For years now, we’ve all heard education is behind business in terms of technology implementation. What usually follows is the perception that educators still don’t get it. They make students share computers; they don’t properly train teachers; they don’t understand how to use the tools that are commonly used in business. I admit, I’ve made these assumptions myself.
But after attending Infocomm in Orlando last month, the trade show for presentation systems and AV equipment manufacturers, it finally dawned on me that I’ve been looking at this equation all wrong. The fact is, schools are different from businesses. And while both school districts and businesses are facing financial problems, schools are the largest untapped market for presentation systems. Slowly, companies seem to realize this and ask themselves a question that’s overdue: How can we make our products serve schools’ needs?
Two incidents proved to me that school districts have the power to force companies to alter their products to fix schools’ needs, not the other way around.
The first is relatively simple. James Chan, Mitsubishi’s director of product marketing, created a chart that shows school districts how a new $1,300 projector can pay for itself in just about a month. He broke down the costs of creating transparencies and estimated that after about 40 different lessons, a school district that is freed from making transparencies could recoup the cost of a new projector. It’s a simple piece, and not a novel idea, but it addresses school budget concerns.
The second example is a lot more complex, and therefore, more satisfying. Michael H. Dunn, PolyVision’s president and CEO, detailed how his company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and four years to study how people use, or don’t use, interactive whiteboards. Even inside his own company, Dunn found that some ignored the board’s best features and just used the interactive whiteboards as replacements for traditional whiteboards. Because of this research, the company redesigned its products and has created a line of easy-to-use whiteboards that Dunn hopes will find a home inside many districts.
Education’s decision-makers should recognize the tremendous weight they carry. It’s time to start acting like you have the power and demanding products that fit your district’s needs.
Wayne D’Orio, Editorial Director