SMART Notebook for iPad

Fraser Speirs announced an upcoming SMART Notebook app this past week via Twitter, and then the link went dead. Today, several blogs (including SMART’s own website) officially announced the app, coming this summer. This link is an official blog entry about the app from SMART’s own website.

The app will allow for the creation and editing of SMART Notebook files, minus, of course, Flash-based interactive components. It’s a brilliant, but late effort on the part of SMART Boards to stay relevant in education. You would think that Promethean will follow with its own iPad offering.

My high school, built in 2007-2009 (opening in September 2009) placed a SMART Board in every teaching station (and in conference rooms and public areas). Most of our teachers do not use SMART Notebook and instead rely on PowerPoint, Word, and the Internet for their teaching. Most of the included SMART Notebook resources have very little draw for our secondary teachers; most of our teachers make or find their own resources when they use SMART Notebook. And although Flash games and activites can be useful, they are not enough of a draw to cause teachers to use the software. And animations on SMART Notebook have been very limited (even buggy) compared to PowerPoint. My estimate is that, in IWB (interactive white board) classrooms, PowerPoint is the key software used at the secondary level.

But PowerPoint is generally non-existent on the iPad, which is finding its way into the hands of more teachers every day, and in the hands of many students. If you want to make a presentation on the iPad, you are likely going to use the very solid Keynote for iPad. You could use Onlive Desktop, but that requires Internet access.

SMART Notebook for the iPad positions SMART to become a presentation leader in the world of iOS, in the absence of PowerPoint (Which could arrive at any moment). It also signals the dominance of the iPad and an acknowledgment of the proliferation of the device in education. To me, it is a white flag that should have been flown at least a year ago.

I know that some elementary music educators LOVE their SMART Boards. I “get” that SMART allows you to make interactive elements that you can move around, and even link to audio files. And although there may be some apps that allow this type of interaction, it is hard to include an entire class in the process on an iPad (even mirrored). Keynote currently doesn’t allow for the manipulation of objects like a SMART Board (e.g. cloning notes). I was also a fan of teaching Music Theory with a SMART Board instead of a white board–but I haven’t had the opportunity to teach it with an iPad. Perhaps SMART Notebook for iPad will address these needs.

I still wouldn’t recommend the purchase of an IWB when an iPad and an Apple TV (with the new Kanex adapter) is a much lower price solution–the extra benefits of a SMART Board probably do not justify the cost (a SMART System is over $8000 installed with audio technology and projector).

SMART’s future may be in leveraging other technology as an education leader. Some examples: create an app that allows a teacher’s SMART Notebook file to beam to every tablet in the class. Or to download to every tablet in the class and let the teacher control which page students are on. Or to allow students to be given “write” permission to make notes on everyone’s iPads (discussion points). In other words, leveraging SMART Notebook as a 1-to-1 IWB rather than a 30-to-1 IWB. On a similar note, there is still a need for an iOS app that can be used in education for testing and quizzes. I’ve written several developers to inquire about the cost of creating such an app; those pricing requests are always left unanswered (I would seriously begin a Kickstarter campaign to fund it. By the way, if there is a developer who would be interested in creating such an app utilizing Kickstarter, please contact me).

You can bet that when SMART Notebook for the iPad is released, I will try it and report on how it works.

Special thanks to The Whiteboard Blog for the heads up on the upcoming release of this app!


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