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College CIO Predicts Tablets Will Kill Smart Boards

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the black-boards-to-defeat-both dept.

Education 150

CowboyRobot writes "Keith Fowlkes (vice chancellor for information technology and CIO at the University of Virginia's College at Wise) has a commentary at Information Week in which he makes the point that moving forward, colleges will be able to dump all the 'smart' classroom tools and devices (e.g. electronic whiteboards, clickers, projection systems, etc.) and will only need to support students' tablets. The reasoning comes down to the return on investment, which is easy to argue for tablets but not for other classroom technologies. Standardization of video across devices remains a problem, as does the issue of where files are stored and how they are shared. But these are solvable problems and we will soon see the day when electronic whiteboards are a distant memory." I think the issue of file storage was solved by openafs a long time ago, certainly at the scale of a small university.

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Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#42544869)

Let's put aside the fact that a LOT of professors don't like the idea of students even bringing smartphones into class, much less tablets and notebooks. Let's put aside the fact this guy sounds like someone whining about his budget, who has possibly been approached by a slick salesman who's sold him on the idea of some app that's just going to require a "small investment." Let's put aside the fact the professors are still, by and large, a bunch of old farts--many of whom are still using the same blackboard presentations and transparencies that they were using 30 years ago.

To me, the most obvious counter to this assertion is the notebook. Students have had notebooks en masse for 10-15 years now, and THOSE didn't really revolutionize the classroom. And if notebooks, which are way more powerful and open than tablets, didn't really change things all that much--then what makes him think that tablets will?

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42544963)

Tablets won't for the same reason laptops didn't. People will show up with any number of different make/model of tables with different versions of different operating systems on them with different capabilities and different versions of different applications then fold in that the user's will have varying levels of skill is the use of these devices...

You'd end up with the instructor (usually not all that technically savvy) using up the class time trying to get their presentation/software/whatever to work on everybody's device rather than actually teaching anything.

Between the above reasons and arcane licensing restrictions on a number of specialized software titles we still maintain actual computer labs, you know, rooms full of PCs, something we were told would go away more than ten years ago.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42545013)

No matter make nor model nor OS, there is already a nice presentation system that works with all of them. You are using a version of it now. Making a simple website that replaces power point should be something any professor can handle.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545257)

You think designing a presentation in HTML is easier than Powerpoint?!? Hell, my dog could probably put together a Powerpoint presentation. With HTML, even something as simple as getting a graphic to go exactly where you want it can be a pain in the ass.

I know the MS hatred here is strong, but don't kid yourself. Powerpoint is #1 for a reason. And one of those reasons is that it's braindead simple and easy to use (and I've known even CS profs who need braindead simple)

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (4, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42545371)

A good presentation sure is. 99% of Powerpoint is bad presentations though.

Being worried about the exact spot a graphic is in makes me think you want to create bad presentations.

Powerpoint is #1 because it lets you turn 5 minutes of information into an hour long lecture with useless graphics and animations.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | about 2 years ago | (#42546143)

Being worried about the exact spot a graphic is in means you give two shits about how your presentation looks. It's a presentation, so like, visuals are sort of key. Who can stand to look at a PRESENTATION that has graphics all offset by a couple of pixels and nasty borders showing through. I suppose if you have no fucking clue of how to visually convey an idea then having your graphics appear differently depending upon the browser you're running won't make you neurotic with rage. PowerPoint isn't exactly exceptional at letting the designer loose with their ideas, but for God's sake it's faster and more accurate than plopping together a nasty web-site that won't even look right half the time, especially if you're showing it on a projector with a different aspect ratio to what the site was designed in.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (5, Interesting)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#42546437)

Being worried about the exact spot a graphic is in means you give two shits about how your presentation looks. It's a presentation, so like, visuals are sort of key.

You've already failed.

Powerpoint presentations are almost universally bad because people spend more time making the presentation than they do making the content they are going to speak about, and you're just type type of person confirming that fact.

The visuals of a presentation either need to present and image/animation/movie of something that can't be described by the speaker accurately enough, or simply a rehash of the major bullet points of the presentation itself.

The powerpoint IS NOT THE PRESENTATION, it is a SECONDARY AID to help with the speaker's description.

Unless the aspect ratio is WAY off, it is irrelevant. HTML is PERFECTLY acceptable for presentations if they are done properly.

The issue you have with HTML versus powerpoint means you're doing it wrong in the first place, not that HTML is the issue.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42546827)

You've already failed.

. . . HTML is PERFECTLY acceptable for presentations if they are done properly.

No, you're the fail. Getting an HTML presentation done 'properly' is FAR too much learning curve for most professors. Like it or not, Powerpoint IS the presentation standard.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42547499)


There are plenty of collaboration tools that allow you to automatically share Powerpoints as html.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | about 2 years ago | (#42546969)

"The issue you have with HTML versus powerpoint means you're doing it wrong in the first place, not that HTML is the issue."

I take exception to this, you see I believe in making something clean, simple and *precise*. If I have an image being rendered somewhere, I want it to render there and ONLY there, and I want it to be precisely positioned.

Perhaps you don't care about the layout of your work, but I do. And just because I do, doesn't mean that I spend more time on the look of a presentation than on its content. In fact, I'd rather NOT spend forever and a day making sure my presentation looks right, which is exactly why I'd choose PowerPoint over making a website, because I don't HAVE to test it at different resolutions on different browsers to make sure it'll function correctly, I can design it once and be done with it! I'm not arguing that PowerPoint isn't capable of funnelling the user into some God awful design choices regarding their presentation layout and its information, but it sure as shit is faster at creating something visually accurate than building a site in html5. That is, unless you want to do something beyond the (admittedly strict) limits of PowerPoint such as complex animation. But then you'd be spending more time on the visual look than on the content itself, which you seem to be against.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42547085)

Stop putting images in presentations. 99% of the time you don't need them.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (2)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | about 2 years ago | (#42547491)

Sure you do, it's another way of conveying information. For instance, how many people would rather see a map as plain text vs an image of the map itself? What about a graph plotting statistics that show progression? Maybe you want to show a screenshot or photograph of something significant, again text won't do. There are plenty of frivolous things that images aren't required for, like clipart to "pretty" (ha) up a presentation, but the reverse is also true.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 2 years ago | (#42547849)

Indeed, unprepared speakers use presentation programs as a crutch. They just read what's on the screen. Ever watched a Steve Jobs keynote? What a difference! Almost no text, simple images to illustrate and emphasize the points, very subtle transitions, and a guy who knew what the fuck he was talking about.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42546341)

You obviously don't know many professors. I am a professor and many of my colleagues struggle with writing a document in Word. They still send handwritten exams to the secretary to be typed.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

axl917 (1542205) | about 2 years ago | (#42546843)

Well, thank god for tenure then, eh? Otherwise your colleagues would be fired for such incompetence.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (3, Insightful)

RatherBeAnonymous (1812866) | about 2 years ago | (#42547797)

Perhaps they would... If they were employed to produce word documents.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#42546809)

Util you make a website that for some odd reason does not render in certain browser/OS combinations. Or some of the students are having connectivity issues.. or there is some wifi interference... or some students are having problems with their personal machines.

Personal machines have always been problematic when required for class time.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 2 years ago | (#42546987)

okay using just html diagram a 3 stage amplifier at the component level (with voltage/current values).

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42547107)

okay using just html diagram a 3 stage amplifier at the component level (with voltage/current values).

Man, that's easy - Take a picture of the diagram from the book using your cell phone. Email it to your desktop. Paste it into Word. Now, save it as a .pdf and import it into Powerpoint.

Jeez, you'd think technology was hard or something.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

captbob2002 (411323) | about 2 years ago | (#42547105)

You don't work in higher education, do you?

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545145)

All this ignores the obvious: from a human factors perspective, one large surface with professor walking around and touching it seems to work best.

For another example of this *style* of interaction but with everyone participating from a screen, see weather forecasting. The meteorologist is blue screened in so he can gesture and such.

So long as there are physically students in the same room as the teacher, there will be a large shared screen that actually has stuff on it. For remote only, in theory the professor could be blue-screened onto the materials, but given the more interactive nature of education, it's probably that a professor would still have a big screen simply to make modifying the contents less awkward.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

edrawr (1572199) | about 2 years ago | (#42545703)

While in college, I worked doing tier 2 support for the campus IT department, and every semester we would have professors come in trying to get some (usually archaic) material out to students electronically, only to find out that it wouldn't work on a Mac, or that students couldn't open a .docx file because they had a torrent copy of Office 2003. This was a great source of frustration for a lot of professors. Then you had the ones that told you on the first day of class that you were not to bring your computer in to class, even though the institution required that all students purchase a laptop (on their own, not from a few defined models to make support easier).

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#42546777)

Off and on schools will try to force make/models or compatibility with some centralized application, but even if all of that is standardized you still have the problems of 'what if some student's machine is having trouble' or 'student forgets/looses/breaks machine', which, as you say, either eats up class time or locks the student out of the class.

I have seen success with out-of-class tools and applications, but those work because there is time to deal with problems.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

gabereiser (1662967) | about 2 years ago | (#42545693)

Oh man if I had mod points... You summed up my thoughts EXACTLY!

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545709)

If you don't get much of a chance to observe kids across the range of education and you are involved in IT futures at all, it is worth looking at and thinking about.

Notebooks have always been just expensive enough and big enough that, while kids had access to them, they had to make an effort to get them and use them. 7 years ago, when you had a laptop, you still had to put in effort to understand how to connect one to the internet and then make it happen -- often involving money. That is where the change happened.

The generation of current under 10 year olds had access to always-connected-tablets/phones before they encountered formal education. Today's Jr High kids weren't quite reading when mom first put an iphone in their hands to distract them, and they have been fixated on them ever since. Kids don't have go get the laptop or carry one around. They just pull the small tablet out of their skinny jeans when they are and use their bigger one when they can, if they want to.

This is the first generation that will be far more comfortable with the touch/glass interface than a physical keyboard by the time they hit the workforce. They don't know a world where the internet wasn't always and immediately at their disposal and have never experienced a life where they had to put in effort to find access or understand even the basics about how it works. They play game and live their social lives on them, they get Christmas and birthday gifts for applications or services on them, they watch television and movies on them and they read on them. Oh, and they learn on them all the time. Everything from lets-play videos, to cooking and dancing, foreign languages and even how to make their own videos for the internet are all things I've seen my own kids absorb via youtube on a tablet as something they chose to do 'for fun'. And it was far more normal and engaging for them to do it on "their own" tablet than a laptop or normal computer.

The current batch of undergrads, which is really the end of the laptop generation, has adopted phones/tablets as well obviously. But more importantly, so has the current generation of graduate student and they are the teaching workforce and heirs apparent of the current faculty. Universities that maintain large footprint wireless networks are seeing record numbers of concurrent connections and it is changing IT strategy across higher ed. You already can't walk 10 steps on a large university during the semester without seeing a tablet and that was never the case with laptops. That's with the generation of people who had to learn to switch to tablets.

So yeah. Tablets are different. And it isn't just marketing hype. If you are like me, you find them somewhat convenient at times but also annoying to use and you would rather stick with what is comfortable. But for kids today, laptops are the annoyingly quaint technology.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#42545767)

To me, the most obvious counter to this assertion is the notebook. Students have had notebooks en masse for 10-15 years now, and THOSE didn't really revolutionize the classroom. And if notebooks, which are way more powerful and open than tablets, didn't really change things all that much--then what makes him think that tablets will?

Because tablets are new and notebooks aren't. With each evolution of personal computing, the same ideas are put forth by marketing and management types who see dollar signs. For example, "thin clients" can trace their heritage all the way back to the first timesharing computers and mainframes. But every few years, someone comes long and says "thin clients are the future!" The latest example is with cloud computing, where people predict gaming platforms will be replaced with thin client devices that do all the graphics processing, etc., "in the cloud". Before the cloud, there was the cluster, and before the cluster was the server farm, and before the server farm was the virtual machines, and before the virtual machines was the mainframes, and so on and so forth. With every iteration, everything old becomes new again.

This guy knows just enough to be annoying, but not truly worldly and experienced enough to recognize that if the previous dozen attempts all fell flat on their face, this one probably will too. Then again, this lack of deeper understanding might explain his current vocational aspirations...

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#42545777)

Let's put aside the fact the professors are still, by and large, a bunch of old farts--many of whom are still using the same blackboard presentations and transparencies that they were using 30 years ago.

Just to be clear, a lot of them haven't switched because the content and teaching ability matter much more than what the information is displayed on. Take a bad teacher in a bad class, replace the blackboard with a fancy expensive smart board, and you'll have a bad teacher, a bad class, and less money.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#42547017)

But the inverse is true too.

A good teacher can use the new technology to better the class.

But often good means good with technology, not good with teaching.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (3, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42547155)

And the reverse is even truer - given a good teacher, it makes no difference what technology they use or if indeed they use any technology at all.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545903)

First tablets are much more cheaper than notebooks. They are less personal and kind of disposable.
Second I know a so called old fart professor who is doing just fine with multimedia projector even though he calls it scribe-projector.
We also have "Smart board" in the university but it just seats in corner and catches dust. It's like a magical artifact that no one knows how to use or bothers to.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

surgen (1145449) | about 2 years ago | (#42546005)

Students have had notebooks en masse for 10-15 years now, and THOSE didn't really revolutionize the classroom.

This is what always bothers me about the tech in classroom push, I graduated college only two years ago and while it makes me feel like a Luddite to say it, I think the combination of a video projector connected to the professor's laptop, a whiteboard, and a student with pen and paper doesn't really have a whole lot of room for improvement outside of specialized cases. My sister in law is an elementary teacher, so I know kids are one of the cases where tech can be put to really good use, but this article is talking about college and so will I.

Software is about automation, and for the most part we've already solved most of the pain points that detract from the ability to have a productive lecture. I think thats why most of the real improvements have been made in online classes, and the online components of traditional classes. By making all course materials instantly accessible anywhere the only things that lectures have over online classes anymore is the immediacy of interaction with the professor, and the act of note-taking. What else actually matters in a lecture and what tech could actually help that in the lecture hall? Maybe something like google moderator for huge class sizes would be useful? I'd say that being able to recall anything that happened in the lectures would be great, but even when I had access to recordings of a multi-campus class I took over a teleconferencing service I never used them.

And the note taking device doesn't really make a whole lot of difference, software can't (yet) automate the act of putting information into your brain. I did some classes with pen and paper, I did some by typing on a laptop, and a classmate used a laptop-that-rotates-into-touchscreen-and-stylus job; it's all just a matter of preference really.

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42546781)

I'm a professor at a major university. I hate clickers, etc. because they seem superfluous and gimmicky.

Having said that, they're widely used here, and I have done surveys of students about how they feel about them. What I've found is that most students report that they like interactive activities in class (i.e., using devices), don't like clickers but don't hate them either, and would rather use a general-purpose device (e.g., smartphone, tablet, etc.).

I think this person is actually pretty accurate.

The thing to keep in mind with this is that going forward, what *won't* work is relying on a single device. Some students will prefer to use a laptop, some will prefer to use a tablet, and most will have smartphones, and some might have something we haven't seen yet. The key is setting up the systems to that there are multiple ways of accessing the interactive content, most likely through some website formatted for multiple devices. There are already multiple services that do this, some very well, where students can respond at a class website either through SMS or clicking on the webpage, which is delivered in multiple formats depending on the device.

I know what you're saying about laptops. Technology tends to be grossly overhyped. In my surveys, even as recently as this year, a large proportion--maybe 40% of students--were still using dumbphones, and only about 5% had a tablet. Probably about 75% of them had a laptop, but most of them didn't bring it to class.

Nevertheless, there are several students who bring laptops to class regularly, and some who had their tablets in class too. Despite the statistics above, about 85% of students had one or more of the above devices. If you say "you have to have some mobile device capable of the following capabilities," students will bring something in. What's happening isn't penetration of a single type of device, but penetration of the class of mobile devices. I think each mobile device on the market has been overhyped--first it was "laptops will revolutionize education," now it's "tablets will revolutionize education." I think the more accurate statement is "mobile devices in general will help education."

I cannot wait to get rid of clickers and their ilk. The question isn't, "will there be devices in the classroom," it's "which devices will there be in the classroom?"

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (1)

IRGlover (1096317) | about 2 years ago | (#42546847)

Educational Technology is my field and this has been gaining traction for a few years now (often under the name 'Bring Your Own Device [BYOD]') and, to be honest, it is attractive to institutions because they feel it will reduce the amount of hardware that is purchased and unused (or, worse, is switched on 24/7 but doing nothing). I don't think that it is something that lecturers or students would really want if they thought about the (many) downsides. However, the reason that laptops didn't take off is because of the patchy Wifi coverage when they were first becoming mainstream, the relatively poor battery life and few places to charge in most institutions, the weight of the devices and the startup time. With a tablet it is possible to switch it off, put it into your bag and start it up instantly in your next class - not so with a laptop. Tablet use is obviously going to continue growing as they become more affordable lifestyle devices, but for many people they will be unlikely to replace the general-purpose abilities that you get from a full-fat PC. That Smartboards are rubbish doesn't mean that tablets will replace them. Perhaps there is a fundamental problem with 'smartboard-style' teaching so that there will always be issues...

Re:Then why didn't that happen with notebooks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42547159)

Students have had notebooks for far longer than 10-15 years.

Or, projectors and tablets together (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42544885)

Tablet for the actual interaction, projector so all the others can see.
That would certainly kill off the need for smart boards, which are just obtuse to work with in general.

Re:Or, projectors and tablets together (3, Informative)

Stewie241 (1035724) | about 2 years ago | (#42544937)

Yes, for math/science especially, you need something that the professor can walk up to in front of the class and point to things. i.e. point out what part of an equations he/she is talking about or use gestures to illustrate a relationship between two parts of something.

Re:Or, projectors and tablets together (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545057)

And pointing at a board is still way easier than screen sharing and then highlighting some part of your screen.

Re:Or, projectors and tablets together (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#42546367)

Depends on the size of the class. For large lectures, the projection screen can be two or three times the height of the lecturer, and then drawing things on the local machine and having them mirrored is easier. It would also be nice sometimes to get students to draw something on the board without forcing them to come to the front.

Re:Or, projectors and tablets together (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545251)

Problem is that most are starting to confuse what a Smartboard is. For these type of classes (math, science, etc) you can still use the old caulk board. Smartboards are just digital wall screens that also are input devices. Many K to 12 schools are switching over to these and its a mix bag of those that love it and those that flat out hate it. Also in the mix are schools that are using tablets. Now this article he states that he believes only in colleges this will happen, where I see this happening.

Children with special needs, the Smartboard is one of the more fantastic devices I've seen. They can walk up and point out what they are trying to say if they have the motor skills. While in a college, really, why do we need this? Just hooking a projector to the computer and just have the prof point it out with a mouse or laser pointer. A tablet connected to the universities created program (such as blackboard) would be a better system over all.

Re:Or, projectors and tablets together (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 2 years ago | (#42545661)

While in a college, really, why do we need this?

Imagine a prof is teaching integral calculus. With a Smart board he can progress through solving the equation, while what he is writing is either projected, and/or automatically recorded so it can be played back later.

A tablet with a stylus (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 2 years ago | (#42547713)

With a Smart board he can progress through solving the equation, while what he is writing is either projected, and/or automatically recorded so it can be played back later.

You can do that with a pen based computer too. I've actually seen people do it reasonably effectively with a pen based Windows machine that was projected.

A tablet would be the perfect tool for certain types of presentations (think math class) and especially for note taking IF someone would develop one that could actually make good use of a stylus. (no one has yet) Fingers aren't very good at writing mathematical equations or entering text. Typing is fine if you just have text but no drawings or equations. But if you need drawings and/or equations nothing has yet been developed that improves on a pen and paper for input.

I understand why Apple and Google don't do it but I'd dearly love an iPad or Android tablet that I could take notes with. They are being dogmatic about the interface being just finger based because of all the really bad pen based apps that would be out there but we're missing out on a really useful tool as a result.

Re:Or, projectors and tablets together (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#42547313)

or use gestures

ah, you've hit upon the critical difference. The static output from a board capture or a slide deck is nice, but contains much less information than watching it in person or by video because the process is just as important as the final result (if not more so).

Now, to be fair, Kahn manages to gesture by wiggling his mouse cursor. It's choppy but he's only using the tools available to him; perhaps a purpose-built system with a good pen would make this whole thing work.

Has anybody done a screen sharing stack that uses UDP multicast with post-hoc unicast damage correction?

Re:Or, projectors and tablets together (2)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 2 years ago | (#42545269)

Tablet for the actual interaction, projector so all the others can see.
That would certainly kill off the need for smart boards, which are just obtuse to work with in general.

I disagree, but you are mostly correct.

With the rise of online education, I would wager you will see MORE use of smartboards, or at least a push for use of smartboards for dual in-person/online courses. The Smartboard will remain a critical element to capture the ephemerial 'chalk board' segment of a live lecture.

Imagine that the professor is giving a normal presentation using a white board, while a camera captures the lecture for the online audience. Anything the professor does on the whiteboard is important for the online students to see. Typical lecture cameras are insufficient to capture the detail of a whiteboard in video. The current approach tends to require static pre-generated lecture notes/slides which the online students can refer to, but any deviation from the slides will only appear on the whiteboard, and it is very easy for a professor to forget to 'capture' what he writes on the board.

The smartboard is probably the best method to capture this information, and send it realtime to the online students. As an added benefit, nothing is lost to the eraser between slides/lectures.

For my signals processing course, I generated about 10-15 pages of notes PER LECTURE where the professor would use a dry-erase marker to write on an old school overhead projector. Had he used a smartboard, I would have been able to focus less on furious copying of the lengthy problems he was working through, and observe more actively, knowing I could refer back to the perfect copy of projector scribblings the smartboard captured.

A tablet interface just doesn't cut it for working complex problems. In school, I remember something I called the chalkboard effect. If I was having difficulty with a math problem on paper, I would go to an empty classroom and work the problem out on the chalkboard, something about that form factor (size perhaps?) made working problems on the chalkboard almost trivial compared to the difficulty of the problem when worked on paper.

Sure, the professor could write on a tablet, but that would eliminate a good 70% of the communication potential of the human body. Without the ability to use body language, gesture, refer easily to comments on side boards, etc, trying to teach via tablet would be a huge pain.

So in summary, you are right about the projector, and certainly using a tablet, but I think the tablet would work best in the hands of the audience, while the professor works from the giant tablet (the smartboard)

Re:Or, projectors and tablets together (1)

PoopMonkey (932637) | about 2 years ago | (#42546563)

I can't say for sure if it's true for all smart boards (i don't know how many there are) but the one we have in our office is a projector as well. Short throw projector on top of the board. It was actually cheaper going that route than a projector that could do the same resolution too. And it means that we didn't have to try to install a projector on the ceiling or sit it on a table. We use it more for projector than the board aspect but the capability is there.

Which tablets? (5, Funny)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#42544905)

Makes sense. Why have just the one big screen that can display information when you could have a whole department devoted to a system that can push information to a wide range of tablets with different operating systems, software installations and capabilities. It's far more fun trying to work around the 30% of students who don't have LaTeX installed, the 42% without Flash, the 19% without an HTML5 browser and the guy who should be expelled because he prefers a notebook and pen.

Re:Which tablets? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#42545235)

I'm not saying this is a good idea, or even a real solution to anything. But to play devil's advocate...

It does help with students that perhaps can't see the screen well. SOME of the lecture halls at my old school... sitting towards the back made it difficult to make everything out on the projector because some professors would try to squeeze too much info in with small fonts or poor small handwriting. With a proper zoomable display on a Tablet this would be removed. And depending on how they do it, could make referring back to the day's lesson a little easier.

Also, the school COULD require that all students get a specific model/brand of a tablet. Upping the first year's tuition by a couple hundred dollars wouldn't be too insane... and now every has an iPad 4 or whatever. Also they could probably standardize on an app or use an HTML5 template to push these out. If they standardize the tablet brand+model it wouldn't have to be the nightmare you depict.

Again, I'm not saying it's a good idea but it might not be too stupid either.

Re:Which tablets? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#42545911)

...and the guy who should be expelled because he prefers a notebook and pen.

Yeah, well they still work when the power goes out and there's nowhere to recharge. I actually tried a thought experiment with my sister (age 16) who lives on her ipad: I faked a power outage at the house and then asked if she wanted anything to eat. When she emphatically replied "yes", I told her to call the pizza place for takeout. Hilarity ensued, reducing her to tears. She didn't know any other way to get pizza than ordering it online. The idea of using her cell phone was foreign to her, as was the concept of calling Information with the city, state, and name of business. She literally couldn't even feed herself without an internet connection.

This is the future generation people: Just like the Robo-warrior creatures in Avengers, the moment you cut the connection they go limp and/or explode. So laugh at the problems of tech compatibility and point out the obvious utility and simplicity of a pen and paper, but it's no laughing matter for the next generation. We've raised a generation incapable of functioning any other way.

Re:Which tablets? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#42546493)

I hate to break it to you, but your sister is just stupid. My 8 year old nephew is fully aware that the the Internet isn't everything and that landlines tend to work even when there is no power. He's fully capable of ordering from any place on the list of numbers hanging off the fridge as long as you provide him with some way to pay.

Re:Which tablets? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#42547069)

Seriously stupid.

My 7 yr old knows there's a bunch of restaurants & grocery stores 2 miles away, and that he can bike there.

Re:Which tablets? (1)

bigmo (181402) | about 2 years ago | (#42546077)

70% of students have LaTeX installed?

Re:Which tablets? (2)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#42546207)

Disclaimer: all figures pulled from thin air. If only I'd had a tablet handy, I could have found the real figures...

Re:Which tablets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42546651)

Yes, but only 7% realize it wasn't some sort of fetish video loader.

Video Standards (2)

vlpronj (1345627) | about 2 years ago | (#42544919)

I think "standardization of video standards" would be the biggest bugbear here - which college student will want to avoid a device that uses the latest Retina display or equivalent, if it means the 640x480, or equivalent "low-end" spec of the time will look either tiny or crappy on their screen? Look back a few years - we had the VGA "standard", XGA, WGA, etc., then the whole 4:3, 16:9, or 16:10 aspect ratio shift.

OpenAFS (3, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 years ago | (#42544923)

Uh, sure. Ever try to actually get it working? Good luck doing that on iOS - it is a royal pain on Linux, let alone Windows.

The sad thing is that OpenAFS is the only networked POSIX filesystem I'm aware of that actually works reasonably well and is secure. Pity that nobody actually uses it. NFSv4 with all the features enabled looks to be almost as good, and just as painful to set up.

Why is it that I can take any Windows box and right click on a folder and turn on sharing, enter a password, and get something that is fairly secure, and yet the same feature does not exist on Linux? Sure, for a fortune 500 company setting up Kerberos and such makes sense, but to share a few files between two PCs?

Re:OpenAFS (3, Informative)

robmv (855035) | about 2 years ago | (#42545067)

You know It exist, it is called Samba. Install, add the resource to share to the configuration file (or use the distribution GUI for it) and done. Samba is not only for Windows interoperability, it works perfectly between Linux boxes, it even has protocol extensions for better *nix interoperability. then if you need a real secure setup for your company, then use NFS with Kerberos

Re:OpenAFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545097)

1. OpenAFS is heavily used in many many fortune 500 companies, I can attest to that personally. Not really something you want for a few tens of machines, but if you have 50,000+ machines NFS (every version) just completely fails. It just isn't that scalable.

2. You can just right click on a folder in Linux and select share. Gnome supported this integration for at least the last 5 years. You can even set a password for it. It is not always enabled, and your choice of WM may not offer it, but it is there (on Ubuntu it is enabled by default).

Anon because I can't login from work.

Re:OpenAFS (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#42545205)

i bet a college can easily cut a deal with dropbox or google for massive amounts of storage and add it to your tuition. file system problem solved

Re:OpenAFS (1)

zerosomething (1353609) | about 2 years ago | (#42545351)

There is an App for that. iYFS but it costs $3.99. OpenAFS is really a joke in this day with things like Box available. Even SharePoint lets you have WebDAV access from your i-A devices.

Re:OpenAFS (1)

terpri (853344) | about 2 years ago | (#42547075)

"Nobody actually uses it"? Listing /afs, I see AFS cells at MIT, Stanford, Harvard, CMU, Cornell... and I know my local universities use it internally, although their AFS space isn't publicly accessible. It might not be popular in corporate environments, but it appears to be very much in use at American universities.

Re: iOS and other proprietary platforms, you could use a WebDAV client. The mod_waklog [] Apache module allows HTTPS users to authenticate via Kerberos, which means that WebDAV access works with OpenAFS.

Brick and Mortar May Be Doomed (1)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | about 2 years ago | (#42544989)

I now do much of my shopping online. If I want a pair of Levi 501's, it doesn''t matter where they come from. As long as it is convenient and cheap. This is what has been dooming many brick and mortar stores. If this is true for stores, it may be more so for brick and mortar schools. With online courses and lectures, much of the need to waste gas money and driving time has evaporated too. My youngest son is taking college math classes and more online from an good University. The cost is far lower for him and class size is almost irrelevant. This goes way beyond white boards and tablets.

Missing the point entirely (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42544993)

It shows that this guy is from IT/administration and not a teacher.

Projector/smartboard/blackboard serve completely different purpose than a textbook/tablet/notebook in the classroom. It is sad that someone who is in charge of this stuff doesn't have a clue how these things are actually used.

Re:Missing the point entirely (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#42545285)

Not necessarily... tablet/notebook can be used like a projector/smartboard/blackboard. If the professor is using a set of tools (I don't know any names) he could set up that whatever gets shown on the smart-board also show up on the tablet. Like as he's writing an equation or circling a picture for a slide. In which case, some users might prefer looking at that (and being able to zoom it and such) than sitting in the back of a packed class-room and not being able to make everything out on the screen.

I'm not saying it's a good idea... but a tablet CAN serve multiple function types. Sure: on one hand it's good for reading source material (e-books, websites, dictionary listings, etc) but it can ALSO be used as a personal "screen" for the professor to push what he's doing.

Sure, a lot of the above is reduced if the class room is set up in a smart way AND if the professor makes solid + legible slides AND writes in large enough text on the blackboard / smartboard. But my experience, 1 or more of those conditions is usually faulty even with seasoned professors.

Re:Missing the point entirely (1)

gtirloni (1531285) | about 2 years ago | (#42545689)

In which case, some users might prefer looking at that (and being able to zoom it and such) than sitting in the back of a packed class-room and not being able to make everything out on the screen.

Let's face the truth here, students will be playing Facebook games and that's it.

A big board converges the classroom attention to a single point and people interact as in a group. Each student with his/her own tablet is just an island. They are enough island outside the classroom already (look a group of student, I bet 70% are looking down to their smartphones).

I know many teachers and they all hate when student keep playing with tablets and smartphones in the classroom.

Re:Missing the point entirely (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#42546541)

Let's face the truth here, students will be playing Facebook games and that's it.

That is almost universally a fault of the teacher.

Some students will wonder off and do things they shouldn't. Most however will pay attention IF and ONLY IF the teacher is capable of properly teaching students and keeping them focused.

Re:Missing the point entirely (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#42547111)


If a student is bored, it's the teacher's fault.

Stop whining, do better.

only (1)

erdraug (962369) | about 2 years ago | (#42545131)

"colleges will be able to dump all the 'smart' classroom tools and (...) will only need to support students' tablets"

Only? So that's how many OSs again? iOS, a bunch of android versions, linux flavour, firefoxOS, firefoxOS, chromeOS, sailfish, i've lost track. I'm sure their IT departments will be thrilled to ONLY support tablets.

Re:only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42547207)

Since iOS represents >80% of tablets, it'll be the iPad.

Just like Windows was the only accepted/supported option for a decade.

OpenAFS REally? (1)

CajunArson (465943) | about 2 years ago | (#42545133)

" I think the issue of file storage was solved by openafs a long time ago, certainly at the scale of small University."

LMFAO... and yes, I am a Carnegie Mellon Alum and yes, when I was in Grad School I did manage to hack my research Linux box enough to be able to mount my Andrew share. Having seen how people who aren't in grad school at CMU actually use computers in the real world, somebody needs a bit of a wakeup call.

Re:OpenAFS REally? (1)

jaavaaguru (261551) | about 2 years ago | (#42545877)

It took me just a few minutes to set it up on OSX using MacFUSE. Was very simple. I agree it was a bit more complicated on Linux, but if it's packaged correctly and someone makes a nice configuration tool, then it should be simple there too.

Re:OpenAFS REally? (1)

Unknown Lamer (78415) | about 2 years ago | (#42546431)

On most distros, openafs 1.6.x will install with $packagemanager $installcmd openafs-client. Before 1.6, installation could be a bit hairy (a few bits of manual config, kerberos needed manual local configuration), but nowadays basically everything autoconfigures through dns and you really only need to set a default realm/cell (even then, just for convenience). I hear the 1.7.x branch has made huge strides for Windows users too.

I think openafs gets a bad rap because pre-1.4 was kind of a pain to set up, and the early 1.4.x releases were pretty buggy (my cell directly inspired several of the early releases since we were just getting going and took the plunge early on). Nowadays (as in the last five years) it Just Works (tm) for the most part (certainly true of the client, and as true as it can be for a complicated UNIX server for the fileserver).

Re:OpenAFS REally? (1)

ssam (2723487) | about 2 years ago | (#42546523)

while AFS is great at some things, it has some limitations. we use it for home directories on our linux work stations and compute nodes here.

however some things are strangely slow, i think because for various operations the AFS server has to inform all connect clients. for example exiting vim takes takes about 10 to 30 seconds. also it assumes that your computer is always online.if you install it on a laptop, and then disconnect from the network some applications will lockup because think they should still be able to read something.

Re:OpenAFS REally? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#42547229)

Or like tablets coming & going from the local network where the AFS server is located.

why pay when you can make your students pay? (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#42545175)

why pay for expensive hardware and software and support when you can just make your students buy the required hardware?

by now most android tablets and the ipad are at pretty much feature parity with almost all the popular software available on both platforms

you don't need widgets or live wallpaper or the ability to enable/disable your radios easily to do school work

Mind Control: Targeted Individuals (TIs) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545213)

Mind Games

New on the Internet: a community of people who believe the government is beaming voices into their minds. They may be crazy, but the Pentagon has pursued a weapon that can do just that.

By Sharon Weinberger
Sunday, January 14, 2007

IF HARLAN GIRARD IS CRAZY, HE DOESN'T ACT THE PART. He is standing just where he said he would be, below the Philadelphia train station's World War II memorial -- a soaring statue of a winged angel embracing a fallen combatant, as if lifting him to heaven. Girard is wearing pressed khaki pants, expensive-looking leather loafers and a crisp blue button-down. He looks like a local businessman dressed for a casual Friday -- a local businessman with a wickedly dark sense of humor, which had become apparent when he said to look for him beneath "the angel sodomizing a dead soldier." At 70, he appears robust and healthy -- not the slightest bit disheveled or unusual-looking. He is also carrying a bag.

Girard's description of himself is matter-of-fact, until he explains what's in the bag: documents he believes prove that the government is attempting to control his mind. He carries that black, weathered bag everywhere he goes. "Every time I go out, I'm prepared to come home and find everything is stolen," he says.

The bag aside, Girard appears intelligent and coherent. At a table in front of Dunkin' Donuts inside the train station, Girard opens the bag and pulls out a thick stack of documents, carefully labeled and sorted with yellow sticky notes bearing neat block print. The documents are an authentic-looking mix of news stories, articles culled from military journals and even some declassified national security documents that do seem to show that the U.S. government has attempted to develop weapons that send voices into people's heads.

"It's undeniable that the technology exists," Girard says, "but if you go to the police and say, 'I'm hearing voices,' they're going to lock you up for psychiatric evaluation."

The thing that's missing from his bag -- the lack of which makes it hard to prove he isn't crazy -- is even a single document that would buttress the implausible notion that the government is currently targeting a large group of American citizens with mind-control technology. The only direct evidence for that, Girard admits, lies with alleged victims such as himself.

And of those, there are many.

IT'S 9:01 P.M. WHEN THE FIRST PERSON SPEAKS during the Saturday conference call.

Unsure whether anyone else is on the line yet, the female caller throws out the first question: "You got gang stalking or V2K?" she asks no one in particular.

There's a short, uncomfortable pause.

"V2K, really bad. 24-7," a man replies.

"Gang stalking," another woman says.

"Oh, yeah, join the club," yet another man replies.

The members of this confessional "club" are not your usual victims. This isn't a group for alcoholics, drug addicts or survivors of childhood abuse; the people connecting on the call are self-described victims of mind control -- people who believe they have been targeted by a secret government program that tracks them around the clock, using technology to probe and control their minds.

The callers frequently refer to themselves as TIs, which is short for Targeted Individuals, and talk about V2K -- the official military abbreviation stands for "voice to skull" and denotes weapons that beam voices or sounds into the head. In their esoteric lexicon, "gang stalking" refers to the belief that they are being followed and harassed: by neighbors, strangers or colleagues who are agents for the government.

A few more "hellos" are exchanged, interrupted by beeps signaling late arrivals: Bill from Columbus, Barbara from Philadelphia, Jim from California and a dozen or so others.

Derrick Robinson, the conference call moderator, calls order.

"It's five after 9," says Robinson, with the sweetly reasonable intonation of a late-night radio host. "Maybe we should go ahead and start."

THE IDEA OF A GROUP OF PEOPLE CONVINCED THEY ARE TARGETED BY WEAPONS that can invade their minds has become a cultural joke, shorthanded by the image of solitary lunatics wearing tinfoil hats to deflect invisible mind beams. "Tinfoil hat," says Wikipedia, has become "a popular stereotype and term of derision; the phrase serves as a byword for paranoia and is associated with conspiracy theorists."

In 2005, a group of MIT students conducted a formal study using aluminum foil and radio signals. Their surprising finding: Tinfoil hats may actually amplify radio frequency signals. Of course, the tech students meant the study as a joke.

But during the Saturday conference call, the subject of aluminum foil is deadly serious. The MIT study had prompted renewed debate; while a few TIs realized it was a joke at their expense, some saw the findings as an explanation for why tinfoil didn't seem to stop the voices. Others vouched for the material.

"Tinfoil helps tremendously," reports one conference call participant, who describes wrapping it around her body underneath her clothing.

"Where do you put the tinfoil?" a man asks.

"Anywhere, everywhere," she replies. "I even put it in a hat."

A TI in an online mind-control forum recommends a Web site called "Block EMF" (as in electromagnetic frequencies), which advertises a full line of clothing, including aluminum-lined boxer shorts described as a "sheer, comfortable undergarment you can wear over your regular one to shield yourself from power lines and computer electric fields, and microwave, radar, and TV radiation." Similarly, a tinfoil hat disguised as a regular baseball cap is "smart and subtle."

For all the scorn, the ranks of victims -- or people who believe they are victims -- are speaking up. In the course of the evening, there are as many as 40 clicks from people joining the call, and much larger numbers participate in the online forum, which has 143 members. A note there mentioning interest from a journalist prompted more than 200 e-mail responses.

Until recently, people who believe the government is beaming voices into their heads would have added social isolation to their catalogue of woes. But now, many have discovered hundreds, possibly thousands, of others just like them all over the world. Web sites dedicated to electronic harassment and gang stalking have popped up in India, China, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Russia and elsewhere. Victims have begun to host support meetings in major cities, including Washington. Favorite topics at the meetings include lessons on how to build shields (the proverbial tinfoil hats), media and PR training, and possible legal strategies for outlawing mind control.

The biggest hurdle for TIs is getting people to take their concerns seriously. A proposal made in 2001 by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to ban "psychotronic weapons" (another common term for mind-control technology) was hailed by TIs as a great step forward. But the bill was widely derided by bloggers and columnists and quickly dropped.

Doug Gordon, Kucinich's spokesman, would not discuss mind control other than to say the proposal was part of broader legislation outlawing weapons in space. The bill was later reintroduced, minus the mind control. "It was not the concentration of the legislation, which is why it was tightened up and redrafted," was all Gordon would say.

Unable to garner much support from their elected representatives, TIs have started their own PR campaign. And so, last spring, the Saturday conference calls centered on plans to hold a rally in Washington. A 2005 attempt at a rally drew a few dozen people and was ultimately rained out; the TIs were determined to make another go of it. Conversations focused around designing T-shirts, setting up congressional appointments, fundraising, creating a new Web site and formalizing a slogan. After some debate over whether to focus on gang stalking or mind control, the group came up with a compromise slogan that covered both: "Freedom From Covert Surveillance and Electronic Harassment."

Conference call moderator Robinson, who says his gang stalking began when he worked at the National Security Agency in the 1980s, offers his assessment of the group's prospects: Maybe this rally wouldn't produce much press, but it's a first step. "I see this as a movement," he says. "We're picking up people all the time."

HARLAN GIRARD SAYS HIS PROBLEMS BEGAN IN 1983, while he was a real estate developer in Los Angeles. The harassment was subtle at first: One day a woman pulled up in a car, wagged her finger at him, then sped away; he saw people running underneath his window at night; he noticed some of his neighbors seemed to be watching him; he heard someone moving in the crawl space under his apartment at night.

Girard sought advice from this then-girlfriend, a practicing psychologist, whom he declines to identify. He says she told him, "Nobody can become psychotic in their late 40s." She said he didn't seem to manifest other symptoms of psychotic behavior -- he dressed well, paid his bills -- and, besides his claims of surveillance, which sounded paranoid, he behaved normally. "People who are psychotic are socially isolated," he recalls her saying.

After a few months, Girard says, the harassment abruptly stopped. But the respite didn't last. In 1984, appropriately enough, things got seriously weird. He'd left his real estate career to return to school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was studying for a master's degree in landscape architecture. He harbored dreams of designing parks and public spaces. Then, he says, he began to hear voices. Girard could distinguish several different male voices, which came complete with a mental image of how the voices were being generated: from a recording studio, with "four slops sitting around a card table drinking beer," he says.

The voices were crass but also strangely courteous, addressing him as "Mr. Girard."

They taunted him. They asked him if he thought he was normal; they suggested he was going crazy. They insulted his classmates: When an overweight student showed up for a field trip in a white raincoat, they said, "Hey, Mr. Girard, doesn't she look like a refrigerator?"

Six months after the voices began, they had another question for him: "Mr. Girard, Mr. Girard. Why aren't you dead yet?" At first, he recalls, the voices would speak just two or three times a day, but it escalated into a near-constant cacophony, often accompanied by severe pain all over his body -- which Girard now attributes to directed-energy weapons that can shoot invisible beams.

The voices even suggested how he could figure out what was happening to him. He says they told him to go to the electrical engineering department to "tell them you're writing science fiction and you don't want to write anything inconsistent with physical reality. Then tell them exactly what has happened."

Girard went and got some rudimentary explanations of how technology could explain some of the things he was describing.

"Finally, I said: 'Look, I must come to the point, because I need answers. This is happening to me; it's not science fiction.'" They laughed.

He got the same response from friends, he says. "They regarded me as crazy, which is a humiliating experience."

When asked why he didn't consult a doctor about the voices and the pain, he says, "I don't dare start talking to people because of the potential stigma of it all. I don't want to be treated differently. Here I was in Philadelphia. Something was going on, I don't know any doctors . . . I know somebody's doing something to me."

It was a struggle to graduate, he says, but he was determined, and he persevered. In 1988, the same year he finished his degree, his father died, leaving Girard an inheritance large enough that he did not have to work.

So, instead of becoming a landscape architect, Girard began a full-time investigation of what was happening to him, often traveling to Washington in pursuit of government documents relating to mind control. He put an ad in a magazine seeking other victims. Only a few people responded. But over the years, as he met more and more people like himself, he grew convinced that he was part of what he calls an "electronic concentration camp."

What he was finding on his research trips also buttressed his belief: Girard learned that in the 1950s, the CIA had drugged unwitting victims with LSD as part of a rogue mind-control experiment called MK-ULTRA. He came across references to the CIA seeking to influence the mind with electromagnetic fields. Then he found references in an academic research book to work that military researchers at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research had done in the 1970s with pulsed microwaves to transmit words that a subject would hear in his head. Elsewhere, he came across references to attempts to use electromagnetic energy, sound waves or microwave beams to cause non-lethal pain to the body. For every symptom he experienced, he believed he found references to a weapon that could cause it.

How much of the research Girard cites checks out?

Concerns about microwaves and mind control date to the 1960s, when the U.S. government discovered that its embassy in Moscow was being bombarded by low-level electromagnetic radiation. In 1965, according to declassified Defense Department documents, the Pentagon, at the behest of the White House, launched Project Pandora, top-secret research to explore the behavioral and biological effects of low-level microwaves. For approximately four years, the Pentagon conducted secret research: zapping monkeys; exposing unwitting sailors to microwave radiation; and conducting a host of other unusual experiments (a sub-project of Project Pandora was titled Project Bizarre). The results were mixed, and the program was plagued by disagreements and scientific squabbles. The "Moscow signal," as it was called, was eventually attributed to eavesdropping, not mind control, and Pandora ended in 1970. And with it, the military's research into so-called non-thermal microwave effects seemed to die out, at least in the unclassified realm.

But there are hints of ongoing research: An academic paper written for the Air Force in the mid-1990s mentions the idea of a weapon that would use sound waves to send words into a person's head. "The signal can be a 'message from God' that can warn the enemy of impending doom, or encourage the enemy to surrender," the author concluded.

In 2002, the Air Force Research Laboratory patented precisely such a technology: using microwaves to send words into someone's head. That work is frequently cited on mind-control Web sites. Rich Garcia, a spokesman for the research laboratory's directed energy directorate, declined to discuss that patent or current or related research in the field, citing the lab's policy not to comment on its microwave work.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed for this article, the Air Force released unclassified documents surrounding that 2002 patent -- records that note that the patent was based on human experimentation in October 1994 at the Air Force lab, where scientists were able to transmit phrases into the heads of human subjects, albeit with marginal intelligibility. Research appeared to continue at least through 2002. Where this work has gone since is unclear -- the research laboratory, citing classification, refused to discuss it or release other materials.

The official U.S. Air Force position is that there are no non-thermal effects of microwaves. Yet Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, tagged microwave attacks against the human brain as part of future warfare in a 2001 presentation to the National Defense Industrial Association about "Future Strategic Issues."

"That work is exceedingly sensitive" and unlikely to be reported in any unclassified documents, he says.

Meanwhile, the military's use of weapons that employ electromagnetic radiation to create pain is well-known, as are some of the limitations of such weapons. In 2001, the Pentagon declassified one element of this research: the Active Denial System, a weapon that uses electromagnetic radiation to heat skin and create an intense burning sensation. So, yes, there is technology designed to beam painful invisible rays at humans, but the weapon seems to fall far short of what could account for many of the TIs' symptoms. While its exact range is classified, Doug Beason, an expert in directed-energy weapons, puts it at about 700 meters, and the beam cannot penetrate a number of materials, such as aluminum. Considering the size of the full-scale weapon, which resembles a satellite dish, and its operational limitations, the ability of the government or anyone else to shoot beams at hundreds of people -- on city streets, into their homes and while they travel in cars and planes -- is beyond improbable.

But, given the history of America's clandestine research, it's reasonable to assume that if the defense establishment could develop mind-control or long-distance ray weapons, it almost certainly would. And, once developed, the possibility that they might be tested on innocent civilians could not be categorically dismissed.

Girard, for his part, believes these weapons were not only developed but were also tested on him more than 20 years ago.

What would the government gain by torturing him? Again, Girard found what he believed to be an explanation, or at least a precedent: During the Cold War, the government conducted radiation experiments on scores of unwitting victims, essentially using them as human guinea pigs. Girard came to believe that he, too, was a walking experiment.

Not that Girard thinks his selection was totally random: He believes he was targeted because of a disparaging remark he made to a Republican fundraiser about George H.W. Bush in the early 1980s. Later, Girard says, the voices confirmed his suspicion.

"One night I was going to bed; the usual drivel was going on," he says. "The constant stream of drivel. I was just about to go to bed, and a voice says: 'Mr. Girard, do you know who was in our studio with us? That was George Bush, vice president of the United States.'"

GIRARD'S STORY, HOWEVER STRANGE, reflects what TIs around the world report: a chance encounter with a government agency or official, followed by surveillance and gang stalking, and then, in many cases, voices, and pain similar to electric shocks. Some in the community have taken it upon themselves to document as many cases as possible. One TI from California conducted about 50 interviews, narrowing the symptoms down to several major areas: "ringing in the ears," "manipulation of body parts," "hearing voices," "piercing sensation on skin," "sinus problems" and "sexual attacks." In fact, the TI continued, "many report the sensation of having their genitalia manipulated."

Both male and female TIs report a variety of "attacks" to their sexual organs. "My testicles became so sore I could barely walk," Girard says of his early experiences. Others, however, report the attacks in the form of sexual stimulation, including one TI who claims he dropped out of the seminary after constant sexual stimulation by directed-energy weapons. Susan Sayler, a TI in San Diego, says many women among the TIs suffer from attacks to their sexual organs but are often embarrassed to talk about it with outsiders.

"It's sporadic, you just never know when it will happen," she says. "A lot of the women say it's as soon as you lay down in bed -- that's when you would get hit the worst. It happened to me as I was driving, at odd times."

What made her think it was an electronic attack and not just in her head? "There was no sexual attraction to a man when it would happen. That's what was wrong. It did not feel like a muscle spasm or whatever," she says. "It's so . . . electronic."

Gloria Naylor, a renowned African American writer, seems to defy many of the stereotypes of someone who believes in mind control. A winner of the National Book Award, Naylor is best known for her acclaimed novel, The Women of Brewster Place, which described a group of women living in a poor urban neighborhood and was later made into a miniseries by Oprah Winfrey.

But in 2005, she published a lesser-known work, 1996, a semi-autobiographical book describing her experience as a TI. "I didn't want to tell this story. It's going to take courage. Perhaps more courage than I possess, but they've left me no alternatives," Naylor writes at the beginning of her book. "I am in a battle for my mind. If I stop now, they'll have won, and I will lose myself." The book is coherent, if hard to believe. It's also marked by disturbing passages describing how Jewish American agents were responsible for Naylor's surveillance. "Of the many cars that kept coming and going down my road, most were driven by Jews," she writes in the book. When asked about that passage in a recent interview, she defended her logic: Being from New York, she claimed, she can recognize Jews.

Naylor lives on a quiet street in Brooklyn in a majestic brownstone with an interior featuring intricate woodwork and tasteful decorations that attest to a successful literary career. She speaks about her situation calmly, occasionally laughing at her own predicament and her struggle with what she originally thought was mental illness. "I would observe myself," she explains. "I would lie in bed while the conversations were going on, and I'd ask: Maybe it is schizophrenia?"

Like Girard, Naylor describes what she calls "street theater" -- incidents that might be dismissed by others as coincidental, but which Naylor believes were set up. She noticed suspicious cars driving by her isolated vacation home. On an airplane, fellow passengers mimicked her every movement -- like mimes on a street.

Voices similar to those in Girard's case followed -- taunting voices cursing her, telling her she was stupid, that she couldn't write. Expletive-laced language filled her head. Naylor sought help from a psychiatrist and received a prescription for an antipsychotic drug. But the medication failed to stop the voices, she says, which only added to her conviction that the harassment was real.

For almost four years, Naylor says, the voices prevented her from writing. In 2000, she says, around the time she discovered the mind-control forums, the voices stopped and the surveillance tapered off. It was then that she began writing 1996 as a "catharsis."

Colleagues urged Naylor not to publish the book, saying she would destroy her reputation. But she did publish, albeit with a small publishing house. The book was generally ignored by critics but embraced by TIs.

Naylor is not the first writer to describe such a personal descent. Evelyn Waugh, one of the great novelists of the 20th century, details similar experiences in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. Waugh's book, published in 1957, has eerie similarities to Naylor's.

Embarking on a recuperative cruise, Pinfold begins to hear voices on the ship that he believes are part of a wireless system capable of broadcasting into his head; he believes the instigator recruited fellow passengers to act as operatives; and he describes "performances" put on by passengers directed at him yet meant to look innocuous to others.

Waugh wrote his book several years after recovering from a similar episode and realizing that the voices and paranoia were the result of drug-induced hallucinations.

Naylor, who hasn't written a book since 1996, is now back at work on an historical novel she hopes will return her to the literary mainstream. She remains convinced that she was targeted by mind control. The many echoes of her ordeal she sees on the mind-control forums reassure her she's not crazy, she says.

Of course, some of the things she sees on the forum do strike her as crazy. "But who I am to say?" she says. "Maybe I sound crazy to somebody else."

SOME TIS, SUCH AS ED MOORE, A YOUNG MEDICAL DOCTOR, take a slightly more skeptical approach. He criticizes what he calls the "wacky claims" of TIs who blame various government agencies or groups of people without any proof. "I have yet to see a claim of who is behind this that has any data to support it," he writes.

Nonetheless, Moore still believes the voices in his head are the result of mind control and that the U.S. government is the most likely culprit. Moore started hearing voices in 2003, just as he completed his medical residency in anesthesiology; he was pulling an all-nighter studying for board exams when he heard voices coming from a nearby house commenting on him, on his abilities as a doctor, on his sanity. At first, he thought he was simply overhearing conversations through walls (much as Waugh's fictional alter ego first thought), but when no one else could hear the voices, he realized they were in his head. Moore went through a traumatic two years, including hospitalization for depression with auditory hallucinations.

"One tries to convince friends and family that you are being electronically harassed with voices that only you can hear," he writes in an e-mail. "You learn to stop doing that. They don't believe you, and they become sad and concerned, and it amplifies your own depression when you have voices screaming at you and your friends and family looking at you as a helpless, sick, mentally unbalanced wreck."

He says he grew frustrated with anti-psychotic medications meant to stop the voices, both because the treatments didn't work and because psychiatrists showed no interest in what the voices were telling him. He began to look for some other way to cope.

"In March of 2005, I started looking up support groups on the Internet," he wrote. "My wife would cry when she would see these sites, knowing I still heard voices, but I did not know what else to do." In 2006, he says, his wife, who had stood by him for three years, filed for divorce.

Moore, like other TIs, is cautious about sharing details of his life. He worries about looking foolish to friends and colleagues -- but he says that risk is ultimately worthwhile if he can bring attention to the issue.

With his father's financial help, Moore is now studying for an electrical engineering degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio, hoping to prove that V2K, the technology to send voices into people's heads, is real. Being in school, around other people, helps him cope, he writes, but the voices continue to taunt him.

Recently, he says, they told him: "We'll never stop [messing] with you."

A WEEK BEFORE THE TIS RALLY ON THE NATIONAL MALL, John Alexander, one of the people whom Harlan Girard holds personally responsible for the voices in his head, is at a Chili's restaurant in Crystal City explaining over a Philly cheese steak and fries why the United States needs mind-control weapons.

A former Green Beret who served in Vietnam, Alexander went on to a number of national security jobs, and rubbed shoulders with prominent military and political leaders. Long known for taking an interest in exotic weapons, his 1980 article, "The New Mental Battlefield," published in the Army journal Military Review, is cited by self-described victims as proof of his complicity in mind control. Now retired from the government and living in Las Vegas, Alexander continues to advise the military. He is in the Washington area that day for an official meeting.

Beneath a shock of white hair is the mind of a self-styled military thinker. Alexander belongs to a particular set of Pentagon advisers who consider themselves defense intellectuals, focusing on big-picture issues, future threats and new capabilities. Alexander's career led him from work on sticky foam that would stop an enemy in his or her tracks to dalliances in paranormal studies and psychics, which he still defends as operationally useful.

In an earlier phone conversation, Alexander said that in the 1990s, when he took part in briefings at the CIA, there was never any talk of "mind control, or mind-altering drugs or technologies, or anything like that."

According to Alexander, the military and intelligence agencies were still scared by the excesses of MK-ULTRA, the infamous CIA program that involved, in part, slipping LSD to unsuspecting victims. "Until recently, anything that smacked of [mind control] was extremely dangerous" because Congress would simply take the money away, he said.

Alexander acknowledged that "there were some abuses that took place," but added that, on the whole, "I would argue we threw the baby out with the bath water."

But September 11, 2001, changed the mood in Washington, and some in the national security community are again expressing interest in mind control, particularly a younger generation of officials who weren't around for MK-ULTRA. "It's interesting, that it's coming back," Alexander observed.

While Alexander scoffs at the notion that he is somehow part of an elaborate plot to control people's minds, he acknowledges support for learning how to tap into a potential enemy's brain. He gives as an example the possible use of functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, for lie detection. "Brain mapping" with fMRI theoretically could allow interrogators to know when someone is lying by watching for activity in particular parts of the brain. For interrogating terrorists, fMRI could come in handy, Alexander suggests. But any conceivable use of the technique would fall far short of the kind of mind-reading TIs complain about.

Alexander also is intrigued by the possibility of using electronic means to modify behavior. The dilemma of the war on terrorism, he notes, is that it never ends. So what do you do with enemies, such as those at Guantanamo: keep them there forever? That's impractical. Behavior modification could be an alternative, he says.

"Maybe I can fix you, or electronically neuter you, so it's safe to release you into society, so you won't come back and kill me," Alexander says. It's only a matter of time before technology allows that scenario to come true, he continues. "We're now getting to where we can do that." He pauses for a moment to take a bite of his sandwich. "Where does that fall in the ethics spectrum? That's a really tough question."

When Alexander encounters a query he doesn't want to answer, such as one about the ethics of mind control, he smiles and raises his hands level to his chest, as if balancing two imaginary weights. In one hand is mind control and the sanctity of free thought -- and in the other hand, a tad higher -- is the war on terrorism.

But none of this has anything to do with the TIs, he says. "Just because things are secret, people tend to extrapolate. Common sense does not prevail, and even when you point out huge leaps in logic that just cannot be true, they are not dissuaded."

WHAT IS IT THAT BRINGS SOMEONE, EVEN AN INTELLIGENT PERSON, to ascribe the experience of hearing disembodied voices to government weapons?

In her book, Abducted, Harvard psychologist Susan Clancy examines a group that has striking parallels to the TIs: people who believe they've been kidnapped by aliens. The similarities are often uncanny: Would-be abductees describe strange pains, and feelings of being watched or targeted. And although the alleged abductees don't generally have auditory hallucinations, they do sometimes believe that their thoughts are controlled by aliens, or that they've been implanted with advanced technology.

(On the online forum, some TIs posted vociferous objections to the parallel, concerned that the public finds UFOs even weirder than mind control. "It will keep us all marginalized and discredited," one griped.)

Clancy argues that the main reason people believe they've been abducted by aliens is that it provides them with a compelling narrative to explain their perception that strange things have happened to them, such as marks on their bodies (marks others would simply dismiss as bruises), stimulation to their sexual organs (as the TIs describe) or feelings of paranoia. "It's not just an explanation for your problems; it's a source of meaning for your life," Clancy says.

In the case of TIs, mind-control weapons are an explanation for the voices they hear in their head. Socrates heard a voice and thought it was a demon; Joan of Arc heard voices from God. As one TI noted in an e-mail: "Each person undergoing this harassment is looking for the solution to the problem. Each person analyzes it through his or her own particular spectrum of beliefs. If you are a scientific-minded person, then you will probably analyze the situation from that perspective and conclude it must be done with some kind of electronic devices. If you are a religious person, you will see it as a struggle between the elements of whatever religion you believe in. If you are maybe, perhaps more eccentric, you may think that it is alien in nature."

Or, if you happen to live in the United States in the early 21st century, you may fear the growing power of the NSA, CIA and FBI.

Being a victim of government surveillance is also, arguably, better than being insane. In Waugh's novella based on his own painful experience, when Pinfold concludes that hidden technology is being used to infiltrate his brain, he "felt nothing but gratitude in his discovery." Why? "He might be unpopular; he might be ridiculous; but he was not mad."

Ralph Hoffman, a professor of psychiatry at Yale who has studied auditory hallucinations, regularly sees people who believe the voices are a part of government harassment (others believe they are God, dead relatives or even ex-girlfriends). Not all people who hear voices are schizophrenic, he says, noting that people can hear voices episodically in highly emotional states. What exactly causes these voices is still unknown, but one thing is certain: People who think the voices are caused by some external force are rarely dissuaded from their delusional belief, he says. "These are highly emotional and gripping experiences that are so compelling for them that ordinary reality seems bland."

Perhaps because the experience is so vivid, he says, even some of those who improve through treatment merely decide the medical regimen somehow helped protect their brain from government weapons.

Scott Temple, a professor of psychiatry at Penn State University who has been involved in two recent studies of auditory hallucinations, notes that those who suffer such hallucinations frequently lack insight into their illness. Even among those who do understand they are sick, "that awareness comes and goes," he says. "People feel overwhelmed, and the delusional interpretations return."

BACK AT THE PHILADELPHIA TRAIN STATION, Girard seems more agitated. In a meeting the week before, his "handlers" had spoken to him only briefly -- they weren't in the right position to attack him, Girard surmises, based on the lack of voices. Today, his conversation jumps more rapidly from one subject to the next: victims of radiation experiments, his hatred of George H.W. Bush, MK-ULTRA, his personal experiences.

Asked about his studies at Penn, he replies by talking about his problems with reading: "I told you, everything I write they dictate to me," he says, referring again to the voices. "When I read, they're reading to me. My eyes go across; they're moving my eyes down the line. They're reading it to me. When I close the book, I can't remember a thing I read. That's why they do it."

The week before, Girard had pointed to only one person who appeared suspicious to him -- a young African American man reading a book; this time, however, he hears more voices, which leads him to believe the station is crawling with agents.

"Let's change our location," Girard says after a while. "I'm sure they have 40 or 50 people in here today. I escaped their surveillance last time -- they won't let that happen again."

Asked to explain the connection between mind control and the University of Pennsylvania, which Girard alleges is involved in the conspiracy, he begins to talk about defense contractors located near the Philadelphia campus: "General Electric was right next to the parking garage; General Electric Space Systems occupies a huge building right over there. From that building, you could see into the studio where I was doing my work most of the time. I asked somebody what they were doing there. You know, it had to do with computers. GE Space Systems. They were supposed to be tracking missile debris from this location . . . pardon me. What was your question again?"

Yet many parts of Girard's life seem to reflect that of any affluent 70-year-old bachelor. He travels frequently to France for extended vacations and takes part in French cultural activities in Philadelphia. He has set up a travel scholarship at the Cleveland Institute of Art in the name of his late mother, who attended school there (he changed his last name 27 years ago for "personal reasons"), and he travels to meet the students who benefit from the fund. And while the bulk of his time is spent on his research and writing about mind control, he has other interests. He follows politics and describes outings with friends and family members with whom he doesn't talk about mind control, knowing they would view it skeptically.

Girard acknowledges that some of his experiences mirror symptoms of schizophrenia, but asked if he ever worried that the voices might in fact be caused by mental illness, he answers sharply with one word: "No."

How, then, does he know the voices are real?

"How do you know you know anything?" Girard replies. "How do you know I exist? How do you know this isn't a dream you're having, from which you'll wake up in a few minutes? I suppose that analogy is the closest thing: You know when you have a dream. Sometimes it could be perfectly lucid, but you know it's a dream."

The very "realness" of the voices is the issue -- how do you disbelieve something you perceive as real? That's precisely what Hoffman, the Yale psychiatrist, points out: So lucid are the voices that the sufferers -- regardless of their educational level or self-awareness -- are unable to see them as anything but real. "One thing I can assure you," Hoffman says, "is that for them, it feels real."

IT LOOKS ALMOST LIKE ANY OTHER SMALL POLITICAL RALLY IN WASHINGTON. Posters adorn the gate on the southwest side of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, as attendees set up a table with press materials, while volunteers test a loudspeaker and set out coolers filled with bottled water. The sun is out, the weather is perfect, and an eclectic collection of people from across the country has gathered to protest mind control.

There is not a tinfoil hat to be seen. Only the posters and paraphernalia hint at the unusual. "Stop USA electronic harassment," urges one poster. "Directed Energy Assaults," reads another. Smaller signs in the shape of tombstones say, "RIP MKULTRA." The main display, set in front of the speaker's lectern has a more extended message: "HELP STOP HI-TECH ASSAULT PSYCHOTRONIC TORTURE."

About 35 TIs show up for the June rally, in addition to a few friends and family members. Speakers alternate between giving personal testimonials and descriptions of research into mind-control technology. Most of the gawkers at the rally are foreign tourists. A few hecklers snicker at the signs, but mostly people are either confused or indifferent. The articles on mind control at the table -- from mainstream news magazines -- go untouched.

"How can you expect people to get worked up over this if they don't care about eavesdropping or eminent domain?" one man challenges after stopping to flip through the literature. Mary Ann Stratton, who is manning the table, merely shrugs and smiles sadly. There is no answer: Everyone at the rally acknowledges it is an uphill battle.

In general, the outlook for TIs is not good; many lose their jobs, houses and family. Depression is common. But for many at the rally, experiencing the community of mind-control victims seems to help. One TI, a man who had been a rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard before voices in his head sent him on a downward spiral, expressed the solace he found among fellow TIs in a long e-mail to another TI: "I think that the only people that can help are people going through the same thing. Everyone else will not believe you, or they are possibly involved."

In the end, though, nothing could help him enough. In August 2006, he would commit suicide.

But at least for the day, the rally is boosting TI spirits. Girard, in what for him is an ebullient mood, takes the microphone. A small crowd of tourists gathers at the sidelines, listening with casual interest. With the Capitol looming behind him, he reaches the crescendo of his speech, rallying the attendees to remember an important thing: They are part of a single community.

"I've heard it said, 'We can't get anywhere because everyone's story is different.' We are all the same," Girard booms. "You knew someone with the power to commit you to the electronic concentration camp system."

Several weeks after the rally, Girard shows up for a meeting with a reporter at the stately Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where he has stayed frequently over the two decades he has traveled to the capital to battle mind control. He walks in with a lit cigarette, which he apologetically puts out after a hotel employee tells him smoking isn't allowed anymore. He is half an hour late -- delayed, he says, by a meeting on Capitol Hill. Wearing a monogrammed dress shirt and tie, he looks, as always, serious and professional.

Girard declines to mention whom on Capitol Hill he'd met with, other than to say it was a congressional staffer. Embarrassment is likely a factor: Girard readily acknowledges that most people he meets with, ranging from scholars to politicians, ignore his entreaties or dismiss him as a lunatic.

Lately, his focus is on his Web site, which he sees as the culmination of nearly a quarter-century of research. When completed, it will contain more than 300 pages of documents. What next? Maybe he'll move to France (there are victims there, too), or maybe the U.S. government will finally just kill him, he says.

Meanwhile, he is always searching for absolute proof that the government has decoded the brain. His latest interest is LifeLog, a project once funded by the Pentagon that he read about in Wired News. The article described it this way: "The embryonic LifeLog program would dump everything an individual does into a giant database: every e-mail sent or received, every picture taken, every Web page surfed, every phone call made, every TV show watched, every magazine read. All of this -- and more -- would combine with information gleaned from a variety of sources: a GPS transmitter to keep tabs on where that person went, audiovisual sensors to capture what he or she sees or says, and biomedical monitors to keep track of the individual's health."

Girard suggests that the government, using similar technology, has "catalogued" his life over the past two years -- every sight and sound (Evelyn Waugh, in his mind-control book, writes about his character's similar fear that his harassers were creating a file of his entire life).

Girard thinks the government can control his movements, inject thoughts into his head, cause him pain day and night. He believes that he will die a victim of mind control.

Is there any reason for optimism?

Girard hesitates, then asks a rhetorical question.

"Why, despite all this, why am I the same person? Why am I Harlan Girard?"

For all his anguish, be it the result of mental illness or, as Girard contends, government mind control, the voices haven't managed to conquer the thing that makes him who he is: Call it his consciousness, his intellect or, perhaps, his soul.

"That's what they don't yet have," he says. After 22 years, "I'm still me."

Sharon Weinberger is a Washington writer and author of Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld. She will be fielding questions and comments about this article Tuesday at

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Source: []

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Big trackpads (1)

fermion (181285) | about 2 years ago | (#42545217)

Smartboards are really just big trackpads. The reason they are so popular is that some believe you need a smartboard to project. For years I projected on regular whiteboard and just wrote on the white board. There are subject where have the large surface of the board as a trackpad is useful. I have seen very few people actually use the tools that come with smartboards, such as the ability to record the motions so a student can recreated a lecture later. Some believe there is some benifit to have a kid come up to the board and do a problem, and that is one thing a smart board allows.

The technology to replace the smart board is already out there. Most phones and tablets have an app that will act as a mouse, allowing the instructor to roam the room while moving through a presentation and writing. Wireless writing pads allow a student to do the same from anywhere in the room.

The advantage of each student having a tablet, of course, is that a student may view a presentation closeup, interact with assessment using things like polleverywhere, as well a engage in impromptu content. The disadvantage is that a certain percentage of the student will be updating their facebook and playing WoW, but that is nothing new and why so many colleges have high drop out rates.

All this, however, can be a supplement to the smartboard. The real problem is that the people who make the actual Smartboard are very proud of the their product, have really tightened licensing. To be honest, the software is what makes the smartboard worthwhile, but, as I said, most people don't use the software. In the long ago it was because teacher were not trained in using it, now it is rich web content.

Terrible idea (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545279)

One of the main problems with this idea is that while tablets may certainly offer a good way for professors to guide students, they also come with a plethora of non-educational distractions (i.e., games and the Internet). I use lots of technology in my classroom and students frequently study Internet topics, but in the classroom itself all electronics are banned except those used by me. Students just cannot resist the distraction offered by cell phones and laptops, and classroom discussion suffers as a result.

Cell phone cameras (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545283)

Tablets didn't kill smartboards - cell phone cameras did. I've been in over 100 different client boardrooms and seen dozens of smartboard setups, but I've never actually seen one that worked properly. A plain whiteboard and a cell phone camera, on the other hand, capture the notes very simply and effectively. It may not be the fanciest solution but it's by far the most convenient.

Why dont they.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545431)

Dump the professors as well, that way we can get knowledgable people to teach, who know their topic and can do it remotely costing far less than the bloated salaries tenure gives.

Make college affordable again..

Re:Why dont they.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545833)

Please, professors have dedicated their lives to studying the topic, they are the experts. Their salaries are usually terrible for their educational level, skill-sets, and the sheer number of hours they put in each week. College tuition is on the rise because of drastically decreased state funding and bloat of useless administrators who make far more than the faculty do.

Re:Why dont they.... (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#42546615)


Professors tend to make someone else do most of their work while they fuck off doing something interesting instead of teaching. Their salaries are 'terrible' due to simple economics. Many people want to have the university pay them to 'research' shit ... oh and teach one class or maybe two per semester using a plan that was cooked up 30 years ago. They then pass off as much work as possible to a TA.

Admins make more because they actually do more work, and its work that no one really wants to do, hence not a massive supply of people that will do it and the price stays up.

Teachers and professors make what they make because they are easy to replace.

Unions? (-1, Troll)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | about 2 years ago | (#42545609)

I think Unions have been one of the biggest sources of Luddite thinking in many fields. I'm just guessing. But I'll bet the teacher's unions would not support a path of innovation that allowed for fewer instructors. Heck, if banks were unionized there wouldn't be any such thing as an ATM.

Re:Unions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545937)

College faculty are almost never unionized. Your comment is just plain ignorant.

nope (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#42545629)

Most wireless routers can only support 50 clients at a time and that's in theory on the specs, not in practice. So unless they want RF-proof walls and 1 router per classroom, and no other 2.4GHz devices in the entire school, I think there might just be a little problem getting them on the network to stream course materials and presentations. So no, tablets in every students' is an idiotic idea that won't work.

Re:nope (1)

ssam (2723487) | about 2 years ago | (#42546553)

can OLPC mesh networking solve this? maybe not if everything is in range of the router.

Re:nope (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#42546627)

What school are you going to that isn't already blanketed with real WAPs? No, not your shitty Linksys from CheapBoxStore, actual wifi networks setup for proper roaming between WAPs.

I teach Maya at our local community college (1)

rimcrazy (146022) | about 2 years ago | (#42545739)

There is no way I can get rid of the ceiling projector and the link to my laptop. There is an instructors desktop that is hooked to the projector also but I choose to use my own laptop as I have all of my lessons on that machine. I give demonstrations and tutorials all the time and work students questions live so they can see how I solved particular problems. I need to be able to show this to students. Now, we could get rid of the projector if there existed a way for me to privately share my screen with all of the tablets in the classroom all at the same time. Maybe something out there exist where I can do that but I'm not aware of it. Oh, and BTW, tablets are a LONG way away from being able to run Maya so for the immediate future at least, my particular need for a portable high end workstation is not going to go away either.

It will kill smartboards (1)

Nalanthi (599605) | about 2 years ago | (#42545779)

I don't think that tablets are going to kill all of the elements of the smart classroom, particularly the projector, which is still way to useful. But it will kill many of them. The smartboard is dead. Ded. I use my iPad and my projector along with the Doceri software. My solution was 1/2 price of the smartboard in the classroom next door, and allows me to roam around the room while presenting. I can also create my presentations wherever my iPad is as opposed to needing to be in the room with the smartboard or at a PC with specialized software.

Instead of clickers I simply have all of the students twitter answers to me. Since it is not graded, it is ok if some student forgot to charge their phone on a particular day. I do have a couple of iPod Touches for use by students who don't have a phone that can tweet.

You need a TARDIS to "move forward" in time (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#42545895)

Any fucktard who can't use the simple phrase "in the future" is spouting buzzwords and can safely be ignored. Clear enough?

done and done (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42545945)

This kind of system has already been integrated into some of the more technically competent medical schools.

Blackboards are that good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42546017)

When I was teaching, both in high school and in college, I used the blackboard.
It is very efficient and powerful.
I don't need to charge the blackboard, it doesn't have bugs, it works the same every classroom/school I go to and I can invite students to the board to do some work and they can use it easily to.
All students can just copy it, make a picture of it, videotape it, whatever is their own personal preference.

Add a projector to show some things with my computer and I have everything I need to teach.
Haven't used a smart board so can't really judge on that, but the concept is simple:

A blackboard is an easy tool for the teacher/school, getting the information from it is the students problem. Notebooks/tablets/... and getting the information on them is suddenly the schools/teachers problem. And really, there simply is no time for a teacher to occupy him/herself with that.

Re:Blackboards are that good (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 2 years ago | (#42547169)

Unfortunately the phrase "Those who can't...teach" is true. Teachers generally shun technology in their classrooms because of an unwillingness to learn or adapt. This is the problem with "classic" education is that teachers and school boards are unwilling to prepare students for the future because they use the tools of the past.

I also disagree with the statement that a teacher does not have enough time to get information onto computers. While I agree there have not been many great tools out there, once you are in an electronic environment this should reduce the overhead of marking and lesson planning greatly.

Also shunning technology completely leaves you without access to content already widely available to enhance the classroom experience.

Technology - Moving the expense to customers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42546239)

As with most cutting edge tech, it's chief use is to push the expensive part downstream.
For NewsPapers, printing press cost a lot of money.
Much cheaper to produce a web site and have people go there instead of wasting all the expensive newsprint.
Why put tech in the class room when you can require students to provide it themselves?

Like riding the bus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42546565)

This is like saying that we can do away with all those expensive school busses since everyone is going to have fancy new electric cars. The bus is how we bring together a group of students and take them somewhere together.
If you look at a classroom there is a very large surface at the front of the room that the teacher uses to collect the attention of everyone in the room and then take them somewhere together. This is not the same experience when everyone is looking down at their tablets.
Now how about tablets (or anything else for that matter) that can automatically sync with the smart board (or it's future replacement) -- that would be excellent. No more madly writing down notes, students can instead spend their time watching and listening.

OFFS (2)

KalvinB (205500) | about 2 years ago | (#42546771)

oh for ... sake.

The SmartBoard physical device can be replaced with a $50 Wiimote ($20 clone) and infrared light pen ($30)

The SmartBoard software, on the other hand, is what you're really paying for.

Here's a free alternative to the software: []

The only person who we should even consider giving tech to is the teacher.

What kills the SmartBoard and tablets in the class is the low resolution. It's like drawing with a crayon. And it's difficult to face the students when using it.

I've found the best alternative is a simple document camera that can be built with an HD webcam (requires a minimum 1024x768 projector as well) and some free software I wrote. And yes, I used this in an actual classroom during my student teaching. []

I put together the $1000 classroom to try this stuff out. Give me a steady supply of dry erase markers for students to use and a document camera and I'm happy. With the document camera I can sit or stand facing the students while I write. And everyone can see clearly what I'm writing. For student interaction, they come up and write on the board.

But, this is why I'm not rich. I'm not in the business of selling overpriced worthless crap to the education system.

Agreed (2)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 2 years ago | (#42547087)

Having worked for a "smart" board maker a few years ago, we did a study that dealt with a problem where most teachers used their fancy new expensive interactive smart board as nothing more then a second monitor and glorified projector, if even at all. Our software tracks board touches and saw that there was very little user interaction. In the same study we saw a huge proliferation in the use of tablets in schools which are highly interactive and touchable.

The reality is that the education systems are slowly changing away from the 100's year old paradigm of people lecturing to a new concept of students "exploring" education at their own pace. Not all students learn at the same pace, some students learn math and logic faster then language, others the opposite. Forcing all students to study the same subject matter at the same time is why schools are good at creating failures rather then successes. A child that doesn't do math by grade 3 should not be considered remedial, for instance, and thus shunted to a system of lower expectations, their math skills may have clicked in later in development and could be as or even more proficient then anyone else that learned math earlier.

So, the concept of a fixed focal point for a classroom is slowly eroding to more student-centric learning. The idea of self-guided learning is an emerging concept in many schools where the curriculum is a serious of self-guided lessons where the "teacher" is there to help students understand the lessons when they struggle.

The problem with the company I worked for (and why I left) was that in spite of having this study and seeing their product tucked away in a corner being unused, they still insist on creating single focal point solutions for the classroom and only loosely investing into tablet based solutions. Sure the concepts of collaboration and interactivity between students is important, but not necessarily the only way to proceed with education. Smart boards are still expensive and often underutilized and in spite of some initial interest level from students, quickly become bored with the technology, unlike tablets.

Better integration between smart boards and tablets would be the only way to save this company, but alas, is being greatly overlooked.

Camtasia, Evernote, Graphics tablet, mic (4, Interesting)

javamage (1966164) | about 2 years ago | (#42547235)

I've been recording and posting my lectures at JHU using Camtasia for many years...

I whiteboard using a graphics tablet (Wacom Bamboo fun, drawing ink notes on Evernote). I write code examples on the fly in Eclipse (and if Android apps, run them in an emulator or use droid@screen to mirror). I surf to websites. When I rarely have slides, I show them. Everything I say (using a headset mic) and do is recorded using Camtasia. After class I do some minor edits and post the videos and example code from the class on the course website after class.

Much less expensive than a smartboard (even moreso if you use alternate recording software), and the students love it (almost everyone comments on it in the evals)

  • * They can review the entire lecture easily
  • * They can focus on what I'm currently saying, rather than on writing down what I just said (some still take notes, but they're much more top-level outline than all the details). This has greatly increased the flow of the class.
  • * If a student cannot come to class, they can still see everything that I did
  • * It allows me to review what I've said in previous terms

I'm a little surprised that the students still come to class... I suspect it's because they like being able to ask questions and interact with the other students.

Forced to by tablets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42547397)

Question to slashdotters, mostly because I think the majority here are either college educated, in college, or likely to head to college. If you walked into a classroom and they did not have whiteboards, chalk boards, or an overhead projector, and instead required you to download an app (even if it's Android or an iPad app), what would you think? I ask because I'm finishing my Masters now and I'm in my early 30's. When I was in college, I was old school, handwritten notes in a notebook, and even today I still operate that way. I occasionally bring my laptop to class, but admit the temptation is strong to not pay attention so I often do not. I notice at most 2 or 3 people in a class of 20-30 have and are using a tablet to take notes.

So if you went into a class like I described above, someone like me would be forced to by a tablet in order to take the class. What is your opinion about that?

WOOT?! FP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42547959)

*BSD iS dea3. []
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