Over the past few decades, we have undergone significant changes in the use of different levels of technology that are being implemented in schools to improve daily classroom instruction and support administrative back-office functions.
It all started in a school computer lab, giving students and even some teachers their first exposure to computers. I remember going to the computer lab (room 301, all these years on I still remember it) that was full of BBC Microcomputers, which after a few years in my high school, moved to being PCs and Windows 3.1 OS. Today, the use of computers and technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, and pre-school learners are exposed to technology even before they have mastered the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic.
The introduction of interactive whiteboards in the classroom has led to an era in which the use of technology is literally moved to front and center learning environments, and many teachers and educators seize the opportunity to improve teaching by effectively using it as an interactive, real-time projection device that leads to higher levels of student participation and concentration.
A concept that was and is unfortunately ignored is that technology (hardware) is ultimately just a means to an end. Externally funded projects allow schools to implement interactive solutions in many classrooms, and the concept of simplicity as a means to an end has been overlooked by many because of the emphasis on access to tangible items. This results in a large number of interactive whiteboards being used either as just projection surfaces or not at all.
In addition to the lack of basic and ongoing professional development, the interactive whiteboard technology was considered problematic, requiring constant recalibration, external light affecting viewing quality (sun through windows for example), incorrect software drivers, and more, for the following reasons:
- Poor installation work by contractors
- The projectors used were not bright enough
- Incorrect technical matching, such as using a 4:3 aspect ratio projector on a 16:9 whiteboard
- Lack of internal and external training and support
- Lack of relevant content and access to resources
In addition, as teachers have limited time to deliver lessons to their classes, many even give up the technology, which is not surprising as they simply have no time to waste on technical problems.
The biggest “game-changing” use of information and communications technology (ICT) in the classroom is likely to be the introduction of a tablet-like touchscreens coupled with learning platforms from the likes of Google and their Classroom suite of low cost applications.
Enter stage right, the Interactive Display
It is important to recognize the link between the use of technology in everyday social life and the use of technology in the classroom in almost all socio-economic contexts.
First, and perhaps most importantly, teachers are becoming more confident in their use of technology, and tablets, smartphones and computers are now being used as tools to get information and stay in touch with others, both socially and at a work-related level.
Secondly, today’s students are exposed to these technologies at an early age. Simple touch technology, including basic functions such as gestures (used on handheld devices such as tablets and smartphones), is one reason interactive LED panels are so successful in the classroom that even preschoolers can use them without training or guidance.
Most interactive panels today, like the TouchIT Rapide, from TouchIT Technologies do not require a Mac or Windows driver. They are automatically calibrated, allowing teachers to simply “plug and play.” These interactive panels are ultimately a large external screen of the computer, allowing educators to operate and control any program installed on the computer using the touch screen with their finger or stylus instead of a mouse or trackpad. On-screen keyboards also allow typing, and character recognition has become ubiquitous in many operating systems.
The total cost of ownership for interactive panels is also significantly lower than for traditional interactive whiteboards with projector solutions, with a-level LED panels expected to have a life expectancy of between 30,000 and more than 50,000 hours. In this context; if a panel is used for an average of six hours a day in school, its life span is more than 25 years. Obviously, we will see updates and different technologies in the coming years, but the point is that you should not have ongoing expenses, such as bulb and filter replacement during the use of these panels.
Features for the future of education
Over time, it is expected that more emphasis will be placed on developing devices that connect to the panel and not through the HDMI port in the foreseeable future. This will allow for more efficient wireless streaming and interaction from teachers and students’ devices regardless of the platform they use.
As an example of this trend towards extended connectivity is Just Cast IT from TouchIT Technologies. This allows the streaming or screen mirroring of a whole calls (and more as it is unlined) up to the Interactive Display. Teachers interact with students without having to walk up to their desks, so they can engage all the students and concentrate on the lesson.
The technology also allows educators to display up to four device screens simultaneously through the panels, which is ideal for collaborative group Settings, such as groups of students taking a math test on four different devices, or presenting their group projects simultaneously. Any more than 4 in multi-cast mode the teacher can just scroll down through the pages.
Another important consideration is their size, and choosing the right size for your classroom is crucial. Interactive LED panels are widescreen devices — typically a 16:9 aspect ratio — while most interactive whiteboards installed in schools are 4:3. The width of the 65-inch panel is very similar to the width of the 78-inch interactive whiteboard, and the full HD LED panel is much sharper image than the projector.
Wireless connectivity is fast becoming the most popular feature in interactive classroom solutions, but it is also an area where some people are often frustrated with responsiveness and latency, and this can be a problem.
Connectivity problems are usually caused by saturated Wi-Fi networks. Or they may simply be the result of inadequate Wi-Fi connections built into some buildings.
In addition to a wireless connection, some users might consider connecting the iPad screen directly to the display. However, this will only allow display functionality, and you won’t be able to control the iPad from the screen. The main reason for this is that the interaction on the panel is USB driven, so control of the device on the panel is limited to compatible devices with USB ports, because you can effectively create a wireless USB bridge from the device to the panel. Furthermore, Apple does not allow remote control of its IOS devices from 3rd parties such as touchscreens.
That said, by using Apps such as TouchIT Air from TouchIT Technologies, you can screen mirror your IOS devices directly to your interactive LED.
Ultimately, many educators’ decisions will come down to an understanding of the difference between a new generation of interactive leds and standard LED televisions that are used only as projection surfaces.
This is an area to consider carefully, and I’ve summarized some of the main differences below. Anyone considering using the next generation of monitors in the classroom should take extra precautions to understand these instructions and compare them with school needs and budget expectations.
- There is no anti-glare screen on LED TV. Due to the reflection of external light source, there are problems in the viewing in many classrooms
- LED TVS purchased from large retailers are generally not commercial-grade panels, so they are not intended to be used for long periods of time, but only for use at home. It is wise to read the disclaimer on TV carefully
- Interactive LED panels, or at least more mainstream brands, are designed for classroom use and are therefore more durable
- Interactive LED panels improve classroom teaching and interaction to ensure more participation in the classroom
- Interactive LED panels offer greater flexibility because of their connectivity and built-in operating system
Important factors to consider when considering interactive LED panels include:
- Budget — The most popular classroom size over the past 12 months was 75 inches.
- Sizes — the current popular sizes are 65 “, 75 “, 86 “and 100”
- Warranty – Field service or return to base service? This is an important consideration due to the high freight charges
- Mounting options — fixed wall mounting, fixed wall mounting on rotating bracket, or wall mounting with adjustable height, manual or automatic?
- Mobility – Manual height adjustment, automatic height adjustment, automatic height adjustment and automatic tilt (interactive desktop), fixed height mobility and laptop arm or bracket?
- Built-in PC or use your own laptop/laptop
- Operating platforms — built-in systems like Android allow you to use the basic functions of a panel without connecting to a PC. Basic functions include writing, connecting to the Internet, storing and opening files, including MP4, PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, Word documents, and so on
- Connectivity – Connect wirelessly or via Ethernet cable
- Glare and scratch resistance – Use anti-glare glass
- Support — may include pre-installed related content, training manuals, and a clear overview of additional support
- Future firmware support — Note: The reason most panels on Mac and Windows computers don’t need drivers is because drivers are included in the operating system. Therefore, future updates to the operating system are not necessarily included, so the firmware on the Touch overlay needs to be updated to ensure proper operability
There are certainly lots to think about but the Interactive Panel of today have addressed many of the previous “issues” with Interactive Whiteboard technology.
If you would like to see one in action, TouchIT Technologies would be more than happy to arrange a demonstration for you.
Thanks for reading.