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SMART

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Partisanship is a distressing topic these days. We are a divided country on so many issues, and savvy candidates in the upcoming elections try to sooth that aggravation by offering to reach across the aisle to get the nation’s business done. But here is an age-old question that is simply unbridgeable: Which are smarter, dogs or cats?

Now many of us have heard of Chaser, a border collie from Spartanburg, S.C., who understood 1,022 nouns. His owner was John Pilley, a scientist who studied canine cognition and trained his pet as part of his work. There was also a border collie named Rico who could identify 200 items. These dogs helped us reach the conclusion that dogs were extraordinarily intelligent and certainly smarter than cats. But had their partisanship colored the verdict of remarkable canine smarts on the part of owner-scientists?

Currently there seems to be a study for every question, and this one is no exception. Stephen Lea, an emeritus professor in the psychology department of the University of Exeter in Devon, England, along with Britta Osthaus, a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, England, conducted one such study, according to a recent Laura Holson article in The New York Times. The results are published in the journal Learning & Behavior. In the interests of full disclosure, Lea confessed that he was a cat person. Nonetheless the scientists tried to impartially compare dog cognition with three similar groups: carnivores, social hunters and domestic animals. Among those selected were wolves, cats, chimpanzees, dolphins, horses and pigeons.

Here is what they found.

Dogs cannot use tools, unlike dolphins, New Caledonian crows and chimpanzees, which according to The Times, can harness plant stems to fish for termites. Homing pigeons are trained to fly home over great distances, and probably would be more trustworthy to travel on a 1,000-mile errand than a dog, Lea believes. Domestic animals, like horses, can also impress with their learned tasks and tricks. Dogs seem smart in part, Lea said, “because they like to be trained.” The same cannot always be said for cats.

In my dog-owning years, some 45 all together, I’ve loved and enjoyed the company of three golden retrievers and one royal (the largest) standard poodle. From this small sample, I would conclude that the poodle was the smartest. When I would sit on the sofa and read the newspaper, he would hop up on the cushion next to me, sitting upright as people and that breed do, and peer over my shoulder. I swear I think he was reading the paper, much as paperless people used to do to their paper-toting seatmates on subways before the arrival of the smartphone.

So all right, I am a bit partisan.

The conclusion that Lea’s study reaches is that dogs “are not smarter than they are supposed to be, given what they are.”

Clive Wynne, director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University in Tempe and a dog lover, recognizes merit in Lea’s study. He explains that Lea is not putting dogs down but rather putting them in their proper context. What Wynne touts about dogs is their outstanding capacity for affection.

Cats, I feel, are more aloof. So while Lea concludes that dogs are not particularly extraordinary, I would say that by being so affectionate toward humans, they have created the best possible lives for themselves. I once had a plumber working in my house who, eyeing my dog asleep on a pillow, told me, “In the next life I want to return as an American dog.”

Now if that doesn’t show superior intelligence on the part of dogs and their ability to earn that kind of existence, I’m not sure what could reveal a higher IQ. Certainly our elected officials are not nearly so endearing.

Teq CEO Damian Scarfo, and President Chris Hickey. Photo from Lisa Hendrickson

Teq, a Huntington Station-based educational technology and professional development firm, has been named the official provider of SMART Technologies products for all K-12 districts in New York.

The company will also offer professional development for SMART products and technical support from SMART certified professionals. The official partnership will begin on Oct. 1.

SMART Technologies, a Canadian company, is best known for inventing the first interactive whiteboard in 1991. The company now offers interactive tables and pen displays, conferencing software, interactive learning software and more.    

“We are thrilled to be selected as SMART’s sole vendor for K-12 in New York,” Damian Scarfo, CEO of Teq said in a statement. “SMART offers the best interactive displays available, and we couldn’t be happier to align ourselves with the innovation SMART is bringing to classrooms around the world.”

The partnership is projected to increase Teq’s revenues by nearly 20 percent, and the company is projecting $50 million in sales for the year, according to Chris Hickey, president of Teq. The company used to be one of six companies reselling SMART products in the state.

SMART’s president touted the partnership and the Huntington Station company’s solid reputation for professional development.

“We are delighted to name Teq as our sole education partner in New York,” Greg Estell, president of SMART Education Solutions said in a statement. “Teq has an incredible reputation for professional development, enabling educators to deliver best-in-class learning. This, coupled with SMART’s world-leading education technology, makes for a powerful combination.”

As part of a strategy to get more SMART products into state schools, the company has submitted a bid to the New York State Office of General Services to try to negotiate a contract to be a listed vendor of classroom technology to New York. SMART is looking to set a maximum price point at which products can be sold to municipalities through this contract.

Like SMART, Teq will also be looking to further its relationship with schools, hoping to partner with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services to get more technology into the districts. The company is hoping to benefit from $2 billion in funding offered to school districts through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) SMART Schools Bond Act by offering districts that seek funding delayed payment options.

The act is intended to bring about 21st century upgrades to educational technology and infrastructure in schools to ensure that students graduate with the skills they need to thrive in today’s economy. Voters approved the act in a November 2014 referendum.

Teq will be offering a complete range of SMART products and software, including SMART kapp iQ and Teq Unlimited.

SMART kapp iQ is an ultra HD interactive display that can multi-link student devices so that all participants can collaborate, contribute and see what is being written in real time. Teq Unlimited is a software package that teaches how to successfully integrate new technology into the classroom.

“Kapp iQ is not only specifically designed for the needs of teachers and students … it’s designed for how kids learn — using devices and naturally interacting with technology,” Hickey said.

Teq is offering a free trial period for districts in New York. The trial, which lasts 30 days, includes delivery, setup and two hours of professional development of whichever products the districts chose to try, according to a Teq statement.

Teq has been in the business since 1972, and was originally located in Oyster Bay out of a barn. According to the company, its mission is to support the continued evolution of the modern classroom by offering world-renowned professional development and providing service and equipment that enables student achievement.