WiscNet’s December Regional Meetings

WiscNet’s annual series of statewide Town Hall meetings begin this Friday and run statewide until December 13th!

Superintendents, CIOs, Technology Directors, individuals associated with content, learning and professional development, technical professionals and others have all attended in the past and we all enjoyed a great exchange of ideas on educational technology topics.

wiscnet.gif WiscNet will be updating everyone on our community events. But most important is your opportunity to engage WiscNet. A listening session is set for us to understand your network needs….tell us what’s on your mind! WiscNet Regional Meeting Schedule

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Next Week: Internet2 conference Chicago

Sunday begins the fall Internet2 Member Meeting in Chicago at the Hyatt McCormick.internet2 k20 This is my first Internet2 conference and I’m looking forward to many events and sessions.

I will also be addressing the K20 Advisory Committee on establishing an Internet2 identity for schools connected and working with Interent2. We have identified a need to promote those Wisconsin networks already connected to Internet2.

Within Wisconsin over 190 school districts alone are already connected to Internet2. My WiscNet Co-Chair Dan Gross and I hope to not just blog this event either….

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Smartboards are just plain dumb

While leading a college IT team at a private college in Wisconsin I painfully learned Smartboards are just plain dumb.  Our Provost was interested to explore funding Smartboards in eight classrooms.  In securing a full “kick-the-tires” evaluation over two weeks from Smart Technologies’ regional reseller — our college took a full, no-holes barred test drive.  The reseller delivered the smartboards right to our doorstep.


Smart Technologies a Canadian company manufactures a series of interactive whiteboards targeted for the education and healthcare markets.  They have a large marketshare in K12 school districts yet a very small share in Higher Education.
SMART Technologies has a simple marketing message: SMART Boards represent the latest advanced in high-tech classrooms.  And by the looks of sales in K12 they believe they get access to state-of-the-art technology to teach more effectively. Students “feel” more engaged with high-tech gadgets.  Parents believe their children are recieving a better, quality education because their school has expensive smart boards installed.

Their products like other manufacturers permit anyone (holding a custom pen with touch recognition) to control/interact with an application’s software menus and windows. This will enable some level of handwriting recognition. Depending upon the type of camera configured, projection can be front or rear facing.  The important feature is the ability to capture digital ink — or handwriting recognition. It’s the “smart” part of their product — as their trademark would imply.  But for the prices that range from ($3,000 to $12,000) you should be getting 110% of your school’s investment. Right?

I have witnessed shifts towards “smartclassrooms” in K12 and Higher Education around the Midwest for almost 20 years.  If you have not personally configured and kicked the tires of a SMART Board PLEASE make sure someone on your IT Staff has this experience. The results should fundamentally change your view of smartboards and ’emerging’ technologies in the classroom.

Just one very important observation before jumping into my experience: In today’s branded world of smartphones, smartcars and even smart appliances, SMART Technologies holds the trademark to the word “Smart” and believe me …. there is marketing power when holding this trademark when selling technology products.

Okay….call them whatever you want: smartboard, digital whiteboards or even toss in the term “interactive” into the mix.  What should shock you is the degree of software compatibility for the price schools pay for these boards.

My goal was simple: obtain a solid understanding of this technology to justify our Provost’s initiative.  I kept a close eye on the purchase, installation, design and (most importantly) delivering empowering training to faculty and staff.   In order for me to meet these objectives the following three tasks were outlined for the Provost:

1. Tour a successful university installation with a team from our college
2. Confirm reseller demo on campus in-front of key decision makers
3. Successfully test drive all campus site licensed software

I was fortunate to secure a tour of Marquette University’s SmartClassrooms with their Associate Vice President for Educational Technology.  Joining me was our Director of Instructional Technology, Dean of Continuing Education and two members of my IT support team.

Several installations around Marquette’s campus successfully demonstrate a range interactive smart boards.  Marquette’s total costs for installing a “smartclassroom” cost about $40,000 per classroom.  The highlight of our visit was a behind the scenes tour of their smartclassroom in the new Raynor Library.

However SMART Technologies was not well liked by staff responsible for maintaing classroom technology.  As a result our group walked away realizing Smart’s products were not the right solution. Their reputation was poor, the total cost of ownership and training were much higher than anticipated and most importantly their product did not work as advertised.

In order to fully utilize a SMART board’s touch pen you must install or program custom code for ALL applications to be used on their SMART boards.  Yes, your school needs special code-modified versions of EVERY software application installed on every machine that will be connect to their SMART board.  Our college provides faculty with laptops and have laptops on mobile carts.  Our existing fresh out-of-the-box site licensed software from Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and every other vendor on the planet DOES NOT recognize SMART’s pen!  That’s a big problem.
Continue reading “Smartboards are just plain dumb”

Microsoft payola

Microsoft has announced it will pay Universal Music for sales of their upcoming Zune mp3 player. Clearly Microsoft wants to get a foot in the door of the digital music business but as they have proven before (anti trust) once they start, Steve Ballmer and company will use every trick in their huge arsenal to kill the iPod and iTunes. Lets not kid ourselves Ballmer would love to kill Apple.

So how can Microsoft do this? Today many learned that even through Microsoft is losing money on each sale of their Zune unit they will pay Universal a set dollar amount from the sale of every Zune to get access to Universal’s music collection.

All in the name of going to battle Apple over the iPod and iTunes music store. They see music as the first step in moving content to portable devices. And video is next. Like everything else…they want to simply dominate the market. This includes changing the business of on-line music to favor them against all rivals. Nice to have billions of dollars coming in from selling Office and OS upgrades to cover the losses with Zune.
–But Zune isn’t even cool.

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NHL and Google Video

It was a very pleasant surprise to see Google providing free access to all 2006 National Hockey League games. As you may know by now hockey is a very exciting game with fans worldwide.

NHL LogoMany technology blogs commented about Google’s failure with their pay-for-view try with the NBA. It was so limited to the true (honesty true) die-hard fans. Only those would pay for each baskeball game…or it was just a test run to see how it would fare?

With the globalization of the NBA it was a bit of a surprise to see it fail. They may have missed their opportunity to post playoff games, milestone event games and even the opportunity to purchase select game packages….like Michael Jordan’s Top 10 scoring games. The Chicago market and the international following the Bulls have would have proven that an easy success. I’m positive if the NBA can figure a way to make money with this … they will be back. Maybe at iTunes.

However for now hockey fans, just like the spirit of the open source community, you can’t beat free.
— BTW: Can you find the link to the NBA on that page?

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