An Interview with Christopher Leonardo, Director of R&D
It's been an exciting year for Mimio. We released several new interactive devices (the MimioProjector™ interactive and touch projectors) and made major updates to our classroom software and educational app, which really expanded the capabilities of classroom collaboration. In this interview with Director of R&D Christopher Leonardo, you’ll learn what he thinks about the newest products and get some hints about what’s to come. You’ll also find out what has him excited about education technology.
Mimio’s had a busy year. What is it about the new products that’s excites you the most?
With the current touch and interactive projector releases, I have to point to the simplicity that these products have when it comes to getting up and running. The touch-enabled projector has such an easy, straightforward process for installing the laser curtain touch device. And both projectors now can leverage an auto-calibration process that ensures accuracy and eliminates the manual procedure.
Looking at the latest releases of MimioStudio™ software and the MimioMobile™ app, the thing that most excites me is the true, full classroom collaborative experience they make possible. You can have your class interacting with the activity – not just annotating, but really learning and engaging with it.
What do you find most rewarding about working with the engineers at Mimio?
I definitely appreciate working with a team that holds me to my values and goals, and pushes me day after day to stick to them. Making our products easy to use for the educators and students is paramount to us, and while it may seem counterintuitive, making something easy is really hard! It’s easier to throw in extra features and functionality. What's hard is determining what aspects are the most important, and what the best ways are for using a tool or enhancement. It’s challenging but fun to have a group of people who work every day to put products through the testing and ask what would really be best for the students.
What do you hear from educators again and again when it comes to the challenges of technology?
Training, training, and training! It isn’t just about a training class given the day the technology is installed; it’s about having the right type of training that works with their schedules, their learning style, and their time. We are all students and we all want resources that work with the different ways that we learn. We can get so focused on the technology that we sometimes lose sight of what it takes to help teachers really feel comfortable and willing to make technology a real part of their classrooms.
When you are doing school visits, what surprises you most about how technology is being used?
I’m most surprised by how quickly today’s students become comfortable with technology. They might have a new device or app that was just installed and most of the time they can get running with it in no time. Today’s students are true digital natives. And then the other side of this is that you see a level of excitement and energy when technology is being used effectively. That gets you pumped and excited about what you are creating and how kids are learning.
What do you think is the next big “thing” in ed tech?
I think the next big thing is more about learning than technology. It’s about how technology can enhance the variety of ways in which students learn. For example, technology like touch-enabled, front-of-the-classroom solutions that engage and inspire collaboration, and mobile apps that allow small-group learning and sharing. Technology that allows teachers to teach the way that works best for their students and their classes. The technology isn’t just a replacement for a whiteboard or a worksheet, but a way for teachers to enhance and expand on students’ ability to learn and develop.
What the next big thing for Mimio?
For Mimio, the next big leap is to have our MimioMobile educational app be Web-based vs. platform-/device-based. This will allow our app to be used in any classroom, no matter what devices they are using – reaching more students. First iPads were all the rage, then tablets, and then Chromebooks. There are always going to be new devices, but if work can be Web-based, you can become a solution for schools. Schools won’t have to worry about whether their budget was wasted on the wrong device, or whether their teachers will be able to use that device.
What is your favorite piece of technology, aside from Mimio products?
My favorite piece of technology is TiVO. It’s the tech I like, but it’s the interface that makes me love it. It is intuitive, easy to use, and easy to navigate. I can use one device instead of a cable box, a smart TV, and a Roku box. It just makes things easy.
You have school-age children. What do you find most interesting about their reactions and interactions with education and technology?
I see how natural technology is for them because they are using it from such a young age, navigating tablets and smartphones. Touch technology is second nature to them, and they love interacting with technology in general. I also think you need to strike a balance with technology and other activities. In our family, especially while our children are so young, we prioritize free play, time in nature, and connecting with our community.
Last burning question: What are you are looking forward to for your summer?
I will be at ISTE for the end of June, and I am bringing my entire family down to see Philadelphia – we’ll do the whole Liberty Bell and cheese steak thing. We love seeing new places and I am really looking forward to that.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. We look forward to seeing Mimio premier other exciting things at ISTE this summer.