versions of their software and selling them–because other revenue streams are going to dry up.  This is a challenge for companies like SMART that are so tightly tied to Flash.  All it will take is one national NASSP conference for a bunch of principals to see a wireless iPad in action to cause thousands of schools and districts to adopt iPads and LCD TVs over projectors and IWBs.)


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