Classroom display technology is constantly evolving; bending to how students learn. How do today’s teachers use displays in the classroom to improve education?

Classroom Display Technology

Kids today have it all: a cell phone, an iPad, wireless connectivity, video games, laptops etc. With all these stimuli, teachers must battle to win the ever-decreasing attention spans of their students. Every teacher knows the three ways students learn: most of what they get their hands on (tactile learning), some of what they see (visual learning), and little of what they hear (aural learning). The good news is, current classroom technologies, such as flat panel displays, Ultra Short Throw (UST) projectors, and annotative flat panel displays enable teachers to teach effectively, while using all three methods of communication. So, how do teachers do that?

What They Hear

Making the most of what students hear is a great place to start. Very little about a teacher standing in front of a classroom and verbally running through the lesson has changed since the 1850s. This is the old-school classroom – the talking head. Even if a teacher tried to implement visual learning, they were stuck with an old pull-down overhead screen with a worn-out projector. They can show some notes on the screen, but the visual message did not really get through to the students if the projected image was dim, too small, or out of focus. Students in the back of the classroom could barely make out what was being projected on the screen, so they tuned out. And, it’s back to the talking head.

Basic technology used within the classroom to support learning and help students hear better is a supplemental audio system. It provides increased speech intelligibility by means of a wireless microphone and speakers. Its purpose is to improve what students hear and helps to increase subject matter retention. The increased level of sound provides better intelligibility, and in a world where kids are used to tuning-out everything but their screens, improved audio provides a more “screen time”-like experience. This format helps kids more instinctively tune-in, as they do with content they consume outside the classroom.

What They See

“Screen-time” learning is somewhat more effective in education than audio-only, but not for a student who can’t see the screen very well. Laser projection technology provides larger, brighter, and higher resolution images. It can often resolve the problem associated with not seeing clearly. In addition, a laser projector has an associated cost savings through replacing projector lamps less frequently. A laser projection lamp can last for up to 20,000 hours. Likewise, there is a cost savings in replacing the air filter less often.

A laser projector is an especially good solution in larger classrooms and lecture halls. However, it is not the only option. Small to medium-sized classrooms are perfect for flat panel displays. A professional model manufactured for all-day, every-day operation (vs a consumer version) increases the life expectancy of the flat panel display. Professional-grade technology also provides increased brightness and clarity, with a variety of image sizes. That makes every seat in the classroom a good seat. Even better news is the cost of both flat panel displays and laser projectors keeps decreasing, making them more accessible and affordable for schools on a tight budget.

Choosing a Classroom Display

At the end of the day, the most important criteria to determine whether a laser projector or flat panel display is the best fit for your classrooms is image size. Image size is necessary to guarantee the students seated farthest away a fully legible picture. Too often, districts will standardize on flat panel displays, and choose one they deem affordable without regard for image size. This becomes especially important when the necessary image size goes beyond the 98 inches diagonal of the largest flat panel displays. Larger classrooms may need to jump up to projection, be it 110”, 120”, or even larger screen. ABD’s AV designers can work with your school to develop classroom display standards based on calculations of the room size, dimensions, and lighting, while working within your budget. We help you keep in mind that a larger display isn’t the only solution. Sometimes, the answer is, “smaller.”

When caught between the rock and hard place of image size versus cost, another approach can provide a more individualized experience. If a district is already distributing laptops or Chromebooks to students, then a wireless presentation appliance (similar to an Apple TV) can work well. These devices provide user look-in giving students a close-up view on their own smaller screen of what a teacher is showing on the classroom display. Thus, achieving legibility, even if the teacher’s display can’t adequately resolve detail when looking directly at it.

What They Get Their Hands On

Here’s where learning starts to get fun, and most effective. Large format touch annotative flat panel displays make it possible for a teacher or student to write on a screen with their fingertip or a stylus. For instance, writing lecture notes on a simple background, or drawing over the top of a digital image is now the norm. It’s all live, and it’s all interactive.

More than a single large interactive display, interactivity has moved into the wireless space. Students with laptops or Chromebooks can connect to and interact with an instructor’s content or an interactive display at the front of the room. Multiple students can do so simultaneously – without needing to get up from their desk or crowd the space. Interactive look-in can also give students a more detailed view at their fingertips, as well as allowing teachers to preview and see what students are working on. These methods are similar to full-scale active learning labs, more common in post-secondary education spaces.

At ABD Engineering & Design, we work with school districts to help them understand the available audiovisual technology, the best value, and most affordable solutions for their unique situation. It’s our job as independent consultants to help the school understand what makes sense for them and how to implement it. Since we don’t sell, manufacture, or install products, we work in the interest of the schools to help them make well informed decisions. We have the privilege of working with a wide variety of schools, colleges, and universities. We’ve found the best teachers are utilizing many different methods of communication in the classroom to provide the most effective learning.

Erik J Geiger

Erik J Geiger, CTS-D, is ABD's Director of Audiovisual, and an Audiovisual consultant in Portland, Oregon. He has designed and consulted on audio, video, and conference systems for over 20 years. Erik studied Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin, and Audio Recording and Production, at the Musicians Technical Training Institute. He has served as an Audiovisual discipline leader and project manager, and carries a wealth of technical system consulting and design experience. Erik brings the heart of a teacher to every project, helping clients and end-users to understand a rapidly changing environment. When Erik isn’t designing audiovisual systems, he enjoys playing the piano, backpacking, cycling, and photography.

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