A Discussion with Warren Barkley: CTO of Smart Technologies
The SMART Board was one of the first interactive devices to really take the educational community by storm. It was the technology that you just had to have and most schools worked very hard to get a board in every classroom. The smart board, in my opinion, was also instrumental in making the distinction between having technology in your classroom and actually using that technology to better student achievement.
A white board can be a really expensive chalk board replacement, or it can be a new interactive technology that enhances or enriches the learning experience. At one point there were very few white boards on the market, now you can get about 20 different types of “interactive white boards” with a range of abilities and costs. So what do we buy now? Do we go with the least expensive? Do we go with the most popular? How do we decide on what technology to buy for our classrooms when everybody is in the business of making identical products? These questions do not have to apply to white boards; choose any technology and the same questions seem to apply.
Being a blogger for the Huffington Post, I had an excellent opportunity to talk with Warren Barkley, the CTO of Smart Technologies. I wanted to get some answers to these questions and more in regards to Smart Technologies. Now, those of you that read my blog know that I really enjoy “telling it like it is” and “not pulling any punches”, so I was ready to share some tough questions with this man. When I called him, we decided to make the phone call more of a conversation and less of an interview. I started the conversation with this:
“So, a white board is a white board and I don’t see the point in buying the popular brands. What do you think?”
He then threw me for a loop. He agreed with me. We started agreeing on everything. About 5 minutes into the conversation, I felt like I was talking with one of my high school friends or fraternity brothers. I would guess that if you could have eaves dropped on our conversation we may have sounded like two young girls squealing about getting ready to go to a Justin Bieber Concert (sorry Warren, that’s how we sounded). I had so much fun talking with him– it was simply ridiculous. I mean we were two technology buffs talking about the latest technology. What could be better?
As our conversation continued, Warren and I agreed that the white board is not the key to interactivity; it is the software behind it that makes a SMART board special. That is why I am continuing to furnish my school with SMART Boards. He told me that there is a new version of Smart Notebook coming out soon, Notebook v. 14. SMART Boards is also looking into 3D boards and interaction with 3D printers. I explained to him that that is why I went with SMART Boards. You can’t beat the software of Smart Technologies. Also I told him that my teachers preferred it because there is a huge community of educators that create for SMART boards and the collaboration is second to none.
Warren then went on to tell me about some exciting things on the horizon for Smart technologies, some of it will be available quite soon. He told me about this new software called AMP. Now this is going to revolutionize the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) issues for schools. AMP takes the smart software and lets the teacher interact with the SMART board and every child’s device. The beauty of AMP is not only the collaboration between teacher and students but the fact that it is a multi platform program. No matter what type of device your child brings to school, AMP will run on that platform.
Just an aside: Warren and I then got into our personal lives and we discovered that we both have 5 year old children. I was telling him a story about how my 5 year old boy was caught trying to turn on the DVD by pushing on the TV screen. He had the same thing happen to his kid and we joked about how times certainly have changed. At that point he told me about a new product that is coming soon. It is a SMART Board, filled with all of the fantastic software of Notebook, but in the form of a flat screen TV. I lost my mind! To me this is just awesome and it will bring the overall costs of class integration down. Why? Now with one purchase you get a SMART board, a projector, and a TV. In my world this is a three for one deal that I would not pass up.
At the end of our conversation I told him how much I enjoyed our talk. He told me that he enjoyed it as well. I left the conversation with this feeling: If Smart Technologies has people like Warren Barkley running their business, then I will continue to be a loyal supporter. He has his heart and passions in the right place. He wants to make great things for our classrooms. He wants to be a part of the solution to helping educate our students for the 21st century and beyond.