“Kids today are coming out of the womb with a cell phone and an iPad in hand,” says Lindsey Baker, a training specialist at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based CCS Presentation Systems. While that may be more hyperbolic than true, students today are indeed surrounded by touch technologies. And if kids have iPads at home, it’s a lot more difficult to engage them with a paper and pencil in the classroom.
“You see a lot of kids zoning out really fast in the typical classroom,” says Baker, who used to be an educator. “They’re losing interest and don’t take away as much as they could. When you throw in iPads and interactive displays, you see the excitement in their faces.”
Michael Tomei, owner of Ithaca, N.Y.-based Tomei AV Consulting, LLC, is also a proponent of using interactive displays in the classroom. Still, he recommends taking a mindful approach to installing this new technology and training teachers to use it. “If you have teachers who aren’t comfortable using interactive displays or with changing their teaching style, you’re going to spend a lot of money using this technology as a whiteboard,” he says.
Tony Inglese, chief information officer for the Batavia School District in Batavia, Ill., says there are subject areas that are a more natural fit for display technology. He’s particularly excited about the ability of students to use interactive displays to diagram sentences in English classes and to illustrate how organs interact within the human body in Health Science classes. In his experience, what works best is combining the interactive display at the front of the classroom with tablets in the hands of students at their desks. “There’s greater effectiveness when students can have full ownership over a screen,” Inglese says.
Tomei highlights the interactive whiteboard as the technology that first comes to mind when thinking about classroom displays. Teachers and students can write on the interactive whiteboard with a finger or a pen that’s detected through a pressure-sensitive membrane or sensors embedded within the board. Capable of detecting the pen or finger’s location, the interactive whiteboard is connected to a computer that runs software. Users can choose their preferred projector solution that works best in their particular classroom setting.
Another technology is the flat-panel display that provides touch capability/overlay. This can be a good fit for school administrators who are willing to make a higher initial investment in return for savings on maintenance and projector lamps, according to Tomei, who notes that flat-panel display prices are dropping. Because of the lower prices, more schools should be able to afford a large display in the classroom. Tomei also points to interactive projectors, which require no whiteboard with built-in electronics; a good option for schools that want to convert any flat surface into a projection screen, interactive projectors can detect the location of the user’s pen or finger on the projected image.
Interactive display technology holds a great deal of promise in the classroom, but a successful implementation is no easy task. Two key things to keep in mind: your installation and training strategies.