Depending on your age, your memory of the classroom will vary. Some of you may remember whiteboards with pens that invariably ended up being too dry to work, while others might get nostalgic for the scrape of the chalkboard.
The classroom of 2018 is far more technologically advanced than it ever has been, with interactive technology being the norm. “Classrooms in the UK and Ireland are saturated with interactive display technology, but the age, quality and capability of products varies greatly from school to school, and even room to room,” notes Paul Wilson, business manager, Visual Instruments, Epson UK. “We see a whole range of AV tech in schools, from dated interactive whiteboard systems, through to modern interactive projectors and flat panel displays.”
There are concerns though that this dependence on projectors and displays can be detrimental if the tech is not up to date. “A lot of classrooms now use flat panel displays that are arguably too small to give students optimum readability, as research shows that 58 per cent of students can’t read content on a 70-inch flat panel,” says Wilson. “With an increase in classroom sizes, it can be difficult for those students towards the back of the classroom to read the content, especially in secondary and colleges where teaching styles remain more traditional.”
About 15 years ago, all the focus of the classroom was on smart whiteboards. They were the next big thing. What looked like the traditional front of the classroom was in fact a fully fledged computer. But while they showed promise, they were never adopted with the same vigour as expected – whether due to cost or implementation – and are now, according to Wilson, passé.
“Interactive whiteboards have had their day. Many institutions are now looking to replace these former classroom staples with slicker modern technology. Whilst projectors once thrived in classrooms as an element of these clunky systems, they can now deliver the same interactive benefits without the need for a smart board at all. Interactive projectors provide great flexibility – they can be used directly onto walls or paired with dry erase boards to deliver a single large canvas for either digital or physical media. This enables teachers to deliver impactful materials to the whole class, without sacrificing the comfort of board markers or the features of software.”
These sorts of projectors and flat panels are devices which were designed with the classroom in mind, but one category that has found its home in education after the fact is the tablet. “Educational establishments are increasingly using tablets to engage students – knowing that, at home, they have almost constant access to devices such as tablets and smartphones, often from a very early age. Schools constantly face the challenge of being able to effectively engage pupils throughout the day, and in-classroom tech can help with this. Teachers can ask students to engage and provide their own content at any time, either from their desk or as they move about the room. Schools are now recognising the positive impacts,” suggests Wilson.
Educational apps and games are now a standard practice in primary education, with many teachers using the tech as an incentive for good behaviour and performance. The growth of tablets in the classroom isn’t necessarily much of a choice for schools, Wilson points out. “Students’ increasing access to tech at home is forcing educational outlets to modernise – but outdated equipment is presenting a bigger problem when it comes to classroom tech. Whether a school is using old tech with low resolution or poor-quality images – or not using their tech at all, leading to poor pupil engagement – an inadequate tech-set up has a substantial negative impact on students’ learning and teachers’ educational methods.
“Schools constantly face the challenge of being able to effectively engage pupils throughout the day, and in-classroom tech can help with this.”
With tablets, projectors and flat panels being the norm, the next step for many in revolutionising the classroom is the implementation of virtual reality. “Incorporating VR technology into the classroom learning environment may seem like the stuff of futuristic dreams, but it’s already becoming a reality in some institutions,” Wilson points out.
The promise of VR certainly is great, providing students with the ability to have close-up experiences across all fields. But right now VR is only really being used in specialised institutions, Wilson says. “The cost of widespread implementation is still holding education outlets back, especially primary and secondary public schools, which rely on local funding. Dwindling budgets will continue to have a knock-on effect until classroom tech becomes top of the agenda.
Turning augmented reality (AR) and VR devices into practical and affordable mass market products that genuinely enhance user experience will be the key to future successes.”
Education is evolving; it would be naive to think otherwise. And as the ways that people learn evolve so too is the technology they are using. Many education institutions are under- equipped – and this is a great selling opportunity for resellers to capitalise upon.