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Lessons learned from our earlier invention – the SMART Board

Nancy Knowlton | President and CEO of Nureva Inc.
Posted by Nancy Knowlton | President and CEO of Nureva Inc. on May 19, 2022
Lessons learned from our earlier invention – the SMART Board

Back in 1987, my husband, Dave Martin, had the idea for the world’s first interactive whiteboard the SMART Board®. In the beginning, he thought of it in context of the technology of the time, calling it an “interactive fax.” When we brought the first incarnation to a couple of telecom trade shows, it was the wives of some attendees who saw an immediate application in their classrooms. Thus began a 25-year focus on the creation of tools and solutions for K12 education.

At first, no one was clamoring for a way to turn a teacher’s computer into a computer for the whole classroom. We were ahead of our time with the SMART Board, and it felt like, at least in the early days, we were telling one educator at a time about the marvelous things they could accomplish with our product. Slowly but surely word spread to the point that an interactive display is now an essential part of 21st-century classrooms in many parts of the world.

Through the years, as I evangelized the deployment and use of interactive displays, I met with thousands of classroom teachers, superintendents and edtech directors. There were even some prime ministers, governors, former presidents and prime ministers, first ladies and two queens. The best of those conversations always had teaching and learning at their heart how could this new tool foster better outcomes in the classroom and prepare students for the future?

No matter the interaction, I always learned something from it. Here are some of the lessons I have carried with me.

There must be a vision of transformation

At the core of most successful edtech adoptions is a clear vision for how the product will transform teaching and learning. Sharing this vision not only gets interested parties on board – such as educators, students, parents and the community. It also energizes them for the work that will be needed to achieve success.

Transformation isn’t about baby steps – it’s a leap-ahead strategy that is responsive not just to a changing environment but to opportunities. Ensuring that everyone can see the big picture builds resiliency for any challenges that might be encountered along the way.

Professional development is integral

There’s no value to be gained from edtech products if there isn’t also a deep understanding about how and when to use them.

Over the years, I have seen the most success when schools and districts invest in quality professional development that reflects both the reality and the promise of the classroom. Giving teachers the time to adapt their practice and reflect on what they are learning is also integral to successful adoption – both for them and their students.

It’s a tech company’s job to innovate

It’s a rare circumstance where teachers or administrators can conceive an edtech product that does not already exist. They are not on the leading or bleeding edge of what is possible through technological advances.

Edtech companies are. That’s why it’s our responsibility to share what’s possible. Educators can then assist and support the refinement and future advancements of those ideas, providing the crucial input that only comes from lived experience in the classroom.

Close up of a developer working on a Nureva audio system

Experiment. Experiment. Experiment.

A vibrant and healthy education system must always experiment. Experimentation is a sign that the system is not standing still and that it’s open to new ideas. This doesn’t mean discarding the tried and true. Instead, it means reaching for more, doing more and building on successful, proven strategies.

How those experiments are undertaken and shared is as important as what the experiments are. The spirit of experimentation must be captured in the overall vision, even though it’s inevitable that some experiments will fail or not be scalable.

The magic

Since these earlier experiences bringing the SMART Board to millions of classrooms worldwide, I still spend a lot of time talking to educators who are striving to improve outcomes for their students. When they share their plans to use Nureva® products to make distance learning more successful or bring the best PD opportunities to their teachers virtually, it strikes me that the lessons I absorbed ring as true now as they did then.

These lessons boil down to a few simple concepts – inclusion, engagement, effort, curiosity. Life isn’t static, and education that prepares students for their lives cannot be either. Realizing a transformative vision requires hard work. Luckily, I know educators are up for the challenge.

Built for the evolution of education

Nureva audio and video solutions offer groundbreaking simplicity and value to educators looking to improve their virtual PD sessions, hybrid admin meetings or distance learning classes. Find out how we can help you realize your vision.

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Topics: K–12 education