Interactive technology is used in schools in a host of ways, from lessons and training sessions to the sharing of ideas and concepts.
“The benefits include having the ability to manipulate applications with ease, quickly display data and content to a class in a dynamic way and make annotations and notes in real-time as the lesson unfolds. In addition, notes and presentations can be saved to a central location (for example, cloud drives) and content shared instantly to any device during and after an interactive session.”
- Richard Bovingdon, General Sales Manager - Business Development at Midwich
An interactive, multimedia approach is great for engaging students, maintaining their interest and encouraging them to participate more fully in lessons. But it is also valuable at a more fundamental level.
“There’s been a significant change in educational psychology since interactive technology was first introduced into schools,” says Bovingdon. “Teachers have come to understand the different learning styles of children, such as auditory and visual.
“A lot of research has been carried out on the ‘dual pathway’ theories of learning, which show how memories are better formed when both the language and visual pathways of the brain are stimulated. Memory is not stored in one area of the brain, but rather in learning we form a ‘schema’ – individual units of memory that are coded across multiple areas of various cognitive systems.
“The multimedia approach that’s enabled by interactivity is great for stimulating these dual pathways and improving students’ comprehension and retention.”
From a technology perspective, the crucial enabler of interactive learning today is the interactive touch screen.
“Most commonly used in classrooms across all educational sectors, the benefit of large format touch screens is that they have an application in almost any environment, from teaching and presentation to collaboration and video conferencing,” says Bovingdon.
The SMART Board MX range with IR touch technology and the 6000 range with optical interface (DViT), presence detection sensors and PenID are ideal for schools, while the 7000 Series, with HyPr Touch technology, automatic pairing and charging of active pens, and touch based on-screen input select with live screen preview, is excellent for higher education. All three ranges include object awareness and SMART Learning Suite.
“Iiyama has a full line-up of 65in, 75in, and 86in infra-red touch screens, as well as the more industrial P-CAP touch screens, which are more suitable in demanding environments or for touch-table use,” says Bovingdon.
“It also has a new touch sensor coming out soon, which means you’ll be able to use a pen to write, but the screen will recognise your finger as the mouse. The screen will recognise the size of an object touching the screen and change the function accordingly. This will mean that uses won’t have to fly back and forth between buttons in OneNote, for example. Additionally, touch screen technology is becoming much more accurate (although as our screens are very accurate anyway, people may not notice much difference).”
Of course, interactive technology in schools is nothing new, and the earliest interactive whiteboards are now nearing their twentieth birthday. But instead of creating an appetite for something better, the limitations and disappointments of these early solutions can actually create a barrier to uptake the latest technology.
“Many schools are massively unaware of the capabilities of modern AV equipment, and are only prepared to replace products reactively, in other words when they break,” says Bovingdon. “The latest interactive flat panels (IFPs) have huge advantages over old, lamp-based projectors, from multi-touch capabilities and improved brightness and resolution to longer lifespan and reduced cost of ownership.
“Rather like mobile phones, interactive technology advances much more quickly now than in the early days. Even a five-year-old IFP can look terribly crude today because there may have been several new generations of product since then. Driving awareness of these improvements among schools is a key challenge for the channel, but it’s also a great opportunity to engage in a more proactive style of selling.”
In addition to a PC and touch screen, the ability to share content from different devices is important in enabling interactivity, says Bovingdon.
For example, iiyama has a package called Screen Share Pro that enables users to send content to the screen using a Wi-Fi connection.
“One key piece of advice in my view is not to get too bogged down in software,” Bovingdon adds. “Too many schools invest loads of money in ‘presentation and annotation’ packages. But Microsoft Windows and Office already come with a host of interactive tools, such as OneNote, PowerPoint, Windows inking tools and Microsoft Whiteboard. All these packages enable the presentation of content in a dynamic and easy-to-use way. There is also a host of applications available through online stores to enhance the education environment.
“So before schools make any investment, I recommend that they investigate and learn to use the software that they already have and check out what’s readily available online. They may be pleased to find that they don’t need to invest in huge software packages as they already have access to all the functionality they need.
“Resellers can add value by finding out the requirements of their education customers and asking how much they use the existing interactive software platforms they may have purchased from traditional suppliers, and whether they feel this was worth the investment.”
It is also important to remember that teachers often have too much on their plates to have time to familiarise themselves with new technology. “You can invest in a great software package and teach your staff how to use it,” says Bovingdon. “But I guarantee that if you approach them in six months’ time, none of them will actually be using it because it’s too complex and they haven’t had time to get to grips with it.”
This is why iiyama is a great partner for resellers, Bovingdon believes. “They sit nicely side by side with some of the more traditional players, supporting better margins for the channel and a proactive channel base. So, iiyama end users can use whatever they feel is right for them." This allows teachers to use a system that they are already familiar with.