The Real “Wow Factor” – Why the SMART Board Is So Effective

Why do we get that “wow factor” over some technologies? The last big wow factor I had was when I used my iPhone for the first time. I couldn’t stop playing with it! I took it to bed with me and watched YouTube videos while my wife sat next to me threatening to buy the tanzanite ring on Jewelry Television if I didn’t put it down. $300 later (inexpensive for a tanzanite ring), I finally put the iPhone down and fell asleep dreaming of all the “good vibrations” I’d receive every time someone sent me a new email. I was hooked! A week later my wife was calling the iPhone my mistress. Things have settled down a bit and my wife tolerates the iPhone as long as I don’t give it a name (Penelope).

Recently, someone asked me why I thought the SMART Board interactive whiteboard was so much fun to use. I really couldn’t answer the question but I remember having the same “wow factor” when I used the SMART Board for the first time. What was it about the SMART Board that gave me that feeling? After spending some time posing as Rodin’s “Thinker,” I had an epiphany: maybe I should start selling tanzanite rings! In addition to my tanzanite realization moment, I think I also figured out what gives both the iPhone and the SMART Board that “wow factor” compared to similar products on the market. Unfortunately, my realization was kind of boring so I’ll try to keep the technical mumbo jumbo to a minimum.

My epiphany (not the tanzanite one) was that the iPhone and the SMART Board do something that very few tools do. They allow you to interact with information in a very unique and personal way. What makes the iPhone so cool is that you don’t use a cursor (or a pen) to select what you want, you simply touch it with your finger. With the SMART Board, you do the exact same thing! To interact with the computer you simply touch the SMART Board with your finger (or any other useful body part) and the computer magically does what you ask. You don’t need a mouse, you don’t need a pen, you don’t need an infrared pointer; all you need is your finger (no, not that one). In essence, YOU become the input device. This may sound silly, but I’ll bet you a $300 tanzanite ring that you also had that wow moment when you first used the SMART Board or the iPhone.

My epiphany also made me realize what Apple and Smart Technologies (the makers of the iPhone and the SMART Board) did to help create this “wow factor.” They each created a tool that seems to work as both an input and an output device.

(Technical mumbo jumbo coming…hit yourself with a hammer for full effect)

Actually, the SMART Board is technically just an input device like your mouse or your keyboard; all it does is send information to the computer. It’s not an output device because the computer doesn’t actually send any information to the SMART Board; the computer sends information out through the projector which gets displayed on the surface of the SMART Board.

The software that comes with your SMART Board actually integrates the SMART Board with your projector and the two magically become one (this would be a good time for meditating). However, the ability of Smart Technologies to make the SMART Board seem like an output device similar to your monitor only gets us half way to the wow factor. The breakthrough, and what I think makes the SMART Board so cool, is that they removed the need to use any other tool to interact with the information. All you do to interact with the SMART Board is touch it with your finger. This is what makes it seem like YOU’RE the input device.

Removing the need to use a mouse or a pen to tell the computer what to do may seem subtle; however, I believe it’s the difference between telling a taxi driver where to take you and driving there yourself (although the smell of a New York City taxi has it’s own unique “wow factor.”)

I’ll admit that the wow factor lessens to some degree (sorry Penelope) but the wow factor is still higher than with similar tools on the market. In the classroom, the wow factor of the SMART Board will stay around a long time (long enough to give your SMART Board a name) and it helps create a level of excitement that can, in turn, help increase student engagement. In addition, the unique interface of the SMART Board makes it incredibly easy (and fun) for students of all ages to interact with the learning material.

So, the only question I have for you now is, “do you got wow?

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