Apple Kills the Interactive Whiteboard With iPad 2

Written by Matt House

…Or at least wounds it pretty grievously.

Last week Apple introduced the follow up to its uber-successful tablet. The iPad 2 was released with the generally accepted (though no less impressive) table of spec updates: faster dual-core CPU, improved graphics performance, dual cameras, and tweaked system software all wrapped in a thinner and lighter package.

Those improvements are all fine and dandy but the real piece de resistance, from an educator’s point-of-view, is the system-wide HDMI and VGA video mirroring.

In short, anything you can display on an iPad 2 can be funneled to a digital projector or a big screen television via an accessory cable. The first iteration of the iPad could connect to an external source but was severely limited, offering only slideshows and some video out. The iPad 2 will mirror anything on the display, including the library of 65,000 iPad applications.

This new feature is a rather large deal for several reasons. The iPad can now reasonably replace a laptop as a teacher’s primary teaching tool. You still won’t be able to access websites that utilize Adobe’s Flash software. Apple would claim that is a feature as opposed to a liability, though, and I’m inclined to agree.

In addition, the iPad 2 can also do a reasonable impersonation of a video camera, document camera, telephone, and, intriguingly, an interactive whiteboard.

After all, what are the things that make an interactive whiteboard a valuable tool? I would argue that there are two big ones: the ability to project the activity to a large group, and the ability for students to manipulate objects in a more direct manner. The iPad 2, along with a projector or large screen television, now duplicates these key functions at a fraction of the cost.

An iPad 2 and a decent projector will cost in the neighborhood of a thousand bucks. Even the least expensive interactive whiteboards are typically double that amount. Also, the massive, rich library of cheap Apps available for the iPad will make the rather limited custom software for interactive whiteboards look rather anemic by comparison. A student can come to a desk or table and manipulate the iPad 2 while the class watches. A teacher can deliver an App- or website-based lesson while the class watches.

There are some shortcomings on the iPad/projector side of the ledger. The large workspace that an interactive board allows is probably beneficial for some activities. Also, some teachers have simply invested a great deal of time and training in particular styles of interactive board software and will be reluctant to adopt a new way of presenting. Lastly, some school districts have adopted software that requires the use of Adobe’s Flash, and utilizing those tools on an iPad will not be possible anytime soon (if ever).

Those caveats aside, I think it is very clear that the iPad 2 is an important device for classrooms. In the press event announcing the iPad 2, Apple founder Steve Jobs specifically mentioned video mirroring as a feature added to please teachers. A video presentation then focused heavily on the use of iPads on classrooms. It’s clear Apple thinks its new device will be a hit with educators.

I couldn’t agree more.

Matt House is an technology facilitator in Durham, NC. He’s been an Apple fanatic since 1984 and educator for 15 years. Reach him at mhouse@nc.rr.com