Classroom display technology has a longer history than some may think. Starting as early as 1925, classrooms regularly used film strip projectors to show educational content, and by the 1960’s, overhead projectors became the industry standard. Today, classrooms use a wide variety of technology to present content to students.
Below are six things to consider when purchasing A/V technology that can help you get the right technology to support learning.
The size of the display related to the size of the classroom is probably the most important consideration when choosing display technology. Purchasing a solution that does not produce an image large enough for every student to see could hinder learning.
According to the InfoComm DISCAS standard published by InfoComm International, the minimum display size can be calculated using the 4/6/8 rule. The 4/6/8 rule uses the display’s vertical height to calculate how far away students can sit and still see the display adequately. The rule states that students should not be further than 4, 6 or 8 times the display’s vertical height, depending on how the student is viewing the content. The rule outlines three types of student viewing: analytical, basic or passive viewing. Analytical and basic viewing are most typical in schools because students either analyze details within an image to make critical decisions or they make basic decisions based on the displayed image. Passive viewing is related to things like watching movies where content does not need to be analyzed or retained. For typical classroom content, it is recommended that the maximum distance students should be from the displayed image is no more than 6 times the display height.
At Epson, we decided to test this standard by commissioning a study with Radius Research to find out how big a display has to be in order for students, even those in the back of the room, to see it adequately. They asked students between the ages of 12 and 22 to read and write down six short items of information from content displayed on a top-selling 70-inch flat panel display at the front of an average 30’ x 30’ classroom. After reviewing the results, the researchers concluded that 58% of students couldn’t read the content on the 70-inch flat panel display, which was defined as writing down at least one item incorrectly.
The 4/6/8 rule suggests that at least a 100-inch display is needed for optimal readability for the average size classroom.
Lumens and Performance
When considering projectors as the primary display device, it is important to be aware of new standards regarding light output. Lumens, which are the typical measure of light produced by a projector, traditionally measured only the white light output of a projector. In 2012, however, the Society for Information Display released a new standard for manufacturers to include color light output (CLO) or color brightness in projector specifications. This was based on a 2009 scientific paper by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) showing that in addition to having ratings for white light output, projector companies should have ratings for color light output to better describe a projector’s performance when rendering full color imagery. With the variety of multimedia that is projected in classrooms today, it is important to compare color light output as a key specification in the understanding of a projector’s image quality.
Going Interactive or Not
How a classroom is going to be used will greatly influence whether or not the presentation equipment should be interactive. In an average classroom the ability to annotate documents, webpages, pictures and more on the fly can make lessons more collaborative and engaging for students. If a classroom is being used all day with students, the best choice is an interactive display. It allows educators and students to interact with content or use it as a more traditional display to show videos. They can also use the whiteboard surface as a regular whiteboard when the projector is not in use. This provides the most flexibility in a classroom. If a room is used intermittently and, when presenting, is used just for the viewing of video, then a non-interactive solution may suffice.
Software and Device Compatibility
In today’s classrooms, teachers do more than lecture from presentation slides. Interactive software and mobile devices are used heavily in some classrooms and the sharing of students’ work is important. It shows their thought processes and it can help students learn from each other. Presentation systems need to be flexible enough to work with the technology in classrooms today and to handle future technologies as they arise.
To future proof an investment look for presentation solutions that offer a WiFi option so that individuals can connect to the solution from many devices such as tablets, smart phones, laptops and Chromebooks. This enables students to share their work with the entire group. Also, solutions should provide some classroom management capabilities so that teachers can monitor student devices to ensure they are staying on task. Also, when choosing an interactive option, make sure the device can be used for digital whiteboarding. This feature will continue to be more and more important as schools rethink collaboration and build informal learning spaces to help students work in small groups.
Warranties and Replacement Policies
Technology in the classroom can change the way teachers teach and students learn, however as with any tool or device, things happen and technology fails. And, when something fails, having a replacement policy that is designed for schools is imperative in making sure classrooms are up and running as soon as possible. Look for a brand that has a strong return policy. Look for things like free overnight shipping and advance replacement so that a classroom is not waiting for the manufacturer to receive the defective unit before there is a new one on its way. Also, be careful of vague language in a warranty and ask the manufacturer to clarify the language in writing when in doubt.
All schools have tight budgets. Understanding the cost of outfitting classrooms with the appropriately-sized display and the right features often requires sending the project out to bid. Ensure that all specifications needed are included in your RFP so that you are getting the right technology to meet the needs of your teachers and students. A good way to start this process is to put together a committee of stakeholders to discuss how they plan to use the technology once it is in place. Also, include your support staff so they know what will be expected of them during installation and maintenance to make sure they are prepared to act quickly if a classroom is left with non-working equipment.
New technology is exciting, but be sure to get the best solution for your needs. By understanding current standards in A/V technology and thinking through how a technology is going to be used, you can help ensure you’ve made a sound choice.
Jason Meyer is the Senior Product Manager for Projectors at Epson America.