Digital whiteboards have been a part of education for more than a decade now. Initially, these large, interactive displays allowed teachers to deliver—and their students to interact with—educational content in a totally new way. However, as tablets and other technologies became more practical and economical, some education experts began to believe that the digital whiteboard transformation was over almost immediately. If today’s digital whiteboard market is any indication, those beliefs were clearly wrong. Manufacturers have adapted the products by adding easy-to-use features like multi-user functionality and a better finger-to-screen experience. A MarketResearch.com report projects that the global interactive whiteboard market will grow by nearly 7 percent between 2012 and 2016, thanks primarily to increasing demand for dynamic, interactive learning. So what will happen over the next five years and why is it important?
Because this technology has been around for a decade, institutions will soon be looking to upgrade their whiteboards. Today and over the next five years however, the potential for technology is changing immensely. As high-definition screens are becoming more common in the home and on personal computing and gaming equipment, a projector-generated image can be disappointing. Schools are now purchasing products that all have multi-touch and gesture capability. Although interactive whiteboards are still in demand, schools are diversifying their technology with interactive projectors and panels.
Interactive panels are popular because they have little or no glare, regardless of where the student is seated. The high-definition LED display provides strong visuals to capture the attention of the class. Interactive panels offer total cost-of-ownership advantages in that schools never need to replace another projector bulb. This also prevents bulb outages at inopportune times during teaching. An increased use of video from YouTube and similar sources during lessons may also drive the need for a device that combines the high-definition screen, optimizing the use of video, with the “touch” interactivity of the whiteboard.
In his 2008 campaign speech, now President Obama talked about a future “where our children are more motivated because they aren’t just learning on blackboards, but on new whiteboards with digital touch screens; where every student in a classroom has a laptop at [his or her] desk; where [students] don’t just do book reports but design PowerPoint presentations; where they don’t just write papers, but they build Web sites; where research isn’t done just by taking a book out of the library, but by emailing experts in the field; and where teachers are less a source of knowledge than a coach for how best to use it and obtain knowledge.” This makes the future of interactive whiteboards and associated equipment a lucrative market for VARs.
Educators know that the physical price of a piece of technology is only part of its overall cost. Value is also found in the warranty, content, training, usability, and functionality of the technology. If it is not well-supported, doesn’t integrate with current classroom infrastructure, and cannot be shown to improve learning outcomes, then greater costs will be incurred in the future. These are all things that VARs can help ensure. To get the best value for the money from technology, additional emphasis also must be placed on making the best use of assets. Schools should ensure that their teachers have a continuing professional development program so that they can become proficient users of the technology they have in their classroom. Ensuring high-level training is included in the price can result in a significantly higher return on investment. VARs that provide high-level training will not only realize an additional source of revenue, but also will have happy end-users. Finally, schools should never underestimate the power of bulk buying, and neither should VARs.
In the next five years the future of interactive whiteboard technology for VARs includes:
- Interactive panels
- Hardware upgrades due to age
- Bulk sales
- Technology-enabled classrooms
- High-level training
This matters to VARs today so that they can get up to speed on the new technology and education applications, develop bulk sales plans, determine what the classroom of the future looks like, set up high-level training, and then sell, sell, sell!
Is there any additional discussion required about the future of interactive whiteboard technology that should be addressed in this forum? Please comment below.