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College CIO Predicts Tablets Will Kill Smart Boards 150

CowboyRobot writes "Keith Fowlkes (vice chancellor for information technology and CIO at the University of Virginia's College at Wise) has a commentary at Information Week in which he makes the point that moving forward, colleges will be able to dump all the 'smart' classroom tools and devices (e.g. electronic whiteboards, clickers, projection systems, etc.) and will only need to support students' tablets. The reasoning comes down to the return on investment, which is easy to argue for tablets but not for other classroom technologies. Standardization of video across devices remains a problem, as does the issue of where files are stored and how they are shared. But these are solvable problems and we will soon see the day when electronic whiteboards are a distant memory." I think the issue of file storage was solved by openafs a long time ago, certainly at the scale of a small university.
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College CIO Predicts Tablets Will Kill Smart Boards

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  • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Thursday January 10, 2013 @09:45AM (#42544869)

    Let's put aside the fact that a LOT of professors don't like the idea of students even bringing smartphones into class, much less tablets and notebooks. Let's put aside the fact this guy sounds like someone whining about his budget, who has possibly been approached by a slick salesman who's sold him on the idea of some app that's just going to require a "small investment." Let's put aside the fact the professors are still, by and large, a bunch of old farts--many of whom are still using the same blackboard presentations and transparencies that they were using 30 years ago.

    To me, the most obvious counter to this assertion is the notebook. Students have had notebooks en masse for 10-15 years now, and THOSE didn't really revolutionize the classroom. And if notebooks, which are way more powerful and open than tablets, didn't really change things all that much--then what makes him think that tablets will?

  • OpenAFS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @09:51AM (#42544923) Homepage

    Uh, sure. Ever try to actually get it working? Good luck doing that on iOS - it is a royal pain on Linux, let alone Windows.

    The sad thing is that OpenAFS is the only networked POSIX filesystem I'm aware of that actually works reasonably well and is secure. Pity that nobody actually uses it. NFSv4 with all the features enabled looks to be almost as good, and just as painful to set up.

    Why is it that I can take any Windows box and right click on a folder and turn on sharing, enter a password, and get something that is fairly secure, and yet the same feature does not exist on Linux? Sure, for a fortune 500 company setting up Kerberos and such makes sense, but to share a few files between two PCs?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2013 @09:55AM (#42544963)

    Tablets won't for the same reason laptops didn't. People will show up with any number of different make/model of tables with different versions of different operating systems on them with different capabilities and different versions of different applications then fold in that the user's will have varying levels of skill is the use of these devices...

    You'd end up with the instructor (usually not all that technically savvy) using up the class time trying to get their presentation/software/whatever to work on everybody's device rather than actually teaching anything.

    Between the above reasons and arcane licensing restrictions on a number of specialized software titles we still maintain actual computer labs, you know, rooms full of PCs, something we were told would go away more than ten years ago.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2013 @10:23AM (#42545257)

    You think designing a presentation in HTML is easier than Powerpoint?!? Hell, my dog could probably put together a Powerpoint presentation. With HTML, even something as simple as getting a graphic to go exactly where you want it can be a pain in the ass.

    I know the MS hatred here is strong, but don't kid yourself. Powerpoint is #1 for a reason. And one of those reasons is that it's braindead simple and easy to use (and I've known even CS profs who need braindead simple)

  • Cell phone cameras (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2013 @10:26AM (#42545283)

    Tablets didn't kill smartboards - cell phone cameras did. I've been in over 100 different client boardrooms and seen dozens of smartboard setups, but I've never actually seen one that worked properly. A plain whiteboard and a cell phone camera, on the other hand, capture the notes very simply and effectively. It may not be the fanciest solution but it's by far the most convenient.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2013 @10:58AM (#42545709)

    If you don't get much of a chance to observe kids across the range of education and you are involved in IT futures at all, it is worth looking at and thinking about.

    Notebooks have always been just expensive enough and big enough that, while kids had access to them, they had to make an effort to get them and use them. 7 years ago, when you had a laptop, you still had to put in effort to understand how to connect one to the internet and then make it happen -- often involving money. That is where the change happened.

    The generation of current under 10 year olds had access to always-connected-tablets/phones before they encountered formal education. Today's Jr High kids weren't quite reading when mom first put an iphone in their hands to distract them, and they have been fixated on them ever since. Kids don't have go get the laptop or carry one around. They just pull the small tablet out of their skinny jeans when they are and use their bigger one when they can, if they want to.

    This is the first generation that will be far more comfortable with the touch/glass interface than a physical keyboard by the time they hit the workforce. They don't know a world where the internet wasn't always and immediately at their disposal and have never experienced a life where they had to put in effort to find access or understand even the basics about how it works. They play game and live their social lives on them, they get Christmas and birthday gifts for applications or services on them, they watch television and movies on them and they read on them. Oh, and they learn on them all the time. Everything from lets-play videos, to cooking and dancing, foreign languages and even how to make their own videos for the internet are all things I've seen my own kids absorb via youtube on a tablet as something they chose to do 'for fun'. And it was far more normal and engaging for them to do it on "their own" tablet than a laptop or normal computer.

    The current batch of undergrads, which is really the end of the laptop generation, has adopted phones/tablets as well obviously. But more importantly, so has the current generation of graduate student and they are the teaching workforce and heirs apparent of the current faculty. Universities that maintain large footprint wireless networks are seeing record numbers of concurrent connections and it is changing IT strategy across higher ed. You already can't walk 10 steps on a large university during the semester without seeing a tablet and that was never the case with laptops. That's with the generation of people who had to learn to switch to tablets.

    So yeah. Tablets are different. And it isn't just marketing hype. If you are like me, you find them somewhat convenient at times but also annoying to use and you would rather stick with what is comfortable. But for kids today, laptops are the annoyingly quaint technology.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @12:42PM (#42547155) Homepage

    And the reverse is even truer - given a good teacher, it makes no difference what technology they use or if indeed they use any technology at all.

  • by RatherBeAnonymous ( 1812866 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @01:29PM (#42547797)

    Perhaps they would... If they were employed to produce word documents.

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta