Displays @ ISTE 2017

The display technologies marketed at ISTE have certainly changed over the years. There was no exception at ISTE 2017 this year. (The ISTE 2017 educational conference held in late June, with over 15,000 educators in attendance, is considered the largest ed-tech conference in the U.S. Every state and more than 72 countries were represented at this year’s ed-tech extravaganza.)

Gone were the display giants of past years. The endless rows of interactive white board competitors have long since atrophied; the previously ginormous projector company booths have dimmed in comparison to past years; the overwhelming number of interactive touch display vendors have realized a more tempered and reasonable presence. No, display technologies (and accoutrements) featured in the expansive ISTE 2017 exhibit hall this year were… hum… uh… let’s say… in a word… ’quirky’. But quirky in a good way, in an instructive way. From an educator’s perspective (that’s me!), here’s what I gleaned:

Full Tilt

One thing I noticed this year was that tilted displays were the marketing posture du jour. Many exhibitors were tilting their displays, not merely showcasing them in perpendicular tables or customary wall mounts, but featuring them at 40º-50º angles. Visually, this created the marketing effect of ‘winking’ at passersby, drawing their ADHD-like visual attention to a new sense of angular excellence. It was pleasant. So I guess I can argue that the tiltable display was the ‘in’ thing, at least for now. But one wonders. Deep diving into some sales literature, I noticed that one company that sells tiltable display accessories is also worried about these displays being moved by teachers and students when in a tilted position. This company states: “Some combinations of accessories can lead to potentially unsafe situations in use. [This can] …decrease the stability of [a] mobile stand and can lead to unexpected situations. The combination no longer complies with basic safety requirements”. Uh-oh. Unexpected situations? Might we now need to require ongoing training of teachers for deploying and moving tiltable displays? Are you ready for managing this problem away?

Tiltable displaysTiltable displays won the day at ISTE 2017

Collaboration Spaces

The use of displays in collaboration spaces continued as a durable theme in this year’s ISTE exhibit hall.

Collab 1

Collab 2

Take Wings and Fly

Another interesting revelation was the “extended” display. BalanceBox offered eye-catching demonstrations of its display mounting technologies, along with a foldable whiteboard display ‘extender’ called the BalanceBox Wing 6. Precious classroom real estate is what’s at stake here. Unlike university classrooms, a K12 classroom can run into significant real estate limitations in term of wall surfaces. (Think of cabinets, student display, doors, windows, heating vents, bookcases, and even sinks.) So placing any sort of display or screen on the wall becomes a zero-sum game, a game the display manufacturer is likely to lose. The Wing 6 gives a given wall space multiple uses, and is height-adjustable for various-sized little bodies trying to reach up and press a digit to an interactive touchscreen. So, anytime our K12 walls can multitask or flex a bit—that’s a very good thing. This display accessory received a lot of attention from educators.

The Optimized

Galaxy Next Generation offered another tilt-display booth with a message for classroom-optimized interactive touch displays. I asked a representative what they meant by the fact that their displays were ‘optimized’ for the classroom, and she gave me this answer:

Back to the Future

One of the most interesting exhibitors at ISTE 2017 was the Odin Smart e-Blackboard technology. This involved a starkly beautiful solution that looked back into the past and forward into the future, all at the same time. Odin has successfully married the old fashion blackboard with modern 4K touchscreen technology in a solution that turns heads. Lisa Guo, the overseas sales manager of Odin, proclaimed: “We are glad that every teacher we have met at ISTE simply loves it.” She continued: “It makes teaching more convenient and the classroom more attractive.” And she was right. In spades. Imagine a unified touch screen that can operate seamlessly as a chalk blackboard or as an interactive touch screen. In doing so, it solves the customary problems of traditional blackboard systems by being easily cleanable, indestructible, non-scratchable, anti-power surge, and is able to use various writing media, including regular chalk, dustless chalk, and water pen. In every way it appeared to be a seamless bridge between digital and analog instructional methods. And, frankly, it is absolutely beautiful to behold.

Odin Science LabOdin eBlackboard deployed in a science lab

SmartBlack2Odin eBlackboard at ISTE

See my request to write on the E-blackboard at its most vulnerable point, the seam:

Guo informed me that “Although we have delivered about 10,000 units of the E-blackboard in China, this is the first time we are showing the new product in the US market.“ This, dear readers, was a winner.


Several other one-off educationally focused display solutions hidden in the maze of ISTE 2017 booths are also deserving of attention. First, there is the analog MC Squares dry-erase surface. Basically, it is a tiled writing surface that can be flexibly deployed, even divided up into the hands of individual students, and then returned to the wall for discussions or visualizing ideas. What I found most interesting, however, is that the company has imminent plans in the works to change the design so it can serve as a screen for an interactive projector. Pointing back to my previous comments (see Take Wings and Fly above), wall real estate in classrooms is a scarce resource, “so, anytime our K12 walls can multitask or flex a bit—that’s a very good thing.” This concept, combined with an interactive projector, will add an interesting and new type of flexibility to the classroom.

MCSquaresMC Squares are being readied as a display surface in the near future.

Another imaginative solution involved Colorado Springs-based Tapistry, a software firm that introduces some fresh and invigorating metaphors, vocabulary, and opportunities to the display world in general and the world of education in specific: 3D Whiteboarding, Glyphs (small, digital building blocks of lecture tools and resources, modular in design so that then can be used and reused at will), Vignettes (the atomization of key lecture content, accessible via a swirl gesture) and 3D Notetaking (streaming and syncing lecture content to student devices). There are so many avenues of creativity here (including their notion of 4D lecturing, which involves the manipulation of lecture over time), that I need to visit their offices and secure some additional hands-on exposure.—Len Scrogan