Making tech SMART

Jack-William Cantwell reports back from the SMART event held at the Science Museum in London

SMART’s recent gathering, held at the Science Museum in London, was an opportunity to showcase its latest product. SMARTamp promises to be a unifying solution for collaboration in a classroom cluttered with multitudes of varying operating systems and device manufacturers. 

CEO of SMART Neil Gaydon opened proceedings, letting us know that the event would be streamed around the world and they had already showcased the product at a similar event in New York.

Neil began by detailing SMART’s history, commenting that they were among the most instrumental of companies to bring technology into the classroom, as long as 20 years ago. He noted that the SMART board was their pioneering and flagship product, hardware that was driven by the software Notebook. 

This was however to be SMART’s first time launching a new software platform, after nearly a decade of production, engineering and collaboration with teachers and students. SMARTamp is a purpose-built education software platform, with a simple and intuitive user interface. But why should we create a new platform? What do the current platforms not offer? 

Neil went on to highlight that classroom technologies shift more towards mobile devices. Whilst this is very exciting, the shift in product usage and pedagogy does pose certain issues.

He maintained that there are three main companies competing for hardware, and to be the authority in 1-1 operations. And while Apple, Google and Microsoft are competing, they are not collaborating. The BYOD movement means teachers are finding it harder to circulate material through the same medium, and the products sold to students remain as personal consumer devices, not designed for widespread use in an education facility with other apps of third part integrations. 

The conflict between the companies does nothing to unify content or learning and SMART saw that this was ideal for bringing a product to market that could be universal and collaborative.

As teaching is changing to involve collaboration amongst students, the hardware and software initiatives implemented by schools must reflect this, and adapt to how students are best learning. In the work space and enterprise world, this is how we get things done and so Neil alluded to the necessity of this also being present in the classroom; whereby we can teach students the processes involved in collaborating from an early standpoint.

SMARTamp is democratised for the classroom, with no need for different operating systems and will work regardless of the device upon which it is accessed. Children are able to use it anywhere and in real time. Content providers have worked with SMART for free, not charging for being part of the initiative. This is key in the fact that as budgets for tech become larger yet more focused, this solution remains cost effective.

The actual software is a cloud-based environment that enables students and teachers to use their devices to create, discover, communicate and share their ideas. Being web based, this saves on energy and maintenance costs and also assists with storage or faulty hardware issues. 

The big problem in classrooms (and most notably with BYOD schemes) is that when there is a plethora of operating systems it becomes harder to streamline the educating as too much effort has to go into device management and planning the teaching process. SMARTamp removes this boundary, and allows any student with an internet connection to access and use the software.

As educators look to encourage and accommodate a broad range of learning styles, SMARTamp can cater for them all. Student led, enquiry based or indeed project led, the versatile insert/drag/drop/comment features in SMARTamp lend itself to be useful to any initiative.

More to follow on the launch and functionality of SMARTamp…


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