An excerpt from the Educational Dealer, The Magazine of the School Supply Industry.
You Say You Got a Real Solution
Yes, it’s the interactive whiteboard. At Ed Expo, exhibitors displayed new content software and showed dealers how to take advantage of the growth of this market.
by Tina Manzer
Interactive whiteboards are leading a technology revolution in classrooms around the world. Teachers are embracing this bells-and-whistles teaching tool because of the way it captivates and engages all types of learners. By next year, predicts one international research company, 6.2 million interactive whiteboards (IWBs) will have been installed in schools around the globe.
More than 100,000 boards are being installed each month in U.S. classrooms alone, says Paul LaPorte of San Diego-based Classroom Complete Press. LaPorte was one of several IWB software publishers who exhibited at NSSEA’s Ed Expo, and he recently spoke with us about the ways school supply dealers can fit into the IWB distribution stream.
Comprehensive lesson activities from introduction to assessment
Kristine Petricas, account manager for software publisher Daydream Education-North America, had an experience similar to LaPorte’s at the show. “Many of the retailers who came to my booth said, ‘I don’t want to sell the interactive whiteboards in my store, but teachers are coming in asking for content. What do I sell them?’
“We provide that content,” she continued, “so without getting into the function of interactive whiteboards at all, retailers can sell the software as long as they know what ones work with IWBs and what each one will help teachers do. With our titles, for instance, retailers can tell teachers: ‘Here’s a comprehensive lesson activity from introduction to assessment.”
“Our software starts at $12 a title,” she added. “A teacher can, in fact, go into a dealer store, purchase a title and have it loading on her system that day. When teachers shop for their back-to-school classroom supplies, they’ll see software for their interactive whiteboards and grab it. In my mind, especially at $12, I would buy it and try it anyway, even if I was oppositional.”
Petricas noted that while a lot of companies sell software as well as curriculum, some of the programs are complicated and costly, requiring district and tech-coordinator approval, plus training. “I don’t see as many titles that are ‘plug-and-play’ like ours.”
Paul LaPorte noted, “Teachers are looking for curriculum-based lesson plan software in all subject areas and in all grades. It is difficult and very time-consuming for teachers to create their own comprehensive lesson plans for an IWB. The result is a greater need for more content publishers to enter the market.
“There is limited quality product on the market right now,” he added. “I would caution distributors to carefully choose the software they offer. There are varying quality levels and no standards. I would suggest testing and viewing each product before adding it to their mix for this category.”
At only $12 a title, interactive whiteboard software from Daydream Education will be something teachers grab while they’re shopping for other back-to-school supplies, predicts Kristine Petricas, the company’s account manager.
Curriculum drives the use of technology
Integrating technology into classroom instruction, the hottest topic in education right now, is more than simply teaching students basic computer skills. “The goal is to have every lesson – each and every math, science, English, music, everything – technology-based,” said Petricas. “While students are learning the lesson and the fundamentals of that topic, they are also using technology.”
According to The George Lucas Educational Foundation’s edutopia.org, a website that provides practical advice and best practices for using technology in the classroom, tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that deepen and enhance the learning process. “In particular, it must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts,” said one article there. “Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent, and when technology supports curricular goals.”
An IWB is today’s best tool for meaningful, classroom-wide technology integration. “It provides engaging, multimedia technology that appeals to today’s students,” said LaPorte. “The boards become a platform for making lesson plans come alive. You can add a high level of interactivity, color, motion, audio, video, embedded flash to reveal correct answers and much more. The teachers who embrace this technology find they can offer a more enriched and interactive learning experience to the true benefit of the students.”
“When I would go into a classroom to demo an interactive whiteboard, the students would immediately light up when I turned it on,” said Petricas, who worked for an IWB reseller conducting training sessions before she joined Daydream Education. “They became a captive audience immediately.”
She related a story about a presentation she did in a classroom of students with behavioral problems. The teacher warned her that one particular student would sleep throughout the presentation while another would simply ignore the whole thing. “But when I turned on the whiteboard, shy students raised their hands and struggling students did their best to follow what was on the board,” Petricas said. “I saw students collaborating as teams to solve problems together and learn from each other. The environment became engaged and peaceful for all the different types of learners in that classroom.”
Teachers who apply their own teaching strategy to IWB technology quickly become passionate fans. “You can almost see the feeling of relief come over them when they witness how the students interact with it,” said Petricas. “They can captivate their entire audience at once.”
Not that there isn’t resistance. “It is new technology, which can be intimidating. The teachers think, ‘Is it going to explode? Am I going to look silly up here if I do something wrong or it freezes on me?’ But that resistance dissolves once I show them what they can do with it. They want to learn how to use it,” she told us.
When I asked her if interactive whiteboards had a downside, Petricas said, “Only when the teachers have them and don’t use them.
“I’ve gone into schools where the boards are up but they’re not connected. I’ve seen boards upon which teachers have taped posters and used them as bulletin boards, or as dry-erase boards and have written on them with markers. I’ve talked to the maintenance people at schools who have told me, ‘Oh yeah, we got two of those last year but they’re still in their boxes.”
“It breaks my heart,” she said.
More more more
Paul LaPorte believes that the IWB market has another five years until saturation. It stands to reason that if every classroom has an IWB, hardware sales would decline.
But will they be in every classroom?
“I would say yes, the grand goal would be to have an interactive whiteboard in every classroom” said Kristine Petricas. “Research shows that proper use and application of an IWB or some sort of fully integrated technology in a classroom produces higher test scores. Obviously, there are many schools that already have IWBs and more are lining up to get funding. How far it goes will depend on whether or not funding is available.”
She sees the demand for software increasing faster than the demand for hardware, in part due to proactive teachers who are purchasing curriculum-based content themselves. There’s also a demand among proactive parents. “We’ll see more of some kind of take-home solution like the use of tablets, not iPads, but tablets that work along with IWBs. A parent can purchase the same content software as a teacher, from the same store, so the student can work at home. Work in the classroom and at home can synchronize.
“More companies are going to break into the interactive whiteboard market, as well is into the content market,” she concluded. “As with all technology, the newest will probably be the most affordable and readily available to customers.”